Yamaha YZ125 rider Jack Dunlop has been making a bit of a name for himself in recent weeks and must now surely rate as a podium contender in the senior 125cc class on Sunday. The 15-year-old from Pukekawa, near Mercer, with support from Whangarei Yamaha, finished runner-up to Kiwi international Brodie Connolly (Husqvarna), from Tauranga, in the junior 15-16 years' 125cc class at the annual Whakatane Summercross just after Christmas and then he finished fifth overall against the seniors the following day.
Just last weekend he stepped it up another notch, this time winning the junior 15-16 years' 125cc class at New Zealand's largest stand-alone motocross event, the New Zealand Grand Prix at Woodville, taking the trophy ahead of another couple of rising young stars, Whanganui's James Rountree (Yamaha YZ125) and Palmerston North's Luka Freemantle (KTM 125). This weekend it gets really serious as he tackles the first round of four in the senior New Zealand Motocross Championships near New Plymouth. "That was really my first big win," said Dunlop, a year 12 pupil at Hamilton Boys' High School. "I usually get on or near the podium, but I got a bit lucky today with some of the other riders having problems," he said modestly. Dunlop finished with a 2-1-2 score-card at Woodville on Saturday. "I just try to stay consistent and smooth. I have been doing a lot of training lately, but mostly I just ride around at home. "My dad (Craig) used to race at the top level and he's been giving me good tips. "I'm riding the senior national 125cc class this coming weekend, the first time I've been old enough to compete in this competition. "Hopefully I can achieve a top-three result, on the podium, but I'm expecting tough competition from Brodie (Connolly) again, and James (Rountree) and Rotorua's Josh Bourke-Palmer (Yamaha), and Wairoa's Tommy Watts (Yamaha) too." It may have slipped his mind, but current national MX2 (250cc) champion Hamish Harwood, from Royal Heights, is also entered in the 125cc class this season and he'll also be a title threat.
After this weekend, there will be just a short two-week break before round two of the nationals, set for Rotorua on February 17, followed by round three at Pukekohe on February 24 and, finally, the nationals wrap up at Taupo on March 10. Dunlop is supported by Whangarei Yamaha, bLUcRU, Harvey Round Motors, Izusu, Crown Kiwi, Alpinestars.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan