This year’s edition of the New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series will go down to the wire in the South Island this weekend.
The four-round Yamaha-sponsored competition has been a colossal see-saw battle, offering something for everyone with different categories for various skill levels, and it will attract the nation’s elite enduro and cross-country riders to Canterbury for the double-header final round this Friday and Saturday.
Hosted by the Christchurch Off-Road Motorcycle Club, this weekend’s two-dayer will begin with an enduro-cross at the Christchurch A&P Showgrounds, on Friday, while riders head to Trig Road, Oxford (signposted from the Waimakariri Gorge Bridge and Oxford), for the Nut Buster hard enduro the following day.
Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker won the elite Gold Class at the first round of four in the Yamaha-sponsored series near Whangamata in early September and Helensville’s Tommy Buxton won round two near Porirua two weeks later. Then a third different winner emerged with Napier’s Mackenzie Wiig winning the two-day round three in Hawke’s Bay a fortnight ago.
Hamilton’s Greg De Lautour and New Plymouth’s Tony Parker have also featured among the leaders so far and could be expected to shine again this weekend too, although with Christchurch’s just-crowned World Youth Enduro Champion Hamish Macdonald also entered this weekend, there could easily be a fourth different race winner.
Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury and Te Awamutu’s Rachael Archer have also just returned from their respective overseas campaigns and they should not be overlooked either.
Motorcycling New Zealand Enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson said the series was proving extremely popular, with good entry numbers at all three rounds so far.
“We have 144 entries in for the Nut Buster alone. It’s a premium, international-level event and ideal to have this as the series finale,” he said.
Riders nominate themselves as either Gold, Silver or Bronze class competitors, depending upon their skill and fitness levels, and that’s the course they will be assigned to tackle, with the classes each scored separately.
Bronze class riders are expected to be “competent trail riders”. Course difficulty will be similar to an enduro, but “with some slightly harder sections”.
The competition will be slightly tougher for the Silver class riders, with a good skill level and fitness required to get them to the finish.
“They must be confident with log crossings, rocky stream beds, hill climbs and bull-dogging the bikes may be required on down-hills,” said Stevenson.
He said the Gold class course would severely test the nation’s elite.
“The course is designed to be cruel but fair. The course will not be impossible, but definitely difficult. Ropes are recommended for the long hill climbs and extreme down-hills.”
In the Silver Class, Hastings rider Brett Gunson leads after three rounds, just ahead of New Plymouth duo Daniel Herbert and Mark Horwell.
Rerewhakaaitu’s Zach Sefuiva and Kaukapakapa’s Lucia Oles share the lead in the Bronze Class after three rounds, with Whitecliffs’ rider Luke Corson third overall.
Only three of the four rounds of the Yamaha NZ Extreme Off-road Championship are to be counted, with riders to discard their one worst score from the three North Island rounds, making this weekend’s contest in Canterbury a hugely significant one in the overall scheme of things.
The 2019 Yamaha NZ Extreme Off-Road Championships are supported by Mitas tyres, Macaulay Metals, Best Build Construction, Silver-bullet, Kiwi Rider magazine, Dirt Rider Downunder magazine, Moto Events NZ and NZ Car Parts (Auckland).
The 2019 NZ Extreme Off-Road Championship calendar:
Round one: September 7, Taungatara Forest, Whangamata.
Round two: September 22, Moonshine Extreme, Bulls Run Rd, Porirua.
Round three: November 2-3, Over The Top, Hawke’s Bay.
Round four: November 15-16, Nut Buster, Oxford, Christchurch.
Words and Photo by Andy McGechan