INTO its 40th year, the five-round Southern Series Motocross is under way.
Round one was held last month in Central Otago and round two last Sunday at the Southland Motorcycle Club track at Otatara.
Southland Southern Series convener Greg Baynes said more than 160 entries, with children as young as 4 and some grandparents, competed in various motocross racing events on the day.
“We even had at least nine entries in the new 50-plus category.”
It was quite a spectacular event to watch, with competitors of all ages racing dirt bikes around a diverse track, he said.
“Competitors [in separate ages and classes] line up behind a start gate, eagerly anticipating the start. Then it is a great rush to get to the first turn, and hopefully gain an advantage.”
Although each race only took two to three minutes, there were a variety of jumps and other obstacles around the man-made track, he said.
Danny Greig, one of the pioneers of the early days of motocross racing, said the series was first held in 1979 to foster the sport of motocross in Otago and Southland.
Greig believes the Southern Series may be one of the longest running motocross series held in New Zealand.
“Generally the Invercargill round has been at The Sandpit [Pit Rd, Otatara] most of the times, but possibly four to five times it has also been held out in the Winton area.”
Although The Sandpit wasn’t always on top of the list for some riders, with some preferring MacLeods farm just past the Croydon Lodge, near Gore, and Whitefields Track, Warepa, near Balclutha, in the 1980s and 90s, Greig said “it definitely sorted out the men and the boys”.
The original organisers included Ken Hasler, from Hasler Honda in Balclutha, and Eddie Kavanagh, also from Balclutha, and Brian Jacobs, who had competed in the first Southern Series and had also entered in this year’s series.
“Those early series have seen a lot of New Zealand class riders competing in the Southern Series. Warren Timpson, from Christchurch, was definitely the one to beat in those early years in the open MX class.
“Trevor King battled with Dean Bond, who is also riding in the series this year, as well as his son, Connor Bond, who is competing in the mini class.”
Other father-and-child combinations to enter this year were David and Maddie Latta, and Stu Treloar and his two sons, who were also competing in the junior classes.
“Dean Bond won those early-year battles with Trevor King, and Brian Jacobs was never far behind.”
Some other riders of note from the early years also included Jim Drain and former Invercargill deputy mayor Neil Boniface competing in the 125MX class, Greig said.
“When Neil Boniface competed in the open MX class, he always placed in the top four, riding a RM 465.”
Other reminisces from almost four decades ago included when a competitor from Christchurch competed on a RM 465 with a four-stroke Denco motor, which at the time was considered unusual, Greig said.
“It sound great… but now, 40 years later, four strokes are the normal.”
In the beginning, the first few series did not have junior competitors. However, by mid-1980 they were included and now mini motocross is also a part of the series.
The number of competitors in the sport had fluctuated dramatically over the four decades.
Because entries for most classes “were on the light side” in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with no more than 10 per class, riders were allowed to enter extra classes to bolster numbers in other MX categories, he said.
Around the year 2008, there were up to 300 riders taking part, and as a result of so many competitors some had to qualify for some classes.
Entries now are 180 to 200 riders.
This year, the 50-plus veterans’ class had also been added to the event, which Mr Greig said was great “as some of us who are getting on a bit can race with their mates from those early years”.
The third round of the Southern Series will be hosted by the Gore and Districts club on Sunday, October 14, followed by Mosgiel and Districts on Sunday, October 28. The last round in the series will be on Saturday, November 10, hosted by South Otago. A prizegiving will follow the fifth and final round.