MOTOCROSS: AUS: Round 3 Coolum preview

Aussies keen to halt Kiwi juggernaut Round three of the 2004 Maxxis Australian Motocross Championship will be held at Coolum (Qld) on June 6, as Australia's best riders set out to extinguish New Zealand's bout of early-season ...

Aussies keen to halt Kiwi juggernaut

Round three of the 2004 Maxxis Australian Motocross Championship will be held at Coolum (Qld) on June 6, as Australia's best riders set out to extinguish New Zealand's bout of early-season brilliance.

New Zealand riders have won all eight of the Pro races in the opening two rounds, with the irresistible troika of Darryll King, Shayne King and Cody Cooper the most prolific -- especially the latter, who remains undefeated in Pro Lites aboard his #8 No Fear Honda CRF250R.

Meanwhile, 1996 world 500cc motocross champion Shayne King (No Fear Honda CRF450R) has won 50 percent of the Pro Open battles, with 'support' from sibling Darryl (CDR/Boost Mobile/Yamaha YZ450F) and Corrie Sargent (Sale Honda/Full Throttle Sports CRF450F) on a win apiece.

On the eve of this Sunday's two 30-minute (plus a lap) motos around the 1.6km Coolum circuit, Shayne King has a 7pt (94 to 87) lead over Darryll in the Pro Open battle, followed by three riders currently in earnest battle over third spot -- Jay Marmont (Motorex KTM 450SXR, 69pts), Troy Carroll (CDR/Boost Mobile/Yamaha YZ450F, 68) and Cheyne Boyd (Motorex KTM 450SXR, 67).

"I pulled up well after the last round, but I've subsequently picked up a bug in the past week," said Shayne, who won five world championship GPs during a star-studded international career. "I've since had to spend a few days getting over that.

"Coolum will be a real challenge, since the climate and the track will be different than any of the other circuits."

Marmont was the last local to win an Aussie motocross race -- in last year's final round at Coastal Park (WA). The 21-year-old has since gone on a title-winning frenzy, claiming the honours in the 2003 Australian Supercross Championship, before clinching the inaugural Australian Supercross Nationals earlier this year. However, he is yet to crack a top three finish in a national-level motocross title, which the Wollongong (NSW) rider will be keen to address before he heads to America in 2005.

On the other hand, 24-year-old Carroll is a multiple Australian motocross champion in the Pro Lites (nee 125cc) class, with wins to his credit in 2001/2003 -- Troy Dorron 'filled' in the gaps in 2000/2002. Now a Pro Open punter after many years in the smaller class, Coolum is the closest thing to a home round for the Toowoomba (Qld) resident, and he simply refuses to kowtow to the harder-edged opposition.

"At the beginning of the year we set ourselves the goal of improving on each round and I am happy to say that we are on course," said Carroll, who was third overall in round two at Horsham (Vic). "I know my first year in the Pro Open class was going to be tough... and I have my sights firmly set on taking over third spot in the championship at Coolum.

"... I really hope to put in a solid performance and gain maximum points."

The notion of maximum points is not a new one to Carroll, who won 14 of 15 races en route to last year's Pro Lites title -- the same irresistible path that Cooper is attempting to replicate in 2004.

Cooper, 20, already has an 18pt (1000 to 82) lead over teammate Troy Dorron (CRF250R) at quarter championship distance, with the No Fear Honda duo scoring the quinella in the opening two rounds. The leaders are then followed by a second batch of teammates -- CDR/Boost Mobile/Yamaha campaigners Cameron Taylor (YZ250F, 76tpts) and Daniel McCoy (YZ250F, 58).

"I am ready to ride in the sand," said Cooper, who was fifth in the 2003 title. "It isn't the kind of track that I normally train on, but I'm not worried about it. Getting together a winning pace is important regardless of what's on the ground beneath you, and so far I've been pretty happy with that side of things."

Another New Zealander, Barry Morris (CRF250R, 49pts), is currently in fifth, but will not be on location at Coolum, paving the way for the likes of Jye Harvey (No Fear Honda CRF250R, 45), Mitchell Hoad (Shift Motul Suzuki RM-Z250, 43) and Queenslander Daniel Reardon (Whales Kawasaki/SIC/Motul KX250F, 40) to make championship inroads. Hoad, 19, was third in the 2002 Australian Pro Lites championship.

Sixty riders have entered the Pro Lites proceedings at Coolum, with the field trimmed back to 40 after two, 20-minute qualifying sessions -- with the top 10 from 2003 already guaranteed a start.

Practice begins at 9.00am on Sunday, followed by the opening race for the Rookies at 11.30am. The first of four Pro races -- two each for the Open and Lites protagonists -- will commence at 12.45pm. Ticket prices are $20 for adults, $10 for children and $50 for a family (two adults and two children), with the gates opening at 8.00am.

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