MOTOCROSS: AUS: Round five preview

A day on the Ranch for Aussie motocrossers The 2005 Maxxis Australian Motocross Championship, presented by Yamaha, will make its one and only appearance in NSW on May 22 at the heralded Barleigh Ranch circuit in Raymond Terrace. With the...

A day on the Ranch for Aussie motocrossers

The 2005 Maxxis Australian Motocross Championship, presented by Yamaha, will make its one and only appearance in NSW on May 22 at the heralded Barleigh Ranch circuit in Raymond Terrace.

With the championship now at the halfway mark, this Sunday's round five marks a critical juncture for many competitors. For those leading the way in both Pro classes, it will provide yet another chance to solidify their positions, while those on the cusp will have to finally make their move.

The Pro classes are being led by New Zealander Daryl Hurley (Shift Motul Suzuki RM-Z450, Open) and Cameron Taylor (Serco Yamaha YZ250F, Lites), although neither rider has totally hijacked proceedings in the opening four rounds.

In Pro Open, Hurley's lead over defending champion and compatriot Darryll King (CDR Nokia Yamaha YZ450F) remains at a mere 7pts (183 to 176) after the duo finished equal first in round four at Coolum (Qld) on May 1. Hitherto, the pair has finished on the podium in all eight races, with Hurley's lead a function of a little extra pizzazz at the top end -- he has three wins and four second places as opposed to King's dossier of two and three.

With both now injury free -- Hurley's had some concern with an injured eye and King's had a broken foot -- it now appears a fait accompli that a New Zealander will win Australia's premier motocross championship for the fourth time in seven years. Since Andrew McFarlane won his second successive 250cc title -- the forerunner to Pro Open -- in 2000, the only other Australian rider to prevail was the then KTM-backed Craig Anderson in 2002.

Anderson (No Fear Honda CRF450R) decimated the opposition in the opening three races of this year's championship before a practice crash prior to round three left him with a broken foot, with his convalescence set to extend to round six in Penguin (Tas) on June 12.

"The plaster is due to come off on May 30, and then if everything goes to plan, I'll be riding in the Tassie round," said 27-year-old Anderson. "I just have to see how much riding time I get in before then. Otherwise, I've been doing a whole lot of swimming and kayaking near my place and weight training as well. It's all going really good and mentally I'm feeling great. I'm just looking forward to coming back now."

Anderson still remains fifth in the standings on 93pts, behind reigning No. 2 Shayne King (TeamMoto Honda CRF450R, 156) and Danny Ham (Shift Motul Suzuki RM-Z450, 97).

Shayne King, Darryll's older sibling, has been a model of consistency so far in 2005, without quite replicating the dazzling New Year form he displayed in his home land. Nevertheless, it would be erroneous to write off his chances -- both this weekend and in the championship proper.

One rider who will be looking to put in a big result is Ham, who finished fourth in race two at Coolum -- his best finish of the year. With Barleigh Ranch penciled in as his 'home' race -- he lives just down the road in Newcastle -- he may finally crack it for a podium position if he can lift his work rate, especially at the starting gates.

"My starts haven't been the best all year," said Ham. "And it's been chaotic on the opening lap, and I've always found myself pushing though from a lowly position.

"We've had a lot of rain up here in the last few days, so it will be interesting to see how the track holds up. Either way, it's going to be tough.

"I haven't practiced as much as I'd like, because I've spent the past week in Melbourne at a training course -- I'll be opening up a Noodle Box franchise in Newcastle on June 10."

Ham, then RM250-mounted, finished fifth in both Pro Open races at Barleigh Ranch last year, with Darryll King and Jay Marmont (KTM) the two winners.

A capacity field of 40 riders will line-up in this Sunday's two 30-minute (plus a lap) motos, including leading privateer Thomas Jones (Fly RacingCRF450R), Queensland veteran Mick Cook (Pro Yamaha YZ450F), Nathan Brochtrup (Singleton Motorcycles YZ450F), Nick Saunders (Richmond KTM 450SXF), Lee Ellis (Motorex KTM 450SXF) and Adam Cini (Whale Kawasaki KX250), who has been a revelation on his two-stroke machine. Cook, Brochtrup and the embattled Ellis are all defending top 10 championship positions from 2004, with the latter looking to re-group after a terrible finger injury sustained at round three in Toowoomba (Qld).

In Pro Lites, Taylor's elusive search for a round win will continue, with the 31-year-old declaring he "won't be happy until I win both motos". Taylor's lead over Ryan Marmont (Motorex KTM 250SXF) was trimmed to 16pts (156 to 140) at Coolum, but now the reigning national Pro Lites supercross champion is ready to conjure up some magic of his own.

"My starts at the last two rounds have really let me down, so I have really worked on overcoming that," said Taylor, who warmed up for round five with a second place in last weekend's round of the Victorian Off Road Series. "The team has given my bike a complete overhaul, including a new motor. I hope that will help me with the starts."

With nine riders having climbed aboard the Pro Lites podium in the first four rounds, it's no surprise that there is very little between the top runners, with just 10pts separating third-placed Daniel McCoy (Motorex KTM 250SXF, 118) from Troy Carroll (CDR Nokia Yamaha YZ250F, 108) in seventh position.

In between, Robbie Marshall (Serco Yamaha YZ250F, 114), privateer Warren Smart (Honda CRF250R, 113) and New Zealander Luke Burkhart (Shift Motul Suzuki, 109) are waiting to pounce -- as is perennial front runner Troy Dorron (No Fear Honda CRF250R), who is currently languishing in an unfamiliar ninth despite a couple of wins in the opening two rounds.

Meanwhile, Dorron's teammate and defending champion Cody Cooper is in an even more despairing 12th position after a year of ongoing tumult. He'll be looking to begin his resurgence at a venue where he prevailed en route to last year's championship silverware.

A watching brief will also be maintained on Yamaha duo Ford Dale and Jacob Smith in the Pro Lites races. The 16-year-olds have been prolific in this year's second-tier National Cup, and are currently running 1-2. Dale, for one, left seasoned observers agog with his sixth place finish in the last Pro Lites round, while this will be Smith's first cameo in the big league.

In addition to the four Pro races, round two of the Rookies title will be held at Barleigh Ranch, with Kade Mosig (Honda, 50pts) the current pacesetter from Louis Calvin (KTM, 42) and Shaun Williamson (Yamaha, 42).

For more information on the 2005 Maxxis Australian Motocross Championship, presented by Yamaha, visit www.ozmotox.com

<pre> CURRENT STANDINGS (after four of eight rounds):

Pro Open 1. Daryl Hurley Suzuki 183 2. Darryll King Yamaha 176 3. Shayne King Honda 156 4. Danny Ham Suzuki 97 5. Craig Anderson Honda 93 6. Thomas Jones Honda 83 7. Mick Cook Yamaha 82 8. Nathan Brochtrup Yamaha 81 9. Nick Saunders KTM 69 10. Lee Ellis KTM 69

Pro Lites 1. Cameron Taylor Yamaha 156 2. Ryan Marmont KTM 140 3. Daniel McCoy KTM 118 4. Robbie Marshall Yamaha 114 5. Warren Smart Honda 113 6. Luke Burkhart Suzuki 109 7. Troy Carroll Yamaha 108 8. Daniel Reardon Kawasaki 99 9. Troy Dorron Honda 92 10. Danny Anderson Honda 85

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Series General
Teams Williams
Tags MOTORCYLE