MOTOCROSS: AUS: Round two Horsham preview

Honda looking to maintain its hot pace Round two of the Maxxis Australian Motocross Championship -- aka the Mr Motocross Outdoor Nationals - will be played out in the Victorian township of Horsham on May 23, with all the momentum currently...

Honda looking to maintain its hot pace

Round two of the Maxxis Australian Motocross Championship -- aka the Mr Motocross Outdoor Nationals - will be played out in the Victorian township of Horsham on May 23, with all the momentum currently with the factory Honda equip.

The team, racing under the No Fear banner, dominated the opening round at Barrabool (Vic) last Sunday, with New Zealanders Shayne King (CRF450R) and Cody Cooper (CRF250R) scoring maximum points in the Pro Open and Pro Lites classes respectively, laying solid foundations for their tilt at maiden Australian championships.

In a continuation of where he left off in last year's title, King, the 1996 world motocross champion and five-time grand prix winner, was faultless at Barrabool, qualifying fastest before scoring two emphatic victories -- the second one over Motorex KTM's Jay Marmont (KTM 450SX) by a massive 10.081sec.

"Everything went to plan in round one," said Shayne. "I've been looking forward to the start of the series and have been doing everything I can to prepare for it both physically and mentally."

The New Plymouth-domiciled King, 33, has now won four of the last five Aussie motocross races, with his start to this year's campaign the antitheses of his poor start to the 2003 proceedings -- which ultimately cost him a legitimate shot at championship glory.

Now, with a flawless start behind him, King heads to Horsham -- which has a massive 31-metre table top as part of its repertoire -- with an 8pt (50 to 42) lead over sibling and two-time Australian champion, Darryll (CDR/Boost Mobile/Yamaha YZ450F). The latter, who never once finished outside the top three en route to last year's title, finished second and third in the two 17-lap motos at Barrabool, with Shane Metcalfe (CRF450R) the only other rider to finish on the podium.

Metcalfe, 21, who is just returning to full fitness after injury extinguished his challenge in the April-ending Australian Supercross Nationals, then went on to DNF moto two after an early bingle, leaving the reigning number three 10th in the standings on 20pts. Meanwhile, Marmont, who is planning to switch his allegiances to the American scene in 2004, is third overall on 40pts, seven in advance of teammate Cheyne Boyd (33). Last year's Pro Lites winner, Troy Carroll (CDR/Boost Mobile/Yamaha YZ250), is fifth on 32pts from fellow two-stroke punter Danny Ham (Shift Motul Suzuki RM250, 28).

Last year's corresponding round of the national championship in Horsham -- 330km from Melbourne and 425km from Adelaide -- saw Darryll King clinch the overall honours, with Shayne King and Metcalfe in equal second.

In Pro Lites, qualifying will again be required to trim the field back to a maximum 40 -- although the top 10 from 2003 automatically gain themselves a start. Cooper, after finishing fifth in 2003, is among that select pre-qualification group, and with the type of form he showed in round one the 20-year-old is on a path for further riches.

Cooper was all brawn in round one, with his fastest lap of the day a swift 1:51.939 -- just 0.532sec behind Shayne King's benchmark in Pro Open.

And like King, Cooper's championship lead is also 8pts, with teammate Troy Dorron on 42 after a third and second at Barrabool. Dorron, from Geelong (Vic), has finished 1-2-1-2 in the Pro Lites (formerly 125cc) class since 2000.

Behind Dorron, the indefatigable Darryll King (CDR/Boost Mobile/Yamaha YZ250F, 40pts) is currently in third from teammates Cameron Taylor (38) and Daniel McCoy (31). Further down the pack, marquee names Ryan Marmont (Motorex KTM 125SX, 17pts) and Mitch Hoad (Shift Motul Suzuki RM-Z250, 17) have some catching up to do after underwhelming round one results.

In addition to the four Pro races on Sunday -- two in each class - the women will also battle it out in the Yamaha Australia-sponsored Women's Cup. Practice begins at 9.00am, with the opening women's encounter at11.30am.

Tickets are available at the gate, with admission $20 for adults, $10 for children 5-15, and $50 for a family.

<pre> CURRENT STANDINGS (after one of eight rounds)

Pro Open 1 Shayne King Honda 50pts 2 Darryl King Yamaha 42 3 Jay Marmont KTM 40 4 Cheyne Boyd KTM 33 5 Troy Carroll Yamaha 32 6 Danny Ham Suzuki 28 7 Mick Cook Kawasaki 25 8 Lee Ellis Honda 23 9 Nathan Brochtrup KTM 20 9 Steven Andrew Honda 20

Pro Lites 1 Cody Cooper Honda 50 2 Troy Dorron Honda 42 3 Darryll King Yamaha 40 4 Cameron Taylor Yamaha 38 5 Daniel McCoy Yamaha 31 6 Jye Harvey Honda 27 7 Jono Porter Suzuki 26 8 Ryan Marmont KTM 17 8 Jason McGuiness Honda 17 8 Mitch Hoad Suzuki 17 8 Adam Cini Yamaha 17

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