It’s time once again to dust off the dirt bike, strap on your helmet, grab a few mates and head into the bush.

The 2019 Dirt Guide Cross-Country Series kicks off next weekend (June 1), again promising to be anything the riders want it to be … a serious competition for New Zealand’s elite dirt bike racers, a challenging afternoon’s ride in the bush or just a leisurely cruise along leafy forest pathways. It will appeal to all-comers and nobody should be fooled by the varied skill-level aspect of the series, because it is precisely events such as this that have created, inspired and nurtured Kiwi cross-country racing talent over the years before setting some of our brightest young talent on pathways to top-level international competition.

Several Dirt Guide race winners from the past, riders such as Coatesville’s Sam Greenslade, Titirangi’s Callan May, Manawatu’s Paul Whibley and Howick’s Liam Draper, to name a few individuals, have all raced internationally and they can each trace their beginnings to dirt bike competitions such as this one. Ararimu’s Richard Sutton was outright winner of the Dirt Guide Cross-country Series last season – sensationally beating the many 450cc campaigners with his 125cc bike – and he will perhaps rank among the favourites again this time around, although he recently injured himself and will be at less than 100 percent at round one.

This three-round series for 2019 kicks off at Ohakuri – about halfway between Tokoroa and Taupo – on Saturday, June 1, and it is sure to attract riders from both ends of the aptitude and competitiveness spectrum. Round two is set for the same course just three weeks later, on June 22, and the third and final round of the series on August 24, also at the popular Ohakuri venue. That final round doubles up as round two of five in the parallel-but-separate NZ GNCC cross-country series, that competition piggy-backing onto select major events throughout the North Island and set to kick off in the Woodhill Forest on July 28.

The popularity of The Dirt Guide Series has grown steadily since its inception in 2008 and, with separate trails and several different grades incorporated into the day’s racing, catering for all levels of confidence and ability. Each of these events is also an ideal opportunity for the lesser or novice riders to learn from masters such as 2017 Dirt Guide Series winner Whibley, a two-time former champion in the United States.

“We want all dirt bike owners to come and have a go at bush riding,” said Dirt Guide Series promoter Sean Clarke, of Tokoroa. “With riders getting older every year, we are really keen to provide an experience to entice the younger riders to come along and ride. There are classes for riders as young as seven. Only a few people ever win races like this, so it’s not really about the winning, but about participation.”

The talent runs deep at the sharp end of the competition, with riders such as Stratford’s Josh Hunger (Husqvarna), Whitianga’s Blake Wilkins (Husqvarna), Wellington’s Jake Whitaker (KTM), Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman (KTM), Te Awamutu’s Kevin Archer (KTM), Raglan’s Jason Dickey (KTM), Whanganui’s Seth Reardon (Yamaha) and Cambridge’s Ashton Grey (Yamaha), to name just a few, among those worth watching and learning from over the course of the two-hour senior race.

The central North Island location of the Dirt Guide event virtually guarantees a good-sized entry list. In addition to the expert grade riders, the series caters also for junior riders and for intermediates, veterans and women as well.

The forest venue is signposted from Atiamuri on SH1, midway between Tokoroa and Taupo, with the 90-minute junior race set to kick off at 9.30am, while the two-hour senior race will start just after midday.

The Dirt Guide Series is sponsored by Michelin, Bel Ray, Renthal, O’Neal, DRC, Zeta, Kiwi Rider magazine, Oakley, TCX boots, Yoshimura and Forest Trail Events.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Stratford’s Josh Hunger (Husqvarna TE300), sure to be among the leading riders at Ohakuri, near Tokoroa, next weekend.

The opening round of the 2019 AMA Pro Motocross Championship, held in Rancho Cordova, California, saw Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen secure his first overall 450MX victory since incurring serious injuries in the 2017 AMA Supercross season. Roczen’s long-awaited return to the top step of the podium gives him the red plate heading into round two.

