When the going gets tough, the tough get going and that’s exactly what happened at the opening round of this season’s Yamaha New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series.
The Yamaha-sponsored four-round series for 2020 roared into life at Moonshine, in the Akatarawa Forest, halfway between Porirua and the Hutt Valley, on Sunday with an entertaining day of close-fought off-road combat of the motorcycling variety.
Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker won the series last year and made good his promise to mount a solid title defence by winning the day at Moonshine at the weekend, with last season’s runner-up rider, Helensville’s Tom Buxton, again proving to be a thorn in his side, pushing Whitaker right to the end on Sunday.
Lower Hutt rider Ryan Scullion surprised onlookers with his solid third place finish on Sunday, while New Plymouth’s Tony Parker, Rotorua’s Bradley Lauder and Wainuiomata’s Jordan Blake rounded out the top half dozen in the elite Gold Grade.
Top riders in the Silver Grade were Taranaki father and son Dougy Herbert and Daniel Herbert, with Otaki’s Matt Lauder finishing third overall. Best of the Bronze Grade riders were Rerewhakaaitu’s Zach Sefuiva, Whangamata’s Ethan Jameson and Rotorua’s Harrison McClintock.
Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson agreed it was a challenging course and this was to be expected with the word “extreme” being a key part of the series title.
“It was great to see Ryan Scullion perform so well. He is normally one of our event crew, but he was convinced to compete this year and whammo, there he was, among the leaders.
“The wet weather leading up to this event and concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic probably accounted for there being fewer entries than we’d have liked, but conditions were perfect on the day.
“We re-arrowed the tracks during the course of the day, to send riders back over the same ridges and hills, but in the opposite directions for the second half of the event and that provided quite a twist to the racing.”
Round two of the series now follows in the Taungatara Forest, not far from Whangamata, in just two weeks’ time, on September 26.
A two-dayer in Hawke’s Bay will push riders to breaking point at round three on October 31 and November 1, with the competition again wrapping up with another double-header weekend, at the Nut Buster hard enduro at Oxford, near Christchurch, on November 14-15.
Only the bold, brave and superbly talented should expect to win an event as tough as this, but that should not deter any accomplished dirt bike rider from giving it a crack.
Only two of the three North Island rounds of the championship are counted towards the final tally, with riders to discard their one worst score, while the sole South Island round, the Nut Buster near Christchurch, is obviously a ‘must do’ for any title hopefuls.
The 2020 Yamaha NZ Extreme Off-Road Championships are supported by Mitas tyres, Macaulay Metals, Best Build Construction, Silver-bullet and Kiwi Rider magazine.
The 2020 NZ Extreme Off-Road Championship calendar:
Round one: September 13, Moonshine Extreme, Bulls Run Rd, Porirua.
Round two: September 26, Taungatara Forest, Whangamata.
Round three: October 31-November 1, Over The Top, Hawke’s Bay.
Round four: November 14-15, Nut Buster, Oxford, Christchurch.
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
PHOTO: Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker, on his way to winning round one of this year’s New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series at Moonshine on Sunday.