MOTOCROSS: AUS: Round one Wonthaggi preview

Anderson's grand homecoming No Fear Honda rider Craig Anderson made a triumphant return to the national scene with two brilliant wins in the opening round of the 2005 Maxxis Australian Motocross Championship at Wonthaggi (Vic) on March ...

Anderson's grand homecoming

No Fear Honda rider Craig Anderson made a triumphant return to the national scene with two brilliant wins in the opening round of the 2005 Maxxis Australian Motocross Championship at Wonthaggi (Vic) on March 20.

Under glorious blue skies, the CRF450R-mounted 27-year-old, who has retuned to Australia after two years in America, was merciless around the testing Wonthaggi layout, and led from start-to-finish in both Pro Open races - 33 laps of sheer dominance.

"We can't have those Kiwis dominating every weekend," said Anderson, who was the last Aussie to win the championship in 2002 before New Zealand's Darryll King's took over the running. "I really forced the issue today, especially in race two when I was pushing through the backmarkers.

"Now it's roll on round two, and hopefully my great form will continue."

Anderson's modus operandi in the two 30-minute (plus a lap) races was none too subtle -- he scored the holeshot both times, and then went onto forge impenetrable buffers by the halfway mark. The end result was two emphatic victories over Shift Motul Suzuki's Daryl Hurley (RM-Z450) -- by 8.658sec in the opener and 7.986 in race two. Anderson's double was the first maximum-point effort since Darryll King in round six of last year's title.

Hurley, also back from a two-year stint in the US, was the only rider capable of matching Anderson's unrelenting pace in what was a stellar championship debut for Suzuki's all-new four-stroke RM-Z450. The pugnacious New Zealander got to within 1.4sec of Anderson five laps into race two, but his challenge eventually faded after some problems with lapped traffic.

Despite failing to nullify Anderson, Hurley still came away from Wonthaggi with fastest laps in both races -- and ebullience about what lies ahead.

In a day where all the leading teams were to the fore, defending champion Darryll King (CDR Nokia Yamaha YZ450F) -- still riding with an injured foot - made it three manufacturers on the podium with a pair of third places, while his brother, Shayne (TeamMoto Honda CRF450R), was fourth in both races. Earlier, Shayne, the 1996 world 500cc motocross champion, qualified fastest from Anderson, Hurley, Darryll and Lee Ellis (Motorex KTM 450SXF) in the 40-rider field.

Ellis, whose fifth place last year saw him rewarded with a factory ride in 2005, crashed in both outings, but he still managed to re-group and finish with fifth and sixth places -- good enough for a 31pt haul. He's fifth overall in the standings, behind Anderson (50pts), Hurley (44), Darryll King (40) and Shayne King (36).

In the second championship class at Wonthaggi, Pro Lites, consistency was the order of the day for New Zealand rookie Luke Burkhart (Shift Motul Suzuki RM-Z250) -- so much so that he leads by 4pts (44 to 40) over reigning number two Cameron Taylor (Serco Yamaha YZ250F).

"I wanted to come here and get in the top five to set me up for the season, so I've certainly met my expectations," said Burkhart. "This is a great platform for the rest of the year, and I know I've got the speed to win races."

Despite defending champion Cody Cooper (No Fear Honda CRF250R) not being a factor at Wonthaggi after separating his AC joint a few weeks ago (he was 18th in the opener and sat out race two), the Pro Lites racing was superb -- which was always on the cards after less than two seconds separated the top 13 riders after qualifying.

In race one, Motorex KTM's Ryan Marmont, aboard the long-awaited 250SXF four-stroke, held sway for the opening nine laps before a fading rear brake and loose petrol cap -- which necessitated a lightning remedial pit stop -- saw him drop down the order.

He eventually finished well back in 17th, with polesitter Taylor going on to claim victory -- but only after a thrilling passing maneuvre on Burkhart a few corners from home.

"I knew a couple of spots where I could get by Luke, but when he made a mistake on that last lap it suddenly made life a whole lot easier," said Taylor. "That's a great way to start the year."

Troy Carroll (CDR Nokia Yamaha YZ250F), who won an amazing 15 of 16 races en route to the 2003 Pro Lites championship, finished third in race one from Danny Anderson (CRF250R) and Motorex KTM's Daniel McCoy (250SXF).

Meanwhile, perennial contender Troy Dorron (No Fear Honda CRF250R) failed to finish after an altercation left him pinned under his bike -- with a sore ankle to run salt into the wound.

However, the nadir proved to be the 33-year-old Dorron's motivating factor for race two as he motored to an emphatic 9.631sec win over Burkhart -- after Marmont again controlled the opening tempo.

McCoy was third this time around, ahead of Carroll and Marmont. Meanwhile, Taylor was sixth after early dramas saw him languishing briefly outside the top 20.

In the points table, Carroll sits in third on 38pts, ahead of McCoy (36), Anderson (30) and Dorron (25).

Round two will be held at Horsham on April 10. For more information, including results from round one, visit www.ozmotox.com

-Motorcycling Australia

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