Roczen got off the line to a decent start in the first moto, emerging from the first turn in sixth. The German made swift and aggressive passes, taking over the lead on the first lap and building a gap. Throughout the 30-minute-plus-two-lap race, Roczen rode flawlessly, stretching his advantage to 15 seconds by the checkered flag. Meanwhile, teammate Cole Seely got off to an 11th-place start and worked his way into ninth on the second lap, which is where he spent the remainder of the race.

When the gate dropped on moto two, Roczen emerged from the muddy first turn in fifth place aboard his CRF450R. As in the first race, Roczen made speedy and precise passes, moving into second on the first lap and setting his sights on the leading Eli Tomac. He closed the gap and made an incredible pass over the Fly 150 jump to take over the front position. Roczen quickly began to pull away but small mistakes on the deteriorating track allowed Tomac to close back in and retake the lead. The two frontrunners continued to play cat and mouse, but Roczen was never able to mount another charge and settled into second, which is where he finished. Seely had a challenging race due to the wet and muddy conditions. After getting a less-than-desirable start, the Californian was forced into the mechanics’ area for new goggles after the first lap, sending him back to 19th. He regained a few positions before multiple crashes once again thwarted him, and he ultimately crossed the finish line in 18thplace.

Ken Roczen 94

“I’m absolutely stoked. All day, we were on it; qualifying was great, got the first moto win and then the overall. I honestly didn’t think it would go that well because I felt like I had more in the tank and it’s hard to gauge where you’ll be at the first round. What we did today was very important to me, the team and our journey. I didn’t get the best start in the first moto but was able to make some moves early to get out front and have a clear track. We were all hoping we could get one moto in without the rain, so that was great. The second moto was tough and those types of conditions can backfire on you so quickly. Eli [Tomac] and I had a good battle in the beginning. We kind of yo-yoed back and forth. I had some sloppy parts out there though, so I just took it extra easy toward the end and didn’t want to push the envelope to risk a mistake and miss the overall. This is such a great way to start the season, and I can’t wait to keep the momentum going.”

Cole Seely 14

“The opening round had its ups and downs for sure. I think I qualified pretty good for not having raced an outdoor in almost two years. I was a little nervous going into the day and anticipating the rain. I was happy we were able to get at least one moto in before the storm actually rolled in. I was also happy with how I rode. I felt like I managed the race well and had more energy at the end of the moto than I normally do. The second moto was tough; I fell way too many times and just didn’t have very good luck. If there was a way to build some more skill for muddy races then I would but the only time we really get to practice that is in race situations. Moving forward I think I know what I need to work on and that will help set some additional goals to push through the season.”

Erik Kehoe

Team Manager

“Today was great—I’m so happy for Ken and the team! Everyone works so hard, especially Ken himself, so to see him come away with this long-awaited win is incredible. He looked solid all day, laying down the fastest qualifying time in practice and dominating the first moto. He was even strong in the terrible conditions of the second race. We still have some improvement to do on the bike to make him even more comfortable, but I think we’re in a good place to continue to build. It was a disappointing day for Cole; he rode solid in the first moto but the conditions in the second race didn’t play in his favor at all. He’ll regroup and head to Fox Raceway strong.”

Oscar Wirdeman

Mechanic (Ken Roczen)

“This win has been a long time coming and it feels really good. I’ve been with Ken for a while now and have seen his highs of 2016 to the lows of all his injures, so to see him back on the top step is unbelievable. I felt like we were watching 2016. He was riding with confidence and aggression, which was awesome. It’s a long season but we’re going to enjoy this win and hopefully collect more this year.”

Jordan Troxell

Mechanic (Cole Seely)

“Today was pretty rough. The first moto wasn’t too bad but the second was a struggle for Cole. He didn’t get a great start and lost a lot of time coming into the mechanics’ area after the first lap to get new goggles. It was basically downhill from there because any time he would gain some positions, he’d make a mistake and lose it. He went down a few times too, so it was more about survival at that point.”

