MOTOCROSS: AUS: Penultimate round preview

Hurley's King size predicament The penultimate round of the 2005 Maxxis Australian Motocross Championship, presented by Yamaha, will be held at the excellent Gillman layout in Adelaide this Sunday, with a fearsome New Zealand troika set ...

Hurley's King size predicament

The penultimate round of the 2005 Maxxis Australian Motocross Championship, presented by Yamaha, will be held at the excellent Gillman layout in Adelaide this Sunday, with a fearsome New Zealand troika set to continue their battle for Pro Open supremacy.

In what is shaping up as a classic championship finish, just 24pts separates the top three competitors in the Pro Open (250cc 2T-450cc 4T) class: defending champion Darryll King (CDR Nokia Yamaha YZ450F), Daryl Hurley (Shift Motul Suzuki RM-Z450) and Shayne King (TeamMoto Honda CRF450R).

Darryll King is the current pacesetter on 260pts, just two in front of Hurley (258), whose sole DNF of the year in round six (a mechanical failure) may prove to be a seminal moment in the championship wash-up. Meanwhile, Shayne King is lurking on 236pts after a swashbuckling round six, which included the 1996 world 500cc motocross champion's first win of the year.

Until his untimely non-finish, 29-year-old Hurley, who has declared that dairy farming would be his caper if he wasn't a pro motocrosser, had won six of the preceding 11 races. However, with the adoption of a new point scoring system in 2005, consistency is much a vital part of the motocross constellation as winning races.

Once again, the tireless Darryll King has maintained a handle on both, and he's now the only rider to have scored 40pts or over in all six rounds of the championship. Along the way, he has finished on the podium 11 out of 12 races, with two of those visits for winning efforts.

Darryll's Geelong-based master, CDR Nokia Yamaha, has left no stone unturned in preparation for this weekend's important round, even sending his Australian-based mechanic over to New Zealand to get everything in order.

"I am feeling really confident about this weekend," King said. "I have done a lot more riding in the past two weeks and feel I have really stepped up a level.

"I was behind the eight ball at the start of the season with injuries preventing me from a proper training regime and I am now ready to challenge Daryl on a level playing field.

"Having my mechanic Shawn come and test with me in New Zealand was a great help and confidence booster we got to work on some new strategies and try some new set-ups with the bike without it interfering with racing."

Darryll already has some stellar form at Gillman to look back on, with a victory in last year's race two the most recent case-in-point. In 2003, he was second overall behind local rider Shane Metcalfe.

With a New Zealander set to win the Pro Open title for the fourth time in five years, Australia's best riders, unbridled by championship considerations, will be keen to inflict some real damage at Gillman -- and in the final round at Conondale (Qld) on July 3.

Leading that charge will be Craig Anderson (No Fear Honda CRF450R), whose rampant early-season form was terminated when he broke his foot in a training accident. After missing three rounds, 27-year-old Anderson returned last time out, and finished on the podium both times, despite an obvious lack of race fitness.

Anderson won the opening race at Gillman last year during a cameo from his then American commitments, and claimed two chequered flags out of three events in a resounding 2002 performance.

Anderson is in fifth on 135pts, behind Danny Ham (Shift Motul Suzuki RM-Z450, 164). Nathan Brochtrup (Singleton Motorcycles YZ450F, 131pts), Thomas Jones (Fly Racing CRF450R, 128) and Motorex KTM's Lee Ellis (450SXF, 122) fill positions 6-8.

Meanwhile, Metcalfe (Kawasaki Racing Team KX250) is struggling in 13th position after a frustrating year, but a return to local environs may just be the panacea for all his ills.

"Gilman is my home track and I have done plenty of miles around there, so I will definitely have a home ground advantage," said 22-year-old Metcalfe. "We have struggled a bit in the early part of the season with bike set-up and my fitness due to injuries I sustained in 2004, but the last round in Tasmania was my best so far and I think we are now genuine podium contenders."

The two Pro Open races at Gillman will also be bolstered by the inclusion of 2004 Australian Safari winner Jamie Cunningham. The 32-year-old currently rides under the GHR Honda banner in the Australian enduro scene, where he is currently running third in the E2 (250cc 2T-450cc 4T) class in the Yamaha Australian Off Road Series. Cunningham will ride alongside Anderson under the No Fear Honda banner.

In the injury-ravaged Pro Lites (125cc 2T-250cc 4T) class, Cameron Taylor (Serco Yamaha YZ250F) leads by a commanding 39pts (231 to 192) over Motorex KTM practitioner Ryan Marmont (KTM 250SXF).

Taylor, the reigning No. 2, has been leading since round two, while there has been a constant shuffle of positions behind him. For example, Taylor and ninth-placed Daniel Reardon (Whales Kawasaki KX250F) were the only riders to maintain their prior championship positions in round six!

Reardon is unlikely to maintain his ninth place this Sunday, because he'll remain in Queensland with an ankle injury sustained at the last round. Taylor's teammate Robbie Marshall (YZ250F), who is currently in sixth position on 160pts, will also miss with the same type of injury, while two-time champion Troy Dorron (No Fear Honda CRF250R) is also indisposed with a dislodged rib.

The trio may be back in time for the final stoush in Conondale, but their main focus will be on regaining full fitness for the opening round of the Australian Supercross Championship in Brisbane on July 23.

Despite the huge injury list, the two 30-minute (plus a lap motos) will still be hard-fought affairs, with Luke Burkhart (Shift Motul Suzuki RM-Z250), Troy Carroll (CDR Nokia Yamaha YZ250F), Danny Anderson (CRF250R), Warren Smart (CRF250R) and defending champion Cody Cooper ( No Fear Honda CRD250R) all capable of pulling off wins.

Carroll is something of an archetypal Gillman specialist, having won four of his last six Pro Lites races at the Adelaide circuit. The Queenslander is fourth on 169pts, behind Burkhart (175).

The support class action at Gillman will see the Rookies complete their third and final round. Kade Mosig (Full Throttle Sports Honda) leads that one on a perfect 100pts, ahead of Louis Calvin (KTM, 86) and Nicholas Geck (Kawasaki, 68).

Tickets start at $20 for adults and $10 for children and are available for purchase at the gate. Gates open at 8.00am with practice starting at 9.00am and the first race of the day at 10.50am. For more information, visit www.ozmotox.com

-ma-

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