This month’s 61st annual Honda New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville will be a very special one.
While this iconic event is always the most significant motocross on the Kiwi bike racing calendar, the upcoming 2024 edition, on the weekend of January 27–28, will also be extraordinary for several additional reasons.
It will be the first time in two years that this event has been able to proceed after the COVID-19 pandemic and severe flooding in 2022 and 2023 forced cancellations in 2022 and 2023.
The event founder, Palmerston North’s Tim Gibbes, died in October, making this year’s running the first time since 1961 that it will go ahead without his commanding presence. However, he will be there in spirit with the event’s main trophy now re-branded as the Tim Gibbes Memorial Trophy.
The other reason why the 2024 New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville will be exceptional is that it will host the inaugural FIM Oceania Women’s Cup, an event within an event that will throw an extra spotlight on the elite females of the sport.
A six-rider New Zealand Women’s Motocross Team will go head-to-head with the best half dozen female racers from Australia, a competition which, like any Trans-Tasman sporting clash, is sure to get the crowd fired up.
The “Kiwi Queens” will comprise Raetihi’s Karaitiana Horne, Ōpunake’s Taylar Rampton, Morrinsville’s Breanna Rodgers, Palmerston North’s Hannah Powell, Waipukurau’s Aimee Thomsen and Rotorua’s Melissa Patterson. The reserve rider for Team New Zealand is Maungaturoto’s Meg Patton.
Unfortunately for the Kiwi effort, Otago’s four-time and current women’s motocross world champion Courtney Duncan is unable to compete in the FIM Oceania Women’s Cup. Duncan will, however, attend the event as a mentor to the New Zealand squad.
Manawatu-Orion Motorcycle Club president Brad Ritchie is thrilled his club can include the FIM Oceania Women’s Cup within the two-day programme.
“Any conflict between Australian and New Zealand competitors, in any sport, has got to be a ripper, doesn’t it? We have some top Australian competitors, male and female, arriving, and we also have some extremely strong Kiwis standing by to repel them,” Ritchie said.
“New Zealand motocross is in a good place at the moment with our international stars doing what they do so well.”
Australia has multi-time national champion Charli Cannon to spearhead their team. She is joined by Emma Milesevic, Madison Brown, Taylor Thompson, Tayla McCutcheon and Madi Healey.
The Cup will be contested over three races of 12 minutes each, plus one lap, which will be incorporated into the Woodville Grand Prix senior women’s races. The team with the lowest score will be declared the winner – one point for first, two points for second, etc – the same scoring format used in the Motocross of Nations.
The FIM Oceania Women’s Cup would be a reciprocal arrangement, with Australia set to host it in 2025.