450MX Rider Standings

Pos. Rider Num Nation Points Team Constructor
1 ROCZEN Ken 94 GER 47 Team Honda HRC Honda
2 TOMAC Eli 3 USA 43 Monster Energy Kawasaki Kawasaki
3 ANDERSON Jason 21 USA 38 Rockstar Husqvarna Husqvarna
4 OSBORNE Zach USA 36 Rockstar Husqvarna Husqvarna
5 WEBB Cooper 2 USA 35 Red Bull KTM KTM
6 MUSQUIN Marvin 25 FRA 32 Red Bull KTM KTM
7 BARCIA Justin 51 USA 27 Monster Energy/ Knick/ Factory Yamaha Team Yamaha
8 BAGGETT Blake 4 USA 26 Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM WPS KTM
9 FERRIS Dean 111 AUS 23 CDR Yamaha Yamaha
10 BOGLE Justin 19 USA 23 Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM WPS KTM
11 MASTERPOOL Jake 146 USA 18 None Yamaha
12 WATERS Todd 477 AUS 17 Todd Waters Racing Husqvarna
13 LAMAY Ben 907 USA 16 TPJ.com/Fly Racing Honda
14 SEELY Cole 14 USA 15 Team Honda HRC Honda
15 NOREN Fredrik 40 SWE 8 TiLUBE Storm Lake Honda Honda
16 TOMITA Toshiki 718 JPN 7 Team Honda HRC Honda
17 KOGA Taiki 929 JPN 6 TPJ.com/Fly Racing Kawasaki
18 MERRIAM Dylan 559 USA 6 None Yamaha
19 COOPER Cody 121 NZL 6 Crownkiwi Enterprise Honda
20 BOWERS Tyler 69 USA 5 Bowers Racing Kawasaki
21 HILL Justin 46 USA 5 Autotrader/ JGR/ Yoshimura/ Suzuki Factory Racing Suzuki
22 DEMARTILEDare 207 USA 2 None Honda
23 JORGENSEN Mathias 221 DEN 1 None Honda

Words and Photos: Honda Racing Corporation

At the sixth round of the 2019 MXGP world championships, Team HRC’s Tim Gajser won the MXGP of Portugal with two impressive moto victories. After his triumph in Trentino, this is now Gajser’s second overall and a great way to rebound after last weekend’s race in Lombardia. Unfortunately team mate Brian Bogers wasn’t able to match his Mantova effort, struggling to challenge the top 10 after having an outside gate pick which really hindered his chances of doing well.

Gajser, put in two really impressive rides to show once again that when the conditions are good, he and his Honda CRF450RW are a tough combination to beat. After getting second gate pick for today’s races, the Slovenian rider got off to two decent starts which allowed him to start in the top five and pressure those riders in front of him. Rather than chase the victory, he showed good maturity to let the race come to him and when the opportunity arose in both races, he made the necessary passes before reeling off the fastest laps in each moto.

It was a great way to put the disappointment of Mantova behind him and showed that he is still very much in this championship hunt that has 12 more rounds left to race. Having also won four of the last six motos, his confidence is high and he is knows that on this hard-packed tracks, very few can match his speed.

Next weekend in France is another track that should suit him, with the St Jean D’Angely circuit being a stoney surface, on a naturally hilly landscape, very similar to the Pietramurata track which he won at earlier in the year.

The French GP will also give Bogers a chance to bounce back quickly after what was a disappointing pair of results in Portugal. Having an outside gate pick after Saturday’s qualification race, things were always going to be difficult and while his laptimes weren’t too far outside of those in the top 10, he wasn’t able to make the necessary passes to really challenge for those positions.

After France, the series takes a weekend off before three races in three weekends, taking place in Russia, Latvia and then Germany as the championship heads into its middle third of the season.

Tim Gajser  243

It was really great to come away with two wins and the overall here in Portugal. I put last weekend behind me and I knew that if I focused and rode like I know how to ride, I could do well at this Agueda track. Still, to get both moto victories is a great confidence booster and backs up my win in Trentino very nicely. I now have the fastest laps in the last four motos so my speed is good and I know I am feeling strong too. These back to back races are tough but I head to France really happy with my riding and confident that the bike and I are working well together. A big thanks to the team for working so hard to help make this happen, and let’s keep up the effort!

