Supporting young rider talent is key for Motorcycling NZ
Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ) is channelling its resources into fostering the phenomenal talent pool of young Kiwi riders, who are making names for themselves around the world.
Over the past two months, New Zealanders have hit the global headlines, claiming two world titles in motocross and endurance racing. Alongside those results, Kiwi Dylan Walsh also won the British Motocross Championship MX2 title and then joined one of the youngest teams ever sent to the Motocross of Nations (MxoN). Despite their rookie status, the three riders, aged between 19 to 22 years of age, exceeded expectations and demonstrated that the future looks bright for the sport.
MNZ General Manager Virginia Henderson says that seeing Dunedin’s Courtney Duncan (23) win the Women’s World Motocross Championship; 20-year-old Cantabrian Hamish MacDonald become the FIM 125cc Youth Enduro World Champion, and Christchurch’s Walsh (21) claim the British championship's MX2 trophy, indicates New Zealand’s youth are punching well above their weight on the world stage.
“We are focused on supporting our riders to race internationally as much as we can as a governing body. The goal is to create a pathway for our riders directly into Australia or further afield to Europe,” she says.
“MNZ is committed to raising the level of our championship events, such as the New Zealand Motocross Championship and the New Zealand Superbike Championship, across the country, including boosting the profile of the races. This provides stepping stones for young riders to gain more exposure and sponsorship, which supports them to springboard out of New Zealand,” Henderson adds.
MacDonald is now a factory rider for CH Sherco Racing but to get noticed and picked up by the French team, he needed to prove himself on the European enduro circuit and that didn’t come about without some big bills attached. MacDonald estimated that his 2018 season of racing around Europe cost about $NZ70,000, taking into account entry fees, spare bike parts, accommodation and travel.
“The funding and grants MNZ gave me last year were really helpful. It’s not a cheap sport to be in. Luckily, I’m a professional now but last year I wasn’t,” McDonald says.
Riding for the Revo Husqvarna UK team, Walsh sewed up the British Motocross Championship’s MX2 title in September. A rising star of the EMX250 championship throughout the 2017 and 2018 seasons, he remained unbeaten over the British Championship’s last six motos to convincingly claim the win.
Walsh’s experience in Europe meant he was an obvious choice for the three-rider squad representing New Zealand at the 2019 annual ‘Olympic Games of Motocross’ event in the Netherlands. He was joined by Taupo's Wyatt Chase and Mangakino's Maximus Purvis. Motorcycling New Zealand supported the decision by the MxoN Team Managers Shayne King and Bevan Weal to take a punt on the rookie riders.
“This team was one of the youngest attending this event and the idea was purely development - to give them some racing and life skills on the international stage,” King says.
The trio were all making their MxoN debuts and ended up an impressive 19th overall against the world’s big-budget and vastly experienced teams.
“The guys achieved even more than was expected of them and I’m extremely proud of all of them. In five to 10 years’ time they will be back fighting for podium positions,” King says.
He agrees with Henderson that along with focusing on the New Zealand riders performing at the top end of their motorbike racing disciplines, there needs to be continued support of the youngsters pushing their way up the ranks.