Motocross

King’s presence a boost for New Zealand team

Author: Andy McGechan

Posted:

Shayne King. Photo: Andy McGechan
Former 500cc world champion Shayne King has been called to bolster the New Zealand team for this weekend's Motocross des Nations in France. In a sign that New Zealand is leaving nothing to chance as it attempts to win the Peter Chamberlain Trophy, New Plymouth's King was brought into the team by Motorcycling New Zealand and Honda New Zealand, primarily to mentor late inclusion Cody Cooper. New Plymouth-based Cooper (21), originally from Opotiki, is the 2004 Australian Pro Lites (MX2) champion and finished runner-up to fellow international Daryl Hurley in the New Zealand 125cc championships last season. He was called up for his motocross des Nations debut after regular New Zealand team member Hurley (Hawera) suffered a serious left knee injury while training last week. This will be Cooper's first foray in Europe and Motueka's Josh Coppins said the young rider would need all the support he could get to ride his best. "Losing Daryl Hurley was a shock because everything was coming together really well for the team and all of a sudden he was out,'' Coppins said from his Belgium home. "But Cody is a good rider, and honestly, I think we have as good a chance with him in the side. "Having Shayne come over is good because the biggest problem is not the riding -- it's for Cody to be comfortable in the presence of the bigger teams (and big names of the sport) and the crowd of between 40,000-60,000 will be the biggest he has raced in front off and all these things make it a bit different. "Anything to make him comfortable -- that's what we need,'' said Coppins who is hosting Cooper at the Belgium home he shares with Taupo's Ben Townley, the third member of the team. They leave for France today to give Cooper time on the bike and to test tyre combinations. Townley will join them on Friday. Cooper will race in the MX2 class on a Honda, with Coppins taking on MX1 duties, also on a Honda. Townley will be on his 450cc KTM in the MX3 section for the championship. New Zealand, whose best finish was third in 2001, are one of the favourites, with Coppins ranked No 2 and Townley No 3 in the MX1 world championship. But Coppins realises these rankings are more a reflection of consistency over 17 rounds of the world championship and the Motocross of Nations was an "on the day" affair as they found out last year when New Zealand finished seventh because of mechanical problems for his Honda and Townley's KTM. "Being ranked second and third in the world should put us up there," Coppins said. "But the other teams have three strong riders whereas we need to sort of see how it comes together for us. "I think we have an outside chance to win -- it won't be easy because there are also many other good teams and it is pretty even across all the countries." After not sending a team last year, the United States, led by their long time No 1, Ricky Carmichael, will be in France. Carmichael, whose team-mates will be Kevin Windham and Ivan Tedesco, has won the most titles in US motocross history. The United States rolled to an unprecedented 13 straight wins from 1981-1993 and added victories in 1996 and 2000. "I am looking forward to it because it is going to be special with America there and I am hoping we can have a really good result," Coppins said. The United States, France and Belgium, powered by nine times world champion Stefan Everts, would be the frontrunners of the 36-team event. Coppins thought New Zealand was probably good for fourth at the moment. However, he and Townley performed well the last time they raced a world championship round on the Ernee track in 2003 -- Coppins taking a podium in the 250cc Grand Prix and Townley in the top five in the 125cc Grand Prix. "The harder track will certainly be better for us than it was on (a sandy) Lierop (in The Netherlands) last year,'' Coppins said. Meanwhile, Coppins pronounced himself reasonably satisfied with his world championship season. "My goal was finish second in the world championship and to win the British championship and looks like I achieved that. "But it is a little bit disappointing because eight weeks ago, it was looking possible to win the world championship. "I shouldn't be disappointed but it's difficult to be not a little bit, if you know what I mean. "It has set me up well for sure for next season, but you always want better."

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