A French speaking island in the Western Pacific no more than 50km wide, but one that punches well above its weight in the motocross scene. This year I was honored with the invite to race in New Caledonia where I was to have some of the best experiences of my life.
The track was my biggest surprise and the finish line section said it all. A very long step down followed by a tabletop that was formed well enough to satisfy the needs of a skate park. Then picture a hillside turned into a massive berm leading into a wide open step up that took 35 of my biggest strides to measure. Follow on to a 20 meter table then single bump as you take the 90 degree corner that begged to be scrubbed, followed by another long and high but smooth tabletop leading into a bowl turn that would make the Motueka SX track proud. I wasn’t expecting such a playground as this and while I had heard the locals were quick, they gave us a real wake up call. These guys know how to race. All you needed to do was watch one of the 125 races to get a real idea.
One rider in particular showed that riding a KTM with number 30 on the side. While he never won a race, by himself he instigated more back and forth racing than anything I have seen before. He knew every trick in the book on each possible place on the track, but unfortunately for him so did the other riders. And they weren’t mucking around, this was full-on action at high speed and these guys are not afraid to whip it out over the jumps.
In our class there were some top riders aboard anything from a full A-Spec Pro Circuit bike that Justin Barcia would be happy to be seen aboard, to well used bikes a few years old. But there were two riders that definitely stood out and for the very fastest of them this was to be his last big event event before retirement. Wilrick by name, he was the dominant force. But only if able to handle the huge pressure put on him by Laurent, his much younger counterpart. At 18 years of age, Laurent was able to force mistakes out of Wilrick in at least two of the races, going on to then take a well deserved first overall. Unfortunately for my overall result there was still the other international riders to compete against with former Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Dylan Peterson making the trip from Aussie, and the familiar Brad Groombridge borrowing a Suzuki for the event.
One race in particular stood out as the key moment for my weekend as I got a decent start and settled in second place behind Lorent after he pressured Wilrick into a fall. I had both Brad and Dylan hot on my heels but was happy holding them out for close to half the race until disaster struck. Not that I crashed or did anything unusual but simply had my legs too straight when hitting one last whoop. It hyper extended my left knee and I had to let the boys through while I got over the pain, still finishing in my usual fourth position but only just ahead of the number one Tahitian rider. That was pretty much the end of my weekend as I tweaked it again in the first corner of the last race, deciding to rest for a while and watch the race for a while as I hadn’t seen Wilrick riding yet. As it turned out Dylan was finally able to get the better of him using some smart inside lines, and with the win snatch second overall from Brad while Wilrick finished fourth with myself in fifth.
It was a sweet weekends racing with plenty of relaxed locals cruising around and despite the size of the jumps there was only one injury of note, a broken wrist in Saturdays practice. Adding to the entertainment was fellow Kiwi Mike Small who rode in the quad class while taking photos for DRD, where the big jumps didn’t seem to phase the four wheeled riders much at all. I know that Mike had the time of his life and swears he will be back soon, as I hope so will I.
Fly Boarding Michael Style
Probably my biggest highlight was watching the improvement of my hosts son as we got him set up over the weekend, Karl making a transformation from second to last in the older 85cc class to a stunning second to first after he borrowed his brothers less restrictive Atlas neck brace at my request. He has only been racing for just over a year but improved out of sight after spending some time with us in NZ then finally adopting my standing style Sunday morning until he can now say “I like the Broxy Style”.
The hospitality was incredible and the local Kawasaki Dealer Wheeling Moto went above and beyond with nothing too difficult, with at least five of their experienced staff working on bikes with is in their workshop until 8pm Saturday night before the local bike club organised a day of jet skiing for us on Monday. Genuinely friendly, I would recommend the Pacific paradise of NC to any bike rider wanting a riding holiday. And while they speak good English here it is always fun learning a little French on the side. Au Revoir!