Brian Bogers  189

The riding wasn’t so bad, with my laptimes not too far away from those inside the top 10. However my starts were a problem and that was a result of my qualification race yesterday. I didn’t have a good race then and that I meant I started from the outside today and that was really difficult at a track like this. I’m now really motivated for next weekend when I will try and do a lot better on both days and that should help me get back inside the top 10.

Marcus Pereira de Freitas

HRC General Manager – MXGP

It was a great to see Tim riding so well again this weekend. He was fast in every session and he showed really good race-craft to take the victories in both races. The track wasn’t an easy one and everyone seemed to be fast so passing wasn’t straight forward, but Tim rode confidently and made the passes when he needed to. He thoroughly deserves this win and it gives everyone a lot of confidence for next weekend and for the rest of the season.
Unfortunately for Brian, he wasn’t able to get a good start in either race and as I mentioned, passing was tough here. We know that he is capable of doing a lot better, as we saw in Mantova, so we are going to try and make sure he gets back to that level next weekend in France.
Everyone in the team also wishes to give their best to Calvin who missed this weekend after having to have an operation to remove an infection in right leg. It was a shame he wasn’t able to ride because we really felt we had made progress during the week and this track looked like it would have suited him well.

Rider Standings

Pos. Rider Num Nation Points Team
1 CAIROLI Antonio 222 ITA 285 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
2 GAJSER Tim 243 SLO 251 Team HRC – MXGP
3 PAULIN Gautier 21 FRA 197 Wilvo Yamaha MXGP
4 DESALLE Clement 25 BEL 175 Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing
5 JASIKONIS Arminas 27 LTU 166 Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing
6 SEEWER Jeremy 91 SWI 153 Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP Team
7 JONASS Pauls 41 LAT 137 Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing
8 VAN HOREBEEK Jeremy 89 BEL 136 Honda SR Motoblouz
9 TONUS Arnaud 4 SWI 122 Wilvo Yamaha MXGP
10 COLDENHOFF Glenn 259 NDL 120 Standing Construct KTM
11 SIMPSON Shaun 24 GBR 116 RFX KTM Racing
12 LIEBER Julien 33 BEL 114 Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing
13 LUPINO Alessandro 77 ITA 85 Gebben V Venrooy Kawasaki
14 ANSTIE Max 99 GBR 80 Standing Construct KTM
15 MONTICELLI Ivo 128 ITA 78 iFly JK Racing
16 SEARLE Tommy 100 GBR 71 Bike It DRT Kawasaki
17 BOGERS Brian 189 NDL 56 Team HRC – MXGP
18 LEOK Tanel 7 EST 51 A1M Husqvarna
19 FEBVRE Romain 461 FRA 47 Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP Team
20 PATUREL Benoit 6 FRA 40 Gebben V Venrooy Kawasaki
21 TIXIER Jordi 911 FRA 36 Team VHR KTM Racing
22 BRYLYAKOV Vsevolod 18 RUS 31 JWR Yamaha Racing
23 BUTRON Jose 17 SPA 18 JD Gunnex KTM Racing Team
24 STRIJBOS Kevin 22 BEL 15 JWR Yamaha Racing
25 BERNARDINI Samuele 321 ITA 14 Ghidinelli Racing Team
26 PETROV Petar 152 BUL 14 Team Honda Red Moto
27 GOLE Anton 297 SWE 13 iFly JK Racing
28 KULLAS Harri 151 FIN 10 Wildcard Rider
29 VAN DER MIERDEN Sven 94 NDL 8 Wildcard Rider
30 FERRIS Dean 111 AUS 6 Wilvo Nestaan Husqvarna Factory Racing

Words and Photos: Honda Racing Corporation

New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan is back where she belongs, on top of the world.

 

The 23-year-old from Otago rider from Palmerston, near Dunedin, was in scintillating form at the weekend’s second of five rounds for the 2019 Women’s World Motocross Championships in Portugal, taking her Kawasaki KX250F to convincingly win both her races and snatch the championship points lead.

