Auckland’s Tom Buxton made it look far easier than it should have been as he dominated the third and final round of the popular New Zealand Grand National Cross-country Championships in the King Country at the weekend. The 20-year-old from Helensville took his 2019-model KTM 350 EXC bike to win the two-hour race at Waimiha on Saturday by nearly four minutes from Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury and Titirangi’s Callan May. Buxton had finished third overall at the series opener at Matata in October, but won round two in the Riverhead Forest, west of Auckland, last month, and then his impressive follow-up win at Waimiha on Saturday confirmed his dominance and ensured that the series’ main trophy would go his way.

“I didn’t get the best jump off the start line … I got pushed around a bit at the start,” said Buxton, who works as a bull farmer. “The first corner funneled the riders in tight and I got blocked out, but it caused a few problems for lots of other riders too. I quickly made a few passes and was past about six riders within a few hundred metres and I was up to sixth position after about 300 metres. I put the hammer down and, as everyone in front of me made mistakes and slowed or crashed, I managed to work through and take the lead about 10 minutes into the race. I settled into a good pace and took it a little bit easy because it was very slippery under the bike’s wheels. After the first lap I knew where the track was taking us and that was it really. It’s mission accomplished for the GNCC series and now I can look ahead to tackling the 2019 New Zealand Enduro Championships. I have no plans yet to contest the New Zealand cross-country Championships … I don’t much like farmland racing and prefer the challenge of racing in forestry… so the enduro nationals will be my main focus in the New Year.”

May finished runner-up in the GNCC Series overall, with Yearbury, Drury’s Richard Sutton and Rotorua’s Ethan Harris rounding out the top five riders in the senior grade for this series. Taupo’s Wil Yeoman won the junior grade in the GNCC Series, with Tirau’s Alex Butler and Morrinsville’s Liam Calley completing the series podium. Buxton had been racing overseas for most of this season and not able to race much at home, making this series victory a fantastic way to herald his arrival back on the domestic scene. He had led the New Zealand Enduro Championships after winning the opening two rounds of that six-round series in April, but then decided to follow his dream and head to the renowned annual Romaniacs hard enduro event in Romania, abandoning the domestic racing scene at home.

“I was working as a track manager at the Romaniacs event, so I wasn’t racing there, but it was a great way to gain insight about the event. I hope one day to race the Romaniacs, but it is pretty brutal and I’m really in no rush to do it. I’m young. I’ve got time on my side.”

The KTM star will no doubt be among the favourites to win when the 2019 enduro nationals kick off early next year.

 

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan

 

Riding dirt bikes provides enjoyment for all the family, getting kids away from devices and out into the environment. But if you haven’t done it before, where do you start?

Motorbike riding is a fun and exhilarating sport, whether it’s tackling a local trail ride on the weekend with your family or going racing and traveling to tracks all over the country. It’s a sport that brings families closer together and can take you on great adventures. But where do you start? Thankfully, when it comes to riding or racing dirt bikes, there really is no age limit. So if your kid is 4 years old or 12 and wants to start riding, they can get started whenever you or they want. So here are a few tips on what you need and where to go to get started.

 

 

 

One of the big things with riding dirt bikes is making sure your child has all the protection to keep them as safe as possible when they are out riding. A helmet, boots, riding gear, gloves, goggles, and body armour are the main pieces of protection all riders require. I prefer to wear knee braces and a neck brace to keep me extra safe, but it all comes down to how your child is going to be riding his bike and the budget you’ve got.

Most motorbike shops will stock all this gear from all the different brands, and by buying it from a bike shop you will know the gear is certified, fits correctly and there’s someone to offer advice. It might be tempting to buy online, but there are some dodgy brands out there, so it’s best to be safe. Plus, if you have any problems, then the people in the bike shop will be there to help you out.

There are so many different brands and types of motorbikes out there, so it’s about finding the right one for your child to start on and then for them to progress their way up. If your child is young, like 4-6 years old and you’re starting them out, you want to look at getting them something like a Yamaha PW50 or KTM 50 Mini Adventure. This is because they are small bikes that have no gears and are easy for them to start off with. The KTM is more of a racing bike, and if that’s what you’re getting your child into, then that is the best start. If your child is 8-10 years old and wants to be racing, then either a 65cc or 85cc two-stroke is the direction you want to go down. Most brands make these bike sizes, and they are the main bikes that are used in racing for that age group. Try and stick with the main manufacturers and avoid little-known Chinese makes, as they’ll likely lead to trouble with very little hope of back up.

 

But if your child was more wanting to go down the riding for fun trail riding path, you would look at either a 110F, 125F or 140F. The F stands for four-stroke, and these bikes are a lot more tamed down than a race bike. For someone that just wants to do trail rides and have fun, these models are great bikes to have and are a lot cheaper than a race bike.

