The just-turned 16-year-old Yamaha rider had considered himself only an outside chance for the premier 14-16 years' 250cc class title at this season's New Zealand Junior Motocross Championships, but he ended up winning it with a race to spare.
Dunlop took his Yamaha YZ250F to qualify fastest at the rough and sandy track at Himatangi, not far from Palmerston North, on Friday morning and he then backed that up by finishing with a 1-1-2 score-card in his three races that afternoon. He kept the momentum strong throughout the weekend, winning both his races the following day, and then further stamped his authority on the class by also winning the first of his two races in Sunday's final phase. That was enough for Dunlop to wrap up the title, the pressure off for him as the riders lined up for the seventh and final race of the weekend. Dunlop cruised to sixth in that last race, savouring his title win. Dunlop eventually finished a whopping 23 points ahead of Otautau's Jack Treloar, with Dunedin's defending champion Grason Veitch claiming the third podium spot. "I might be able to defend my title next year ... I don't know. It depends on dates and the 2020 junior nationals might happen just before I turn 17," said Dunlop, a year 12 pupil at Hamilton Boys' High School. "I struggled with my starts all weekend and that's something I need to work on. I will probably have a few weekends off now and the start building up for next season, which starts in Taupo with MX Fest in October." It was also heart-warming to see former MX2 motocross world champion Ben Townley and wife Lucy celebrate as their nine-year-old son Levi winning the inaugural 8-11 years’ 65cc championship. Townley showed consistency counts as he finished no worse than sixth all weekend and took the title by 15 points from Auckland's Jack Ellingham. This class was a support class only last season, but now elevated to full championship status in 2019. Other title winners at the weekend were Tauranga's Madoc Dixon (15-16 years' 125cc class), Rongotea’s Seth Henson (12-14 years’ 125cc class), Manukau's Cobie Bourke (14-16 years’ 85cc class), Tokanui's Mitchell Weir (12-13 years’ 85cc class) and Invercargill’s Seth Morrow (8-11 years' 85cc class). A non-championship support class was run for the female racers, with Motueka Yamaha rider Roma Edwards winning the 125cc/250cc division and Rotorua's Ticayla Manson winning the 65cc/150cc division.
Motorsport manager for Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Motueka's Josh Coppins, said he was thrilled with the weekend's results. "It was a good result from a performance level with Jack (Dunlop) winning the 250cc class and I was really proud of how he rode with a completely stock standard bike. He was knew to the bike and knew to the class, so I was happy with his performance. "I was happy with Levi (Townley) as well. He's also knew to Yamaha, so I was stoked to see him so happy to win that. He made it tough for himself in a few races, but he deserved the title. "And Roma (Edwards) dominated her class as well." "From a brand point-of-view, I'm very happy," said Coppins.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan