With three different winners in as many events, this season’s New Zealand Enduro Championships have so far been one of the most fiercely-fought affairs in years.
Helensville’s Tom Buxton won the first of seven rounds in the Yamaha and Mitas Tyres-backed series near Whangamata in March, with Cambridge rider Dylan Yearbury clinching the win at round two near Porirua two weeks ago.
For the third round of the series near Tokoroa on Saturday it was multi-time former national champion Chris Birch, from Thames, who grabbed the top step of the podium for the premier AA course riders.
An infrequent competitor at the nationals these days, as overseas riding commitments keep him away, the 38-year-old Birch showed his undeniable class, winning the day by 44 seconds from Buxton, with another infrequent enduro competitor, Tauranga’s Ben Townley, finishing 27 seconds further back and claiming the third podium spot.
Yearbury and then Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman rounded out the top five riders on the AA course on Saturday.
In terms of the AA championship, Buxton leads by just four points from Yearbury, with Whanganui’s Seth Reardon – who finished sixth on Saturday – third overall for the series thus far, 18 points behind Yearbury.
However, with Buxton and Yearbury both now heading away to events in Romania and Austria, it puts Reardon in a good position to take over the series lead if he performs well again at round four, near Martinborough on June 9.
Whangamata’s Jason Davis, who finished eighth on Saturday, is just one point behind Reardon in the series standings, so anything is still possible with a long way still to go before the engines are finally shut off after the final round near Hokitika on July 20.
Meanwhile, in the A course action, it was again a two-rider battle between Tokoroa’s Nick Wightman and Thames rider Natasha Cairns, with Wightman eventually winning the day overall by one minute and 25 seconds from Cairns.
With three wins from three starts now, Wightman leads the trophy chase for the A course riders, with Cairns and Masterton’s Philip Bly second and third overall respectively.
Bly finished the day fourth overall at Whangamata and at Porirua too, but finished the day seventh on the A course at Tokoroa.
“It was a fantastic day today. The course was perfect,” said Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson. “The sport seems to be very strong too. We had good competitor numbers today.”
The 2019 Yamaha NZ Enduro Championships are supported by Mitas tyres, Macaulay Metals, Best Build Construction, Silver-bullet, Kiwi Rider magazine, Dirt Rider Downunder magazine and Moto Events NZ.
2019 Yamaha NZ Enduro Champs calendar:
Round 1 – Saturday, March 16 – Thames
Round 2 – Saturday, April 6 – Kapiti
Round 3 – Saturday, April 20 – South Waikato
Round 4 – Sunday, June 9 – Martinborough
Round 5 – Saturday, June 29 – Bideford, Masterton
Round 6 – Friday, July 19 – Hokitika, Westland
Round 7 – Saturday, July 20 – Hokitika, Westland
Words and Photos by Andy McGechan