Pablo Quintanilla and Andrew Short set to take on the 41st edition of the prestigious rally.

The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team of Pablo Quintanilla and Andrew Short are set to take on the biggest challenge on the annual rally racing calendar – the Dakar Rally. Following months of preparation, the two FR 450 Rally powered riders have entered the final stages of their preparations ahead of the 41st edition of the event, which will be contested exclusively in Peru during January 6-17, 2019.

Two-time FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion Pablo Quintanilla will head to Peru following a stellar season of international rally competition. Battling for victory in each rally he participated in during 2018, Pablo wrapped up the year as the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship runner-up. Entering what will be the seventh Dakar of his career in 2019, the Chilean rally star will launch his attack for the top step of the podium in Lima. Putting in considerable racing kilometres aboard his FR 450 Rally in 2018, Andrew Short has gained valuable knowledge during his first full year of rally competition and is fired up for success in what will be his second participation in the Dakar Rally. Looking to make use of the experience he’s acquired, the American will be eyeing a good overall result in Peru in January.

Kicking off on January 6 in Lima, the 2019 edition of the Dakar Rally features a giant rally route entirely within Peru. With 10 demanding rally stages and approximately 70% being sandy dunes, the event is widely expected to be tough on all competitors. Husqvarna Motorcycles are pleased to release the complete imagery and video of the 2019 Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Dakar Rally team, featuring official team riders Pablo Quintanilla and Andrew Short.

Pablo Quintanilla: “I really want to do well at the coming Dakar. I feel great and my motivation is really high for 2019. I want to be the best I can be and battle for the best possible result of my career. I had a good season in 2018 and now I am ready for the Dakar. Despite my injury midway through the season, I managed to keep battling for the championship until the very last stage in Morocco. The Dakar is the most important race of the season and we are all working hard throughout the year for this race. My personal goal is to be giving 100% of my effort on each day and in each stage. This is what will make me happy and will also allow me to battle for the overall victory. My priority is to take one day at a time, trying to stay focused on my goals and also trying to enjoy what I am doing. The 2019 Dakar will be shorter and more intense, but I want to do my job and race for the win.”

Andrew Short: “I’ve learned a lot during the 2018 season and now I’m ready to put this experience to good use at the Dakar. The season started for me in Morocco with the Merzouga Rally and since then we’ve also raced in Chile and Peru. I had some good race time and was able to study the strategy of the top guys. I saw how fast they can go in specific sections and kept improving my speed while navigating correctly. In Peru, I was able to battle with them all the way to the finish and I was happy to get my first podium in rally racing. It gives me extra confidence knowing that the 2019 Dakar will take place in Peru. I am looking forward to going back racing in the massive Peruvian dunes. My goal for the coming Dakar is not on a number or place, it’s just to continue to race with the top guys. I want to be even more competitive in January and be as close as possible to the front.”

Pela Renet – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Rally Team Manager: “We had a very strong season and our riders are in top form going into the coming Dakar. In 2018 Pablo was battling for victories in every race he took part in. We want him to maintain that same momentum heading to Peru. We know he has the experience and speed to battle for victory and we will do everything possible to make it happen for him. As for Andrew, he earned his first podium in Peru in September and he is feeling comfortable racing in sandy conditions. We want to see him continue making progress in 2019. The atmosphere within our team is great and our riders are happy with the performance of our rally bikes. With the coming Dakar featuring just 10 stages, we expect the pace to be high. It’ll be an intense race for everyone.”

 

Bike maintenance is strangely something very important, yet a lot of people would skip it in the past in favour of just getting out there. Needless to say, that’s a bit of a dodgy attitude, as the last thing you want is your bike having a problem on the track, or plastics and wheels falling off. But by regularly checking over your bike before you go to the track, you’ll be able to find what bolts are loose, and what needs to be done before things go sideways, ensuring that you will have an enjoyable, safe ride.

Chain and sprocket care

Keeping your chain lubricated helps with the life of the chain and reduces the risk of it snapping. You don’t want to be riding with a dry chain. Before you go riding, always lube the chain and sprockets with chain lube. This will prevent it binding up and rusting while not in use and will also prevent extra wear on your sprockets when it’s time to hit the dirt. After you have finished and washed your bike, however, we recommend getting some WD40 or similar CRC-type product and spray the chain with that. This will help disperse all the water from the wash, which can cause as much damage as anything else.

