While there was a slight hint of weariness about the riders at the end of the annual two-day event, that really came as no surprise, considering that these men, many of them aged over 50, had raced with such speed, aggression and stamina, not to mention skill. Five races per class over the two days would be enough to shatter many riders half their age. There were many stand-out individuals, with Yamaha stalwart Tony Cooksley (Yamaha YZ250) impressing with his unbeaten run of five wins over the weekend, easily winning the most senior of grades, the over-60 years' all-capacities class. That Cooksley dominated with such ease showcased the world class form of the man who had, just three weeks earlier, finished third overall in his over-60s class at the Veterans' World Championships in Southern California. The 61-year-old concrete cutting business owner had that weekend finished close behind Canadian Pete DeGraff and former US factory Honda rider Chuck Sun in the big annual event at Glen Helen, San Bernadino. Others to finish the weekend in Taranaki unbeaten included Aucklander Gaudenz Gisler, who easily won the 55-59 years' class; New Plymouth's Mitch Rowe, who won the 50-54 years' class; Whakatane's Darren Capill, who scored five wins from five starts in the 45-49 years' class; Hawera's Daryl Hurley, who was unbeaten in the 40-44 years' class; Inglewood's Larry Blair, who dominated with a string of five wins in the 35-39 years' class and Hawera's Steven Craig, who took the title with a clean sweep in the 30-34 years' class. The 49-year-old Capill (Yamaha YZ450F), who works as a supervisor at Fonterra, didn't race the vets' nationals last year and so was naturally thrilled to win the 45-49 years' title this year, his last chance to win it before he moves to the next age category in 2018. He had also previously won the 45-49 years' title when he last contested the nationals, at Opunake in 2015. Meanwhile, on the female side of the programme, Opunake's Taylar Rampton came out on top, winning the senior women's class by just three points from Rotorua's Letitia Alabaster.
Tauranga's Shelby Catley won the junior women's 12-16 years' grade title by a similarly tight margin, out-scoring Te Awamutu's defending champion Rachael Archer by just one point. Hawera's Nicholl Marshall was untouchable in clean-sweeping the veteran women's class.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan