Motorcycling New Zealand is looking to the future and has put a Kiwi former world champion in charge of helping to create fresh ones.
The governing body for motorcycling in New Zealand, MNZ has accepted an offer from Bay of Plenty’s Ben Townley to put in place the foundations for Kiwi success at the 2018 Junior Motocross World Championships in Australia, the venue at Horsham, in Victoria.
The 32-year-old Townley knows better than most just what it takes to succeed at the ultimate level of the sport and, starting in October, he will begin the process of preparing some of the young New Zealanders who will cross the Tasman for the annual three-day championships next July or August.
It is interesting to note that the same venue at Horsham, about halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne, will be used to host the annual Australian Junior Motocross Championships in September this year and several New Zealand riders will no doubt take that opportunity to familiarise themselves with the track and facilities.
Townley was MX2 (250cc) motocross world champion in 2004 then went on to become United States East Coast Lites (250cc) Supercross Champion in 2007, that same season going incredibly close to winning the US 250cc outdoor motocross title as well.
Townley’s ability to pass on his experience will be vital to the title or career aspirations to many of the New Zealand contingent at Horsham next year.
“MNZ agreed there was a need to put in place some form of training scheme for our youth ahead of the world championship event,” Townley explained.
“MNZ operated a ‘high performance’ programme in the late 1990s and we agreed we needed to have something similar in place now to prepare our young riders for the 2018 world champs.”
With the Junior Motocross World Championships being so close to New Zealand shores next year, Townley believes it is a “fantastic opportunity to create a pathway”, initially for the teenage 125cc and 250cc riders, but also to start the ball rolling for the younger 65cc and 85cc bike riders.
Townley said it was a 12-month plan and MNZ would be looking to create a training squad just before the 2018 New Zealand Junior Motocross Championships next April.
MNZ motocross commissioner Howard Lilly, from Karaka, said it was important to encourage young New Zealand riders to take this opportunity to be able to compete at the ultimate level.
“If these young riders can perform well at the Junior Motocross World Championships, then the world is their oyster. New Zealand had two or three riders competing at senior world championship level in the 1980s and 1990s and we still have several Kiwis competing overseas now. It would be great to boost those numbers,” said Lilly.
This year’s Junior Motocross World Championships is set for Estonia, in just two weeks’ time, on the weekend of July 30. No New Zealanders are yet entered for this year’s event.
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com