Bay of Plenty's Josh Bourke-Palmer is ready to spread his wings.
With his potential becoming more and more evident with each passing event in New Zealand, the just-turned 18-year-old motocross rider has decided it's time to step up. The Rotorua teenager leaves this week for Gympie, near Brisbane, where he will tackle the second of three rounds in the 125cc Gold Cup, a competition incorporated into the 10-round senior Australian MX Nationals.
With support from Yamaha-Motor New Zealand's Josh Coppins, who has arranged a new Yamaha YZ125 bike for him to campaign in Australia, Bourke-Palmer is confident he can turn a few heads at the Queensland event this weekend. With him not racing at the 125cc Gold Cup opening round, the intrepid Kiwi has no real prospect of winning the title outright, but Bourke-Palmer's father, Darrin, explained it would be "a reconnaissance mission, to test the waters ahead of a more comprehensive Australian campaign next season". "We hope that Josh can race the Under-19 championships in Australia next season. He turns 19 midway through that series, but fingers are crossed that he may still be eligible to complete the full season in that competition. "After that he will progress to the senior MX2 (250cc) class. "Josh has been getting mentoring and advice from (New Zealand Yamaha brand ambassador) Ben Townley too and that had been invaluable." The talented young rider is under no illusions that his mission ahead will be a difficult one. "I went to Australia to race the junior nationals there two years ago and I finished 13th overall in my class. I know I'll really be up against it in the 125 Gold Cup," said Josh Bourke-Palmer. "I'm feeling a little bit nervous and it will be very different for me, but I have done all that I can to prepare for this. My fitness is good and I have had great support from my work to get time off," said Bourke-Palmer, who works part-time in a Rotorua panel and paint shop.
"I have never been to any of these Australia tracks before, but I'm a quick learner." Bourke-Palmer finished an impressive third overall in the 125cc class at the senior New Zealand Motocross Championships, which wrapped up in Taupo in March. "That exceeded my expectations and I believe set me up well for what's ahead of me now." After this weekend's racing, he then heads to the third and final round of the 125cc Gold Cup at Coolum, in Queensland in August, that event also registering as the tenth and final round of the senior nationals. Victoria's Cameron Taylor (Yamaha) won both races at the opening round of the 125cc Gold Cup at Wonthaggi, in Victoria, in March, with fellow Australian Joshua Kilvington (KTM) finishing in the runner-up position on both occasions. Australian Nicholas Murray (Yamaha) finished the weekend third overall at round one. These are the superstars that flying Kiwi Bourke-Palmer will be aiming to challenge.
Bourke-Palmer is supported by Yamaha-Motor New Zealand, Fly, Gaerne, Dunlop, WP Suspension, Dragon, John Newton Panel and Paint, Sevenee Distribution and Patterson-O'Connor Motorcycles.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan