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WMXBelgiumMarch 21, 2004
2004 FIM Motocross World Championship Round 1
Grand Prix of Flanders, Zolder, Belgium

Coppins takes 3rd place at MX season opener

CAS Honda’s Josh Coppins gained 3rd place today at the Zolder circuit in Belgium for the first round of the sixteen race 2004 FIM MX1 World Championships. The 27 year old New Zealander posted results of 7th and 2nd in the two 35 minute and 2 lap motos to stand on the bottom step of the podium.

Very windy conditions and occasional showers with hail lashed the demanding Zolder racetrack 85 kilometres east of Brussels making the opening Grand Prix of the year a tough test for the riders of both the MX1 and MX2 categories. Coppins, manning the Honda CRF450R four-stroke, was leading the second moto and swapped positions with home favorite, Cedric Melotte(Yamaha) before passing the chequered flag second, less than three seconds behind the Belgian. It was Coppins’ best ever start to a GP season, the previous highest position being a fifth place.

Mickael Pichon the two times former World Champion made his Honda GP debut in Zolder, he was leading the first race on his Tiscali Honda CR450f until a small crash inside the first three laps dented his aspirations of making an impressive comeback after six months out of action with a knee ligament injury. The Frenchman still earned third place and his chance of an overall podium result was ruined inside the first 10 seconds of the second moto when he was knocked to the ground negotiating the first corner. Fighting back from dead-last Pichon finished a creditable 11th and his final standing of fourth, with 30 Championship points was a reasonable start to the lengthy campaign.

KTM’s Steve Ramon and Yamaha’s Cedric Melotte were the victorious riders with Melotte heading the top three in his first race for the works L&M squad.

Due to the knee injury sustained at Canada Heights for the first British Championship round Gordon Crockard was unable to ride this afternoon, the Irishman qualified in 25th position in timed qualification practice, he now looks likely to miss next weekend’s race in Spain. Former Japanese Champion, Yoshitaka Atsuta got his season off to a good start and was lying inside of the top ten before running off the track, he crossed the line 19th in the second moto after being taken out at the first turn by Frenchman Mickael Pichon. With his previous result of 15th on the tricky sandy surface, he was placed 18th on the final classification.

In the MX2 category the factory four stroke KTMs of Ben Townley and Marc De Reuver claimed both moto wins with the former taking the overall. Jamie Dobb of the British based RWJ Honda squad managed to score a 4th and a 12th on the CRF250R placing sixth by the end of the day while his countryman Carl Nunn, also on the little Honda four-stroke, was lower down the order in 12th.

Josh Coppins Position: 3rd
"In the first moto I was riding OK but not relaxed enough to make any progression. I felt stiff and my rhythm would not come. The second race was much better; I felt in tune with the track and was able to save energy. It has taken me longer than I thought to adjust to the four-stroke. My build-up was not too impressive but I am up to speed now."

Mickael Pichon
"My riding was not good in the first moto and I felt tense and was making stupid mistakes. I felt confident because right away I could see that my speed and physical condition was OK. Starting the second race Marko Kovalianen slammed into me and for a moment I was afraid as all the bikes ran over us. I got back up and banged the front mudguard back into shape and although I was down in 20th my performance in that moto was much better. I was more relaxed and making better times. I had taken some antibiotics before the race because I had a cold a few days ago and was feeling slightly weak.
The bike has almost too much power! I cannot be too disappointed with my first GP back because I took some points and there are still a lot of races left."

Yoshitaka Atsuta
"I was happy with my riding here, my starts were both ok, the track became very rough and after I passed Josh (Coppins) I ran off the track and found it very hard to get momentum after that and the best I could manage was 15th position. Mickael Pichon crashed into me just before the first turn of race two, I went down in a big heap and the really struggled to get going again. I was looking forward to some good results here, but in the end I just tried not to make any mistakes and just finish the race the best I could."

"This wasn’t the best start to the season that I expected, I struggled with my goggles and could see with the flying sand made worse by the high winds. The bike worked very well, the suspension coped well with the circuit which was deeply rutted and choppy. The winning bikes were both KTM’s but I know that this type of going is exactly the same as they train in week in week out, I think that next week at Bellpuig in Spain it will be a different story."
2004 FIM Motocross World Championship Round 1
Grand Prix of Flanders, Zolder, Belgium


MX1 - Race Result
1 RAMON Steve (KTM)
3 PICHON Mickael (Honda)
4 JORGENSEN Brian (Honda)
6 COOPER Paul (Honda)
7 COPPINS Joshua (Honda)
10 KOVALAINEN Marko (Honda)
12 NOBLE James (Honda)
14 DE DIJCKER Ken (Honda)
15 ATSUTA Yoshitaka (Honda)

MX1 - Race Result
2 COPPINS Joshua (Honda)
4 RAMON Steve (KTM)
9 NOBLE James (Honda)
10 LEOK Tanel (SUZUKI)
11 PICHON Mickael (Honda)
13 BURNHAM Christian (KTM)
14 JORGENSEN Brian (Honda)
15 MARTIN Christophe (YAMAHA)


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