Something else that helps is knowing where to ride. Most motorbike tracks can be accessed on the weekend and sometimes the weekdays too. Just find their website and see if they are opened or closed. A lot of the time you simply need to go to a store and purchase a key for the day. With most Sundays being club days at tracks, this is a good introduction into racing where there will be multiple classes racing. If you still can’t find anywhere, visit www.motoevents.nz where you’ll find a comprehensive list of events. If racing isn’t what you or your child is into, the website shows all of the trail rides around which are on most weekends and are easy to find. So have a look around and get amongst it.

A good way to give your child confidence and get them up and started is some rider coaching. There are quite a few people offering coaching services, but beware of some that can be pretty expensive and not that knowledgeable. Our recommendation would be Peter Broxholme (Broxy Rider Coaching), and Rhys Carter. Both these guys have great people skills and are able to talk to kids in a way for them to understand, which is crucial. They’ll teach junior how to ride and give them the skills that are required to ride a motorcycle well. You can find both of them on Facebook, or contact Broxy at www.broxy.co.nz.

 

 

Taikorea’s Paul Whibley may currently be injured and out of action, but his Yamaha NZXC Series will carry on regardless, the final round set for the King Country this Saturday.

The 40-year-old former NZXC Series winner, former New Zealand cross-country champion and a former two-time outright winner of the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) in the United States (in 2009 and 2012), Whibley has nothing left to prove on the race track, but that doesn’t mean he has been sitting idle.

The Manawatu man created the Yamaha NZXC Series four years ago, in June 2015, intended as “a competition to better-prepare rising Kiwi stars for a life of international race action” and his series is now regarded as one of the best off-road series in New Zealand.

“My intention was not to simply add more events to the calendar, but to use some events that were already there and combine them into something different,” said Whibley, “I’ve chosen the best of the bunch, piggy-backed onto them and called it the Yamaha NZXC series.”

Which explains why Saturday’s event at Waimiha doubles also as the final round of the parallel-but-separate New Zealand GNCC Series.

“I was looking at what younger guys need for when they venture overseas and some of the events in New Zealand were not really preparing them for what they’ll face,” said Whibley, “Racing over farmland is not really the same thing as riders will hit when they get to America or Europe. Forestry courses more accurately reflect what they will strike,”

This Saturday’s sixth and final round of the 2018 edition of the Yamaha NZXC Series is scheduled for the Pureora Forest, near Waimiha and Benneydale, a venue that should test even the most skilled and resilient of riders. Yamaha ace Callan May leads the series after the five rounds thus far, the electrician from Titirangi in impressive form and a massive 36 points ahead of Whanganui’s Seth Reardon (Yamaha YZ250FX) at the top of the Yamaha NZXC standings. The 26-year-old May took his Yamaha YZ250FX to win the first two rounds of the series, but he was then forced to settle for runner-up finishes, both times behind friend and rival Sam Greenslade at the two rounds that followed, at Woodhill Forest and Matata, in September and October respectively.

May was again runner-up at round five in November, this time behind Helensville’s Tom Buxton, but even that second-place performance could be classed as remarkable, with May having to charge through the entire field after a poor start, the race set in a damp a treacherous Riverhead Forest, west of Auckland.

Is will be that same style of strength and tenacity that should enable May to clinch the series’ main trophy this Saturday afternoon. The venue for this weekend’s finale is 741 Ongarue Stream Rd, Waimiha, with the 90-minute combined junior and mini bike race set to blast off at 9.30am, followed by the two-hour senior race at 12 noon.

The junior and mini track is six kilometres long, while the seniors are expected to conquer a 20-kilometre track.

Taupo’s Wil Yeoman (Yamaha YZ125) leads the junior grade by 29 points over Tirau’s Alex Butler after five of six rounds and so he too is well on target to win the junior trophy outright.

Whibley and the Yamaha NZXC Series are supported by Yamaha Motor New Zealand, PWR Yamaha, Arai, TCX, Oakley, G2, Asterisk, MotoSR, Vortex Ignitions, EC3D, Bush Riders MCC, Rosscos Start Up Services, Dirt Guide, Tire Balls, Renthal, BikesportNZ.com, CarbSport, FMF, Michelin, Yamalube CV4 GYTR, IMS, ONeal, Rekluse, Workshop Graphics and Motomuck.

 

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

 

A handful of unbeaten performances lit up the night sky at a damp round one of the New Zealand Supercross Championships at Tokoroa on Saturday. Four of the five championship classes were dominated by just one rider at the South Waikato Motorcycle Club’s circuit at Amisfield on Saturday night, although, in each case, results were never really certain until the final laps, with thrilling cut-and-thrust racing a feature of the night.

