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Woodville Invitation Race

The BOP Connection

maddix park mx

Woodville has come round once again. 

This weekend, the cream of the country’s riders and aspiring champions along with several from overseas will be converging on the natural amphitheatre that has been home to the NZ Motocross GP for the last 50 years. 

Yes, the Manawatu-Orion Motorcycle Club has organized a 3 day event that will celebrate the 50 years of Woodville but which is also part of the year long 100th anniversary of the club itself. There will be NZ titles up for grabs in mini, junior, senior, vet classes plus VMX , the river race, a dash for cash, and a girls only  mini race.

One of the regular special features of Woodville is the annual Invitation International Race when the fastest 40 riders from the first round of racing get an all-in, 20 minute race for the Tim Gibbes Trophy.

“I gave it to the club when the event first started,” says Tim. “It was a trophy I'd won in the USA when I used to race over there during the European winters. It was probably for a cross country event like a hare scramble or hare & hound. I built up quite a collection, some of which I brought back, but living in a pick up or van & sleeping under the stars while I was racing around the world, it was not always possible to retain the trophies.” “The memories are better”, he adds, “even if they're faster, longer & braver than ever before!”

Since the 1961 inaugural race, there have been 26 different  winners of the trophy, several of them, the King brothers, for example, being multi winners. However, the names of 5 current Bay of Plenty residents are amongst those etched on the trophy for posterity.

Alan Collison was resident in Palmerston North when he won it in 1971. “It really was an “international” race from the mid-60s”, comments Alan. “Some interesting and entertaining riders came over on a sort of working holiday during the European winter. It was quite difficult for us local boys to do well. But as we got better, we managed to match them on our own turf.  Now, of course, we have locals who have become world class. The track itself is fast.  It brings out a different characteristic in riders used to tight stuff.  If you go down, you go down big. It’s rolling country so you can go flat out in top gear.  We used to get up to 60 miles per hour”.

Peter Ploen (seen above  practicing for,  but not at, Woodville in 1972) was Alan Collison’s apprentice and also residing in Palmerston North when he took over the winning of the trophy for the first time in 1972, followed by further successes in 1974 and 1975. The Manawatu-Orion Club was his home club. This was the era of the all purpose bike when his 350 Kawasaki had road tyres on for road racing with the knobbly tyres in the boot ready for the next MX event (see picture below) or vice versa. “The Woodville track was in a natural basin”, he recounts.” It was pretty fast, you could do yourself some damage. I remember once I was on a Suzuki doing the biggest jump ever into the back gulley. I had no energy to turn the throttle off.  Quite surprisingly, I managed to land okay”. Peter also remembers the “cowboy” race when the mainly 350 Triumph Twins used to have a race around the MX track. “I watched one race when a rather large guy on a Twin managed to himself airborne on a jump on the first lap, launched himself a bit further in the 2nd and even further in the 3rd until he finally crashed, almost into the crowd”.

Peter is still pretty fast.  He will back in Woodville on Saturday riding his 1985 Suzuki in the VMX races and catching up with mates at the 50th anniversary celebrations.

Craig Coleman was Wanganui based when he won the trophy twice, in 1981 and 1982.

Rotorua motorcycle dealer, Bryan Patterson, is another who has won the trophy twice, in 1983 and 1985. His abiding memory is of mud, mud, mud. “All you could see was teeth and the whites of eyes”, he remembers. “Coming off the track, we’d ride straight to the river, to wash off the mud. We didn’t have the river race and the jumps weren’t quite so big but Woodville was still a huge event”. Please note that nowadays, although mechanics are permitted to get water from the river, as far as bike cleaning is concerned, riders are not permitted to water their bikes in or anywhere near the river.

The most recent local winner of the Tim Gibbes Trophy is Cody Cooper who won it in 2007. He loves the race, the whole track and the atmosphere.  Because it is a one off event, it is something special, something to look forward to. Cody will be back there this weekend, ready for another crack at the cup and the titles.

For more details on the event, the prize-giving, the 50th party, the free FMX display starring Levi Sherwood etc. go to www.momcc.co.nz .

For Andy McGechan’s comments on the event go to www.bikesportnz.com

For a previous article on the origin of the event, click here.

For some video images of the 2007 racing, click here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JRq8SXj9QE

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