2023 New Zealand Hard Enduro Championships

CAPTION: Taranaki’s Sam Parker (Husqvarna TE300), outright winner of the 2023 edition of the New Zealand Hard Enduro Championships after the final two-day round in Canterbury at the weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

NOVEMBER 19, 2023: When the going gets tough, the tough get going and that was just the sort of attitude exhibited by Taranaki teenager Sam Parker at the weekend.

The second and final round of the 2023 New Zealand Hard Enduro Championships, held over two days (Friday and Saturday) in Canterbury, during the region’s anniversary weekend, wrapped up this most brutal and unforgiving of motorcycling competitions.

The first round of this year’s Yamaha-sponsored series had 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 on that occasion, with young rising star Parker settling for fourth overall at that two-day event.

Hayward and the third-place rider at Moonshine, Whitecliffs rider Luke Corson, were both sidelined with injury at the weekend, but New Plymouth 17-year-old Parker still had to contend at the weekend with the rest of the cream of New Zealand’s off-road dirt biking talent, including men such as last year’s series winner Jake Whitaker, of Wainuiomata, and Kiwi international star Hamish Macdonald, from West Melton.

Macdonald, recently home from a successful season racing in Europe, won Friday’s novel enduro-cross, staged within the A&P Showgrounds in Christchurch, while Amberley’s Ethan McBreen was runner-up and Parker was third.

Friday’s arena-style event was also recognised as a stand-alone race-within-a-race, classified as the inaugural New Zealand Enduro-cross Championships, so that was first blood to Macdonald and a fresh national title in the bag for him.

There was just the small matter of the next day’s Nutbuster hard enduro, on farmland at Hawerden, still to come to wind up the two-day weekend.

And that’s where Parker proved consistency counts most.

Whitaker won the Nutbuster enduro on Saturday, with Taranaki 21-year-old Daniel Herbert finishing runner-up, then Sam Parker third, with his 49-year-old father Tony Parker rounding out the top four.

Sam Parker’s two third placings over the two days combined to give him the round and series win overall.

Interestingly, Tony Parker had finished overall runner-up to Whitaker in this series last season, but the proud father was happy to be beaten by his young son this time around.

The courses on Friday and Saturday featured separate routes for Gold, Silver and Bronze category riders, but contestants of all abilities still found this event a huge challenge.

Silver grade winner for the series was Whangaparoa’s Jacob Refoy, while Owaka’s Stu Affleck won the bronze grade and his son Blake Affleck won the junior grade overall. Best of the veterans’ riders for the series were Hastings rider Andy Gunson (40 years plus) and Christchurch’s Paul Pascoe (50 years plus).

The weekend’s national event in Canterbury doubled up as round two of the South Island Hard Enduro Championships and Sam Parker was also declared winner of that separate-but-parallel series.

The depth of talent in this sporting code runs deep in New Zealand and, although Sam Parker impressed with his outright victory, he would be the first to tell you that nothing can be taken for granted in hard enduro racing.

In addition to Yamaha NZ, all series were supported by Motorcycling New Zealand, Beta Motorcycles NZ, 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:

November 17 (Nutbuster day one).

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