Don’t forget, you always want to keep an eye on how tight or loose your chain is. It always varies as a brand-new chain will loosen up a lot. The last thing you want is for your chain to snap or de-rail due to being either too tight or too loose. To check your chain tension, a rough guide is to put 2-3 fingers between the chain and the chain guide, if there is pressure against your fingers the chain is tight enough. If it’s not, then make some adjustments until it is. Your bike’s manual will have specific measurements.

Air filter

Most of you should know that when your air filter is dirty, it needs to be changed or cleaned. You don’t want all that dirt to get past the filter and into your motor, as it’ll cause some very costly problems. After all, an air filter will always be cheaper than a rebuilt kit. If you’re using a reusable air filter, make sure you go through the steps to clean your air filter properly, then make sure its dried and give it a re-oil before reinstalling it on your bike. If its mid-summer and super dusty, a little grease around the rim where the filter sits on the airbox can be a little extra protection too.

Spoke maintenance

Before each weekend’s worth of riding, check your wheels for loose spokes. An easy way to tell if you’ve got a loose spoke is to spin your wheel with your bike on a stand and use a spanner/screwdriver as if it is one of those tickers you see on the mid-week Lotto winning wheel. Your spokes should all make a high pitched “ting” noise, so if any make a dull thud instead, you know you’ve got a loose spoke that needs tightening.

Now, if you don’t have a spoke wrench, you need to get one. Spoke tightening can be done with another tool like an adjustable crescent, but it’s not that easy and we don’t recommend you try. A spoke wrench makes things a lot easier, especially the variety with a torque function built in. The best way in our experience is to do every third spoke as you work your way around the wheel, completing three full rotations to know you have done every spoke, so they have all been tightened evenly.

Pipe maintenance

For any stroke bike, it’s good to occasionally check the muffler packing. Over time, the packing in the exhaust gets compressed and can be ineffective, making the bike obnoxiously loud, reducing the amount of back pressure in the exhaust and losing you power. The easiest thing to do is to buy and change the packing in the exhaust once it gets to this stage. You also want to keep your pipe clean to stop it from rusting and developing nasty corrosion.

This is increasingly important on a 2-stroke where the extra un-burnt oil reduces the life of the packing faster than on a 4-stroke.

 

Cleaning and lubing cables

Your ability to control the throttle and clutch are obviously critical in riding your motorbike, so keeping these cleaned and lubricated is essential. It’s not a big job thankfully, just checking how they look after each ride and cleaning out the dirt that may get in your levers. Then apply a good amount of lube to keep them functioning properly. Using a proper cable lube device is the only way to get full coverage of the entire cable, so look into investing in one of those, too.

Coolant

Coolant is something a lot of you wouldn’t think about, but it’s what keeps the motor cool and stops it from blowing up. Greater use in hotter temperatures can see more coolant used, so by checking the cap on top of the radiator and seeing the level of coolant, then topping it up if need be, you will keep your bike running cool and avoid the risk of it overheating. You want a minimum 50/50 coolant to water ratio. Some coolants are made to be diluted and some are not. Check the container. And don’t take the cap off when the bike is hot – obvi!

 

Oil and filter

Your oil and filter need to be replaced regularly as per the manufacturer’s recommendations found in your service manual. The benefits of regular oil changes include things like engine wear prevention, all the way through to better engine cooling. The same way you’re keeping your air filter clean and tidy, you want the same for your oil filter, as this is the last line of defence to stopping shit getting into the motor and causing carnage.

 

Bearings

For your bike’s many bearings (think steering head and wheel in particular) you want to be check they are not dry or rumbly, or have excessive play, and in fact are moving freely with no oil leaking. If they don’t seem right, don’t chance it – replace, replace, replace!

Tyres

Your tyres are what keep you grounded, so you want to make sure they’re in tip-top condition. Some tyres are multi-directional, so you can spin them around when they get worn. Check for any damage or wear, and pump them up to the correct pressure. A spot between 10-13psi should keep you right. Lower pressures for soft terrain and sandy conditions, as well as small, light riders. Higher pressures for harder terrain, roots, rocks and heavier, bigger riders. Remember to always pack a spare tube or repair kit when you head out for the weekend, as no matter how well you look after your hoops, a flat is always a possibility.

