Mount Maunganui racer Mason Phillips is preparing for his fifth summer on the Canadian motocross tour.
With a freshly inked deal with KTM that establishes his own team, Phillips flew out yesterday to begin three weeks testing in California ahead of the Canadian Nationals opener near Vancouver on June 5.
“The deal is done and it’s awesome,” said Phillips. “The way KTM has set up my deal this year is that I have my own satellite team.
“It’s called the Kini Red Bull KTM race team and I’m racing the MX1 class on a KTM 350F.”
Kini is racing safety equipment and apparel brand with close links to Red Bull’s motorsport programme and the 350F is a bike that sees KTM taking a different approach to the 450cc MX1 premier class.
“I tested the KTM last year before I came home but I haven’t raced one since 2009,” said Phillips. “The 350F is lighter and more nimble than a 450. It’s more like riding a really powerful 250.”
Last year, Phillips, 26, rode for Kawasaki and finished sixth in the Canadian MX1 title. “I was fifth until the last round where we had engine problems.”
Phillips’ team will have another Kiwi rider with 19-year-old Kieran Leigh from Cambridge also making the trip to Canada.
“Kieran is going with me and riding under my team.Advertisement
He’s riding a KTM 250F in the MX2 class. And, at some events, I also have a young rider from California coming to race the MX2 class,” said Phillips. “We have full support from KTM and will pit right next to the factory KTM team at the nationals.”
Phillips says Canada provides a high level of competition with easier logistics than other overseas racing.
“I like Canada because it’s a short season with nine races in 12 weeks,” he says. “You start on the west coast and the series works its way east across the country.
“I’ve never had any interest in racing in Europe and the racing in America is just too expensive because of all the travel. You have to travel backwards and forwards across the country all the time.
“It’s a good deal for me and a good one for Kieran as well.
“Canada will put Kieran in the hot seat. He’s in the right place for a rider with a lot of potential.”
The first part of the programme for the Kiwi duo will also involve former racer and motocross coach Niki Urwin (Tauranga).
“Niki is flying out with us as well,” said Phillips.
“He will spend two weeks in California helping Kieran set up and adjust to riding the KTM.”
Both Kiwis are on the comeback trail from injury late last year.
“Kieran broke his leg preparing for the supercross champs and he also missed the motocross nationals,” said Phillips.
Then Phillips’ defence of the MX2 Supercross title barely started before he broke his collar bone at the opening round in December.
He rode the NZ Motocross Champs but withdrew after round two while running in fourth overall.
“I hurt my shoulder again when I crashed at Patetonga (round two) but it’s good now. I took some time out for it to come right and I’ve been back on a bike for five weeks.”
The Canadian Nationals opener is at the Kamloops track in British Columbia on June 5 and the series finale is at Walton, Ontario, on August 21.