2023 New Zealand Hard Enduro Championships

CAPTION: Whitecliffs rider Luke Corson (Beta RR300), winner of the Nutbuster Enduro last season and expected to be among the favourites to win again in Canterbury this weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

NOVEMBER 14, 2023: No matter how you slice it, this weekend in Canterbury is going to be a brutal one for New Zealand’s elite motorcycle enduro riders.

The second and final round of the 2023 New Zealand Hard Enduro Championships is set for two days of competition (November 17-18) in and around Christchurch and this is a competition that includes the word “hard” in its title for a very good reason.

The first round of this year’s Yamaha-sponsored series sent riders into the Akatarewa Forest near Pauatahanui, north-east of Porirua, in September and it was Papakura’s Ryan Hayward who emerged on top.

It may well be Hayward who dominates again at the various South Island venues this weekend, but don’t count on it, with any number of individuals capable of challenging and beating Hayward.

Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker, New Plymouth father and son duo of Tony and Sam Parker, Nelson’s Tom O’Brien, Taupo’s Wil Yeoman, Whangaparoa’s Jacob Refoy, Owaka’s Blake Affleck, Hastings hero Andy Gunson, Christchurch’s Josh Dando, Omihi’s Ethan McBreen, Queenstown’s Regan Cornelissen, Dannevirke’s Anders Easton, Queenstown’s Simon Smith, Queenstown’s Scott Columb, Te Awamutu’s Graham Ramsey, Amberley’s Archer Pascoe and fellow South Islander Luke Corson, from Whitecliffs, should be among those in the hunt to grab top honours in their respective categories.

The course will feature separate tracks for Gold, Silver and Bronze category riders, but contestants of all abilities will definitely find this event a challenge.

“The two days will feature a little bit of everything said,” said Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson.

Day one on Friday will be an enduro-cross within the A&P Showgrounds in Christchurch city, while day two on Saturday will be a traditional hard enduro course on farmland at Mt Selfe, 112 Lake Sumner Road, Hawerden.

Friday’s enduro-cross will be doubly significant because, not only will it constitute the first to two days of this final round, it will also be recognised as a stand-alone event, the inaugural New Zealand Enduro-cross Championships, which is likely to be expanded into a series next season.

Meanwhile, the opening round of the New Zealand Hard Enduro Championships series near Wellington two months ago set things up for a thrilling conclusion this weekend.

Whitaker finished in front of friend and rival Hayward on day one at Moonshine, the two Gold Grade riders actually separated by a slender margin of less than three minutes after a long and brutal day of racing on the steep and unforgiving forestland course.

The finishing order at the top of the premier Gold Grade was reversed the following day and, when overall times were added together after both days, it was Hayward who ended up in front, winning the weekend overall by just 47 seconds over Whitaker.

Third best after the two days at Moonshine was Corson, while Taranaki’s Sam Parker and Nelson’s O’Brien rounded out the top five in the elite Gold Grade.

It is highly likely that these same riders will again be vying for the top honours, but possibly this time finishing in a different order.

This weekend’s national event in Canterbury is also known as the Nutbuster Enduro, this Beta Motorcycles NZ-sponsored event doubling up as round two of the South Island Hard Enduro Championships.

All series are additionally supported by Motorcycling New Zealand, Mitas tyres, Kiwi Rider magazine, Silver-bullet and Macaulay Metals.

2023 NZ Hard Enduro Championships:

Round 1: September 9-10, Moonshine Xtreme, Porirua;

Round 2: November 17-18, Nutbuster, Christchurch.

North Island Hard Enduro Championships:

Round 1: September 9-10, Moonshine Xtreme;

Round 2: October 7-8, Root 100, Whangaruru, Whangarei.

South Island Hard Enduro Championships:

Round 1: Wanaka (already held in April);

Round 2: November 17-18, Nutbuster, Christchurch.

New Zealand Enduro-cross Championships:

Round 1: November 17 (Nutbuster day one).

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