The Motueka man was twice No.2 in the 250cc class in the motocross world championships – in 2002 and 2005 – and he came agonisingly close to clinching the MX1 (450cc) crown in 2007, until an injury derailed his campaign, but even those credentials may not be enough for the Yamaha ace to claim the outright favourite status this weekend.
The entry list for this weekend's two-day event at Otane includes several other notable former world championship GP campaigners, most notable among them being four-time former motocross world No.2 Kurt Nicoll, from Great Britain, and New Plymouth's 1996 500cc world champion Shayne King. "But I'd like to win and I expect to win," said Coppins matter-of-factly. Coppins, who these days manages the high-profile Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team, still enjoys riding and racing, but he will also be using the Hawke's Bay trip for business purposes, supporting the opening of the new Motoland Yamaha dealership in Onekawa, in Napier.
"I've worked it out so that I can race there at the weekend and combine it with the dealership launch," he explained. "It's good to be able to support our dealers and, with the Yamaha riders we have racing at the Otane event, men such as Whakatane's Darren Capill and Auckland's Tony Cooksley, it will be an ideal chance to support them too. Cooksley was veteran's world motocross champion in 2007 and possibly favoured to win the 60-69 years' grade at Otane. Coppins will race in the 40-44 years' category, where he will face former national champions Mike Cotter and Damien King, both from Cambridge, as well as former Scottish international Barry Morris, who now lives in Rotorua. A multi-time New Zealand motocross and supercross champion,
Coppins began his GP racing career in Australia, as a 16-year-old competing in the 125cc class at the Australian GP at Manjimup, in Western Australia, in August 1993. He was sidelined for four months with a knee injury early the following year but, once fully recovered, things really got serious for him in 1995. Coppins enjoyed a full-time world championship Grand Prix career spanning 16 years (between 1995 and 2010 inclusive) and he finished among the world's top 10 overall in 10 of those seasons in Europe.
Coppins also became Australian MX1 motocross champion in 2012, before retiring from fulltime professional racing in August that year. He is fully occupied now as Yamaha Motor New Zealand motorsports manager, as well as running the Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team in New Zealand.
Coppins is supported by Altherm Window Systems, Yamaha Motor New Zealand, JCR, CRC, Ados, GYTR, Yamalube, bLU cRU, Fox Racing, YMI, YMF, Twin Air, Hollands Collision Centre, Star Moving, Ward Demolition, Pirelli, Akrapovic, DID, NGK, Renthal, Motomuck, www.workshopgraphics.co.nz, Motoseat, SKF, Vertex Pistons, Rtech Plastics and Etnies.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan