2023 New Zealand Enduro Championships

 CAPTION: Wairoa’s Tommy Watts, the overall winner for the King’s Birthday Weekend event at Moonshine, round three of this season’s New Zealand Enduro Championships series. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

The 2023 New Zealand Enduro Championships competition has a new leader, Tauranga-based former Wairoa man Tommy Watts.

Watts, Omihi’s Ethan McBreen and Taupo’s Brad Groombridge had been the dominant trio during the South Island phase of the Yamaha-sponsored series last month and McBreen enjoyed a slender lead over Watts and Groombridge as the riders crossed Cook Strait for the North Island half of the four-round competition.

But round three – run over two consecutive days, the Sunday and Monday of King’s Birthday Weekend, in forestry land in the Moonshine Valley, near Porirua – proved to be pivotal as this steep and unforgiving terrain, lashed and buffeted by icy wind and rain, tested riders and their bikes to the limit.

Two-time former national enduro champion Groombridge suffered a broken collarbone midway through day one on Sunday and his unfortunate withdrawal saw him quickly drop down the series standings to now be in fifth position overall.

Despite Groombridge’s demise, it seemed that Watts had the measure of things anyway, with the former national cross-country champion topping the timing sheets in all of the nine tightly-timed sprint races on Sunday and he also won each of the six tests during the traditional enduro format racing held on Monday.

McBreen finished the weekend overall runner-up and he keeps alive his chances of clinching the title outright with just the final round still to come, on farmland near Martinborough next weekend.

“I’m pretty stoked with that,” said the 21-year-old Watts afterwards.

“To achieve the feat of winning all stages over a weekend is something I’ve always wanted to do. It was a very challenging weekend.

“I now lead the series overall by one point from Ethan (McBreen) and I’m looking forward to Martinborough. I blew up my bike in my previous race at Martinborough, actually the only other time I’d ridden there, so I hope it all holds together for me this time around.”

The weekend at Moonshine also marked the 50th time that an enduro had been held at this venue in the Akatarawa Forest.

“This made it a particularly special event,” said Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson.

Nelson’s Bailey Basalaj, New Plymouth’s Sam Parker, followed by Groombridge in fifth, and Whitianga’s James Kerr now round out the top half dozen riders overall after three of four rounds and these riders may perhaps fancy their chances of improving their respective rankings at Martinborough’s finale in less than a week’s time.

The two South Island rounds of the national series that have already been staged were also recognised as the two-round South Island Enduro Champs – and so those trophies have therefore now been awarded. The two North Island rounds will be documented also as rounds one and two of the parallel-but-separate North Island Enduro Championships.

In addition, the weekend’s racing at Moonshine qualified as round one of the Macaulay Metals Central Enduro Series (on Monday only).

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