Break out your helmet and boots, fill up the fuel tank and get yourself to Mercer this weekend for the big annual North Island Motocross Championships and Pukekohe Sand Prix double-header.
Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic level two restrictions will be adhered to, but racing can be safely managed and a green light has been given for this popular motocross event to run over two days this Saturday and Sunday, September 19 and 20.
This weekend's racing at the Kawasaki Mercer Sand Track will have double, or perhaps even triple, significance – it is firstly a welcome announcement that the popular Pukekohe Sand Prix will go ahead and this race weekend doubles also as the North Island Motocross Championships, but equally it's simply a welcome release for pent-up adrenaline, with riders, fans and spectators alike keen to go sand blasting again.
"We consulted with Work Safe New Zealand and Sport New Zealand to seek guidelines for running this event under COVID Level Two constraints and we've been given the thumbs up," said Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Ray Broad.
"Competitors, support crew and volunteers are exempt from the 100-person gathering restrictions and, besides this, social distancing rules will be observed and all riders will be wearing helmets anyway."
Broad says the racing will also be live-streamed on Sky Sport.
"We are happy to be back to racing, obviously with protocols being followed," says Broad.
The event caters for minis, juniors, seniors, women and veterans over the two days and the entry list reads like a Who's Who of the sport.
Motueka's former Grand Prix star Josh Coppins will face off with Mount Maunganui's multi-time New Zealand MX1 champion Cody Cooper, along with another former European GP star in the shape of Hamilton's Darryll King.
"I'm right now dusting off the bike to get ready to race," says Cooper.
"I have been caught a bit off guard, but I'm certainly looking forward to it. I will be going in 'cold turkey', but keen to shake off the cobwebs."
Others to watch out for include national MX2 No.3 James Scott, from Oparau, Tauranga's national 125cc champion Brodie Connolly, Waiwera's Joseph Andrell, Raglan's Quade Young, Pukekawa's former national junior 250cc champion Jack Dunlop, Te Puke's Kyan Loomans and Pukekawa's Tyler Brown, to name a few.
The Bridgestone Kawasaki Race team will be there in force with their two MX1 class riders, Tauranga's Josiah Natzke and Waitakere's Ethan Martens, ready to line up.
CML KTM Racing Team boss Karl Brabant said his No.1 rider,
Auckland-based multi-time national MX2 champion and current MX1 No.3 Hamish Harwood, along with rising young star Cobie Bourke, would be there to wave the flag for him too.
"It's going to be so good to be back on the track," said Brabant. "This will effectively be the first big race meeting for the season. We've been looking forward to this so much and now we're all scrambling to get ready."
COVID-19 contact tracing will be recorded at all entrance points, two-metre social distancing will be observed, face masks and gloves will be worn by staff running the event and face masks will be worn by all others (except by riders during a race).
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com