Ernee MXoN: New Zealand select rider line up

The Motocross of Nations is the biggest and brightest motocross event of the year and once again New Zealand will have an important presence at this “Olympic Games of Motocross”.

With a squad just named, Team New Zealand have begun in earnest their preparations to tackle the 2023 Motocross of Nations at Ernee, in north-western France, on the weekend of October 7-8.

This year’s 76th edition of the great race is another call to arms for the Kiwis, after several seasons of uncertainty due to the pandemic.

The trio of Kiwi riders for the 2023 edition of the huge international event will be two MXoN stalwarts in the form of Papamoa’s Cody Cooper and West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood, with Oparau’s James Scott a first-time selection.

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The reserve rider this year will be Tauranga’s Madoc Dixon.

Team co-managers Bevan Weal and Shayne King said selecting the team this year was extremely difficult.

King said: “We both feel we have selected a very strong team to represent our country.

“We chose James (Scott) for the MX2 class role in the team because he already has a lot of international experience, and he is intending to compete overseas in the coming weeks too,” he said.

“Hamish (Harwood) has been racing overseas recently, in the United States, and we already know the depth of international talent that Cody (Cooper) brings to the party.

“It will be a tough proposition for Team New Zealand, especially considering the fact that France has been the leading nation at the MXoN in recent years and they’ll also be racing on home soil and in front of so many of their countrymen.

“But I believe we are a top-10 nation and, if everything goes our way, we are capable of finishing on the podium or close to it.

“I have myself been on the MXoN podium twice as a rider for New Zealand, so I know it’s possible and I also know it won’t be easy,” said King.

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Motorcycling New Zealand general manager Mike Kerrisk said: “The team shows a great blend of youth, experience and obvious ability. We wish them all the very best and know they will represent us well.”

Team New Zealand finished 21st overall at the MXoN last season, when the event was staged in Michigan, in the United States, and on that occasion the riding trio was Tauranga’s Josiah Natzke, Waipukurau’s Rhys Carter and Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly.

It was three seasons prior that the Kiwis were last represented at the MXoN, in The Netherlands in 2019, where they finished 19th out of the 34 nations entered after two of the trio – Canterbury’s Dylan Walsh and Taupo’s Wyatt Chase – became injured. The team’s third rider, Taupo’s Maximus Purvis, did still perform with distinction but it wasn’t enough for the team to recover from the injuries setback.

The MXoN did not proceed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and New Zealand did not send a team to the MXoN in Italy in 2021 because of safety concerns and continuing travel difficulties associated with the pandemic.

However, from rookie first-timers in 1984 to top-10 regulars just over 10 years later, Kiwi motocross riders have always boxed well above their weight and have often been rated among some of the best in the world.

A New Zealand squad has finished among the top 10 an incredible 14 times in 31 appearances at the event since they first attended, in Sweden in 1984 – including three times finishing on the podium – and that’s not bad for a country with an entire population less than that of many cities in the countries of most of their rivals.

More than $16,000 was raised towards this year’s MXoN campaign by the Battle of the Clubs fundraiser motocross in Taupo just over a week ago.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,