Oropi’s Ben Townley (SX1, open class), Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke (SX2, 250cc), Ohaupo’s Carlin Hedley (SX Lites, 125cc) and Rangiora’s Korban Paget (Junior 250) each recorded a hat-trick of wins in their respective classes, perhaps setting the tone for how the championships might wrap up at the second and final round at Winton, near Invercargill, in two weeks’ time.

In the remaining championship class, the Junior Lites, it had looked like Hamilton’s Nicholas Westgate would take charge after he won the first two of three races on the night, but then visiting Czech Republic rider Julius Mikula won the final race, while Westgate managed only seventh, causing something of a boil-over.

Westgate’s brother, Dylan Westgate, finished with a 2-3-2 score-card on the night and this was enough for him to end up level on points at the top, only losing out to his sibling rival on a count-back, while a 3-2-4 score-card from Rongotea’s Rhys Jillings earned him the third podium spot, just ahead of Mikula.

Townley, who was National SX1 champion in 2016 but a non-starter last season, battled early on with fast-starting Taupo rider Cohen Chase, but once in front, Townley was never threatened. Nelson’s Reece Walker earned the third spot on the night’s SX1 podium with a solid 3-2-3 score-card.

For the senior SX2 class riders, the Tokoroa event was actually round two of the Nationals after the inaugural S-X Open Auckland, the international event that was held at Mt Smart Stadium the previous weekend, registering as round one for them. Natzke’s three wins from three starts at Tokoroa then pushed his advantage out from three points to 15 over Martens, who managed 3-3-2 at Tokoroa, while Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis captured the third podium position with a 4-2-3 score-card on Saturday night.

Motorcycling New Zealand supercross co-ordinator Noel May was thrilled with the rider turn-out at Tokoroa.

“It was pretty awesome,” he said. “About 18 months ago we had a meeting in Taupo and came up with a strategic plan to build a pathway for the riders, rebuilding the juniors, so that they feed into the seniors in the future and what we saw here at Tokoroa absolutely kick-started that. Entry numbers were up 40 percent on last year and we had more support classes here too. I want to tip my hat to the Junior Lites and Junior 250s too for turning out in force, and then having a dozen riders entered in SX2 and 10 in SX1 was great too. The junior 250s will kick on up into the SX2 class really soon, so that’s positive news going forward.”

The riders now head to the South Island for the final round of the series, to be hosted by the Southland Motorcycle Club at its Winton facility on December 15.

The Tokoroa event was supported by Craig Stevens Yamaha and the Winton event will be supported by Brent Scammell Honda.

 

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

 

The big annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville will again enjoy elevated status in 2019.

Already considered the biggest and most prestigious motocross event on the Kiwi race calendar, the Woodville GP was recognised as an FIM Oceania event for the first time last season, in January this year, and the success of that means it will again host the FIM Oceania Trans Tasman Challenge at next year’s 58th annual running on January 26 and 27. The spectacular two-day event at Woodville has always attracted huge interest from overseas, but the 2019 Honda-sponsored New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville, in just eight weeks’ time, is again enhanced as a true international competition.

The FIM Oceania Challenge includes competition for both junior and senior riders, with many of Australia’s finest expected to arrive and all of them determined to hammer their Kiwi counterparts. Participating riders from Australia and New Zealand have yet to be confirmed, but there is no shortage of willing candidates keen to lock horns in this inspired trans-Tasman showdown. The Australian will no doubt be seeking revenge after losing out to the New Zealand riders last season.

New Zealand’s chances of winning the FIM Oceania Challenge looked doubtful after the first day of racing at the 2018 edition of the Woodville GP, but a huge fight-back on day two turned it all around. The Australian contingent had the early advantage – leading by 410 points to 368 – after the junior phase of racing on the Saturday, but the senior Kiwis came on strong the following day and rescued the situation. New Zealand eventually won the 2018 FIM Oceania Challenge by 886 points to 829, with Auckland rider Hamish Harwood the main Kiwi aggressor.

It was certainly a talent-packed Australian contingent that arrived at Woodville in January this year – Kirk Gibbs, Jay Wilson, Cooper Pozniak, Mason Semmens, Bailey Malkiewicz, Tyler Darby, Jay Conforto and Australian national women’s champion Maddie Brown among them – and a similarly-potent Australian assault can be expected in 2019.

The Manawatu Orion Motorcycle Club (MOMCC) has hosted the Woodville GP every year since its inception in 1961 and is proud to again be chosen to stage this FIM Oceania competition.

MOMCC president Brett Wistrand said he wanted to thank FIM Oceania for giving the Manawatu Orion Motorcycle Club this opportunity again.

“We want to give the crowd great entertainment, something they can really get behind and there really is nothing better than the sporting rivalry that exists between Australia and New Zealand,” he said.

Racing over the two days at Woodville caters for minis, juniors, women and veteran racers, with the novelty river race on Sunday also a major crowd-pleaser.

 

Credit: Words and photos by Andy McGechan