2023 New Zealand Enduro Championships

Two consecutive weekends of racing saw the first half of this season’s New Zealand Enduro Championships wrap up in forestry land near Nelson at the weekend and the battle remains incredibly tight for title honours.

It was Omihi’s Ethan McBreen, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge and Tauranga-based former Wairoa man Tommy Watts who led the way at the opening round of the Yamaha-sponsored series at Omihi, north of Christchurch, a week ago and it was the exact same talented trio who dominated proceedings at Pigeon Valley Road, south-west of Nelson, on Saturday and Sunday, albeit with a slightly different finishing order.

With two days of racing back-to-back at each of the four rounds this season, riders’ strength, stamina and determination is bound to be sorely tested and again it was McBreen, Groombridge and Watts who coped best with the arduous racing conditions.

However, while McBreen won at Omihi, it was Watts who stole the spotlight at Nelson and that moved the North Islander up from third to second in the championship standings after the two rounds thus far.

The first day on Saturday was run in a sprint format, with day two on Sunday a traditional timecard enduro race and Watts won both days at the weekend, with McBreen overall runner-up for the weekend and Groombridge third both times.

However, McBreen still tops the championship standings overall, ahead of Watts and Groombridge, with two more rounds left to run, in the North Island next month.

Nelson’s Bailey Basalaj, Christchurch’s Josh Dando and New Plymouth’s Sam Parker round out the top half dozen riders overall with the series now at the halfway stage.

In terms of class honours, Watts leads the 0-200cc two-stroke/0-300cc four-stroke class ahead of Basalaj and Parker; McBreen leads the over-201cc two-stroke class ahead of New Plymouth’s Josh Houghton and Whitianga’s James Kerr; Groombridge leads the over-301cc four-stroke class ahead of Dando and Stoke’s Kurtis Bandy, while Hastings rider Andy Gunson leads the over-40 years veterans’ class ahead of Rangiora’s Travis Churchill and Nelson’s Tim Grayer.

It is important to note that each of the two South Island rounds that have now been completed were also recognised as rounds one and two respectively of the parallel-but-separate South Island Enduro Championships.

Therefore the South Island champions for 2023 are: Watts (expert under-200cc two-stroke/over-300cc four-stroke class); McBreen (expert over-201cc two-stroke class); Groombridge (expert over-301cc four-stroke class); Gunson (expert over-40 years veterans’ class); Tapanui’s Kylie Dorr (intermediate women’s class); Motueka’s Fletcher Wassell (intermediate under-200cc two-stroke/under-300cc four-stroke class); Rerewhakaaitu’s Zach Sefuiva (intermediate over-200cc two-stroke/over-300cc four-stroke class); Paeroa’s Mark Whyte (intermediate veterans’ 50-54 years class); Blenheim’s Don Munro (intermediate veterans’ over-55 years class); Brightwater’s Wayne Bensemann (intermediate veterans’ 40-49 years class).

Overall grade winner for the South Island Championships in the expert grade is McBreen, followed by Basalaj and Christchurch’s Josh Dando, while, in the intermediate grade, overall winner was Bensemann, followed by Wassell and Nelson’s Seth Sutherland.

Each of the two North Island rounds that are set to follow next month, in Wellington and Martinborough respectively, will be recognised also as rounds one and two of the parallel-but-separate North Island Enduro Championships and again they will be held on consecutive weekends.

2023 NZ Enduro Champs calendar:

Round 1: May 6-7, Omihi, North Canterbury.

Round 2: May 13-14, Pigeon Valley Road, south of Nelson.

Round 3: June 4-5, Moonshine Valley Road, near Porirua, Wellington.

Round 4: June 10-11, Martinborough.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com