2021 New Zealand Cross-country Championships
CAPTION: Napier-based former Wairoa rider Tommy Watts (Yamaha), with an equal share of the championship lead at the halfway stage of the series. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
New Zealand’s elite cross-country motorcycle racers will wrap up the 2021 national championship series in the South Island this weekend.
It will be a huge double-header weekend this Saturday and Sunday, with competitors tackling a course near Balclutha on Saturday, followed by racing near Mosgiel on Sunday, a sudden and potentially-explosive end to what has been a thrilling competition.
The four-round 2021 Yamaha-sponsored New Zealand Cross-country Championships kicked off near Marton, in the Rangitikei region, in late February, with round two following near Dannevirke just two weeks later.
But that’s only half the story, with the second half now to complete it over one gruelling 48-hour period.
Racing both days this weekend will again offer up a variety of obstacles and challenging terrain, featuring all the tricky features the riders have come to love or respect, with fast open farmland, slower bush sections and the odd hill climb or creek crossing thrown in for good measure.
Napier-based former Wairoa rider Tommy Watts and Palmerston North’s 2015 national champion Paul Whibley currently hold an equal share of the series lead, with Raglan’s Brandon Given, Napier-based former Wairoa rider, Reece Lister and Taupo’s Hadleigh Knight not too far behind them.
Whanganui’s Seth Reardon has also been a standout during the three-hour senior races so far this season, alongside Glen Murray’s Sam Brown and Drury’s Richard Sutton, while Taupo’s Wil Yeoman, Eketahuna’s Luke Brown, Cambridge’s Bailey Morgan and Dannevirke’s Charlie Free were among the leading individuals in the 90-minute junior races at both Marton and Dannevirke.
Masterton’s Max Williams has been best of the 85cc bike riders thus far and he is impressively running sixth overall in the junior grade.
It’s likely that these riders will again be among the frontrunners in the South Island this weekend, although strong challenges may come from Rotorua’s Callum Dudson, Kinloch’s Quade Young, Dannevirke’s Ben Patterson and Te Kauwhata’s Jacob Brown, to name a few.
Points from only the best three results from the four rounds will be counted towards the championship titles, with riders to discard their worst result. This has allowed competitors the option of having to make only one trip across Cook Strait.
However, Nelson’s Bailey Basalaj and Blake Affleck, from the South Otago town of Owaka, have been the only South Island riders to make the journey north for the earlier rounds. Basalaj is currently 20th overall in the senior grade and Affleck is running 19th overall in the junior grade.
The 90-minute junior race kicks off at about 9am both days, with the three-hour senior race to follow at about 11.30am.
The New Zealand Cross-country Championships series is supported by Yamaha NZ, O’Neal apparel, The Dirt Guide, Oakley goggles, Bel Ray oils and Michelin tyres.
2021 NZ Cross-Country Champs
Round One – Sunday, February 28 – Bush Riders MCC, Marton
Round Two – Sunday, March 14 – Central Hawke’s Bay MCC, Dannevirke
Round Three – Saturday, April 17 – Gore & Districts MCC, Balclutha
Round Four – Sunday, April 18 – Mosgiel District MCC, Mosgiel
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com