CODY Cooper on his way to winning the premier MX1 class title at Taupo on Sunday. Photo Andy McGechan, BikesportrNZ.com

WEAKENED by illness and stuck in heavy traffic at the start of the series final and deciding race, there was probably no way any sensible person would figure Honda’s Cody Cooper could burst through and win the national motocross crown.

But that’s exactly what the former Opotiki man did at the fourth and final round of the New Zealand Motocross Championships at Taupo’s Digger McEwen Motocross Park on Sunday.

Cooper had arrived at Taupo with a narrow three-point lead in the chase for premier MX1 class honours, but Australian rider Kirk Gibbs, the defending MX1 champion and Cooper’s nearest challenger, and Gibbs’ Yamaha team-mate from Hamilton, Kayne Lamont, were determined to make life difficult for Cooper.

Both Gibbs and Lamont were ahead of Cooper as the MX1 class field exited turn one at the start of the championship-deciding final 20-minute race, but their advantage didn’t last long as Cooper mounted an inspiring charge through the pack and hit the front on the third lap of 11.

Cooper extended his lead and eventually won the race by an impressive 10 seconds over Gibbs, with Lamont crossing the line in third.

This gave Cooper his seventh New Zealand MX1 title, adding to the two 125cc class motocross titles he’d won for Honda in earlier years.

“It was hard; one of the hardest races I’ve ever done, I think,” said the 35-year-old Cooper afterwards.

“It was kind of good that I got a bad start because I managed to find some good lines that

I would not have seen. It was a blessing in disguise really.

“I wasn’t actually feeling well at the start of the day. I woke up last night feeling cold and hot and I had diarrhoea this morning. I felt like I wanted to be sick. I drank some sugary drinks and that seemed to help.”

Cooper now prepares to head to the United States again this season, but just to contest three rounds of their national series, not a full campaign like the one he mounted last season.

“I have other obligations for Honda at home this season, so it will only be three events for me in the US this time,” Cooper said.

“I spent a lot of time over there last year and can’t be expecting to go and do that all again.”

By Andy McGechan