Front and rear suspension

Checking for blown seals, seepage and leaks is important, as your suspension plays a massive part in how controllable your bike is. With air forks, make sure they can hold pressure, and set them to the recommended psi settings. While on oil/spring forks and shocks, make sure they are not leaking any fluid and have a smooth action with minimal adhesion. A little bit of CRC lube on the fork sliders and shock shaft can help with that.

Bolt Check

After doing any maintenance and before any ride, make sure you do a complete check that every bike bolt, nut, fasteners, and cable tie is secure so it doesn’t fall off during a ride. Ever pulled a wheelie and had your front hoop come off your bike? Neither…but it could technically happen. Sure, this is a worst-case scenario, but this would end the day’s riding and cause serious bike damage or worse; either you or a mate getting injured.

 

The check list

Chain and sprockets clean/lubed
Air filter clean and installed correctly
Wheel spokes all tight front and rear
Exhaust pipe packing in good nick
Control cables clean and lubed
Coolant at the correct level / mixture
Oil and Filter changed
Bearings okay?
Suspension moves smoothly?
Nuts ‘n’ Bolts – all tight?
Hit the dirt!

 

There’s no denying the supercross talent of riders such as Ben Townley, Josiah Natzke, Carlin Hedley and Korban Paget. These were the riders who produced unbeaten performances at a damp round one of the New Zealand Supercross Championships at Tokoroa a fortnight ago and the question now is can they repeat those performances at the second and final round near Invercargill this Saturday (December 15)?

 

Four of the five championship classes were dominated by just one rider at the Tokoroa circuit, although there is plenty that might still happen during the final races at Winton this Saturday. Oropi’s Townley (SX1, open class), Mount Maunganui’s Natzke (SX2, 250cc), Ohaupo’s Hedley (SX Lites, 125cc) and Rangiora’s Paget (Junior 250) each recorded a hat-trick of wins in their respective classes at Tokoroa, while, in the remaining championship class, the Junior Lites, Hamilton bothers Nicholas and Dylan Westgate ended up sharing the top spot. Nicholas Westgate finished with a 1-1-7 score-card at Tokoroa, while his sibling rival Dylan Westgate scored 2-3-2 results, Nicholas eventually getting the nod as overall winner thanks to the count-back rule. Each of these riders know there’s plenty still to be done before the championships wrap up at Winton on Saturday, except for Hedley, who learned this week that he has already been crowned champion of the SX Lites class. With insufficient entries for this class at Winton, the class has been dropped from the programme for this weekend and the result has been declared.

 

Meanwhile, Townley has indicated that he may not be racing at Winton this weekend, perhaps leaving the way clear for the runner-up rider in the SX1 class, Taupo’s Cohen Chase, to take advantage. However, Nelson’s Reece Walker is also well-positioned, just two points behind Chase. Motueka’s Josh Coppins is tipped to make his first appearance in the series on Saturday and that may upset a few points calculations too. Former factory Grand Prix motocross star Coppins won the SX2 class in the supercross nationals last season, jumping in at the last minute to replace an injured Maximus Purvis, but this year Coppins will be racing in the SX1 class.

 

Saturday’s event at Winton at the VetSouth Super-X Track in Ryan Road, is billed as “the world’s southern-most supercross”. It is always an extremely popular venue and sure to draw a large crowd. The Tokoroa event was supported by Craig Stevens Yamaha and the Winton event, hosted by the Southland Motorcycle Club, will be supported by Brent Scammell Honda.

 

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan

 

Already considered the biggest and most prestigious motocross event on the Kiwi race calendar, the Woodville GP will once again be recognised as an FIM Oceania event, hosting the 2019 FIM Oceania Event at next year’s 58th annual running on January 26 and 27. The spectacular two-day Honda-sponsored New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville, in just six weeks’ time, welcomes the enhancement as a true international competition, with the FIM Oceania status attracting huge interest from overseas.

The FIM Event includes racing 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.

New Zealand eventually won the FIM Oceania Event last season by 886 points to 829, with Auckland rider Hamish Harwood the main Kiwi aggressor. A fresh and potent Australian contingent is expected to make the trip across the Tasman Sea for this clash, the international class of the visitors sure to test the Kiwi hosts.

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 Event. 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 photo by Andy McGechan

 

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