The results sheet from the just-completed 2023 New Zealand Junior Motocross Championships in Southland had a distinctive orange hue as riders of the Austrian KTM bike brand turned out in force.
KTM riders topped the standings in three of the nine separate bike categories, more than any other bike brand, and KTM riders also finished on the podium in five of the nine classes, with Whangarei’s Hannah Perris leading a KTM 1-2-3 clean sweep of the podium in the 12-16 years’ 85cc/150cc girls’ class.
Finishing behind Parris with their identical SX85-model KTM bikes were South Featherston’s Bailey Newbould and Invercargill’s Bella Earley.
The venue for the three-day event, the Sandpit Track, on the fringes of Invercargill, was a stern test for both rider and machine and fatigue began to show for many as the busy programme headed towards the final stages on Sunday afternoon.
But 12-year-old Perris, a year eight pupil at Pompallier College in Whangarei, was certainly one rider who was up to the punishing demands of the circuit.
Perris won the title in the 8-11 years’ 85cc girls’ grade at the 2022 junior motocross nationals in Taranaki, so it perhaps put her among the favourites to win when she stepped up to the elder age category this time around. “The track was rough, but a lot of fun,” she said. “I train on the bike at least three times a week and I play hockey too, so my fitness was pretty good heading to this event.”
Another standout rider was Levi McMaster, from Ohoka in North Canterbury, who took his KTM SX85 to win the 8-11 years’ 85cc class, his first national title as a junior but his seventh New Zealand title overall, after adding in his mini motocross wins.
The 10-year-old McMaster showed that consistency counts for just as much as speed and raw talent as he collected a couple of wins while riders such as KTM’s defending champion from last year, Hastings rider Harry Daley, and Silverdale’s Tynan Morrow crashed while leading.“I had built up a good points lead by the start of the final day on Sunday and then I had a couple of races where I didn’t get such a good start. I finished eighth and seventh in the final two races on Sunday,” said McMaster. “I knew I just had to play it safe though and a top-12 finish in the last race would have been enough for me to win overall.”
Another title winner for KTM at the weekend was Otorohanga’s Cooper Phillips. He finished runner-up in his first of five races in the 14-16 years’ 85cc/150cc class, before bouncing back from that “minor setback” to win the next four.
Other title winners at the event were Pukehina’s Flynn Watts (14-16 years’ 250cc class); Silverdale’s Seth Morrow (15-16 years’ 125cc class); Leeston’s Kase Thoms (12-14 years’ 125cc class); Mangakino’s Maz Parkes (12-13 years’ 85cc/150cc class); Taupo’s Connor Feather (8-11 years' 65cc class) and Raetihi’s Karaitiana Horne (12-16 years’ 125cc/250cc girls’ class).
Over the years, the KTM factory, headquartered in Mattghofen in Austria, has built a reputation as a fierce competitor on race tracks all around the world and its “Ready To Race” mantra certainly holds true with the bikes ready to race and win straight out of the shipping crate.
Credit: Words by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com