Riding for the British-based Bike It DRT Kawasaki racing team, Duncan has been the dominant rider of the series thus far. She won the opening race of the World Championships in The Netherlands last month, but then crashed heavily while leading race two and fought back to finish the race in seventh. Unfortunately,  she was forced to settle for fourth overall that weekend.

But now, with back-to-back wins in Portugal, it means she has won three of the four races run this season and enjoys a four-point lead over Dutch rider Nancy van de Ven as they prepare for round three in the Czech Republic on July 27-28.

In her first race on Saturday, Duncan exited turn one in second position, but needed just half a lap to sweep into the lead. She immediately opened up a two-second lead by the end of the opening lap. The flying Kiwi increased her lead to a comfortable 10 seconds by mid-race and she eventually swept to victory by more than 12 seconds over German rider Larissa Papenmeier. In race two on Sunday, Duncan took the lead on lap two and quickly opened up a gap on her pursuers. In the end, Duncan finished more than 30 seconds ahead of runner-up rider van de Ven.

“I got blocked in at the first turn in that second race, but I didn’t panic, sorted out a good place to make a clean pass and could race away. I’m just taking it race by race at the moment and not really thinking about the championship. It was a great weekend – from qualifying on pole, then two race wins and taking the red (championship leader’s) plate… I really can’t ask for much more,” Duncan said. “Now it’s a big break again (before the next round in the series in the Czech Republic), but I’ll use this opportunity to continue to build. I’m very excited to get back to work and get better. Thanks to the whole DRT Kawasaki team for all the effort and everyone for the support and also to Kawasaki Motors Europe, Kawasaki New Zealand and Monster Energy for showing their faith and giving me this opportunity. The amount of messages I’ve received from back home has been crazy really. I appreciate it. I’ll be going back to New Zealand to keep doing the work and come out swinging at Loket (in the Czech Republic).”

This season is Duncan’s first on the Kawasaki bike and she is well on target now to emulate the Women’s World Cup successes achieved by fellow Kiwi Katherine Prumm when she took her Kawasaki KX250F to finish top in the world in 2006 and again in 2007. Duncan has come close to winning the Women’s Motocross World Championships in three previous seasons, but has frustratingly fallen short each time. Twice she was denied the world title through injury and then lost the title by just two points on the other occasion. More determined than ever to finally achieve her goal, Duncan made the decision to join the highly-experienced British Kawasaki squad run by Steve Dixon.

“They’ve given me an awesome opportunity and I’m very motivated to put them on top in 2019. A fresh start was what I needed and I couldn’t be more excited than to do that with Kawasaki. Kawasaki New Zealand have also come on board to support me at home, for which I am also very thankful.”

WMX Championship Top Five:

  1. Courtney Duncan (NZ, Kawasaki) 89 points; 2. Nancy van de Ven (Netherlands) 85; 3. Larissa Papenmeier (Germany) 82; 4. Amandine Verstappen (Belgium) 67; 5. Lynn Valk (Netherlands) 63.

Words by Andy McGechan, Photo by Pascal Haudiquert

A new chapter in the Dakar Rally story has opened with the official presentation of the 2020 edition due to take place in Saudi Arabia. After Africa and South America, the Middle East now takes up the baton of the rally-raid race par excellence. New details were unveiled yesterday in Paris.

With an audience crowded with future participants and various team leaders, the Dakar 2020 Race Director, David Castera outlined more details of the race which was first presented in Saudi Arabia a month ago. In a meeting which took place at the Institute of the Arab World in the French capital, Castera confirmed the race’s course will cover some 9000 kilometres to be tackled over a fortnight with 12 stages, as well as other as yet unknown details about the Middle East’s maiden Dakar.

After sending the participating vehicles by maritime transport from South of France to Saudi Arabia, the teams will recover them in the port of Jeddah on New Year’s Day 2019. The build-up to the race will take place in the country’s second largest city, as events get underway with the ceremonial starting ramp on January 4. The start of the first stage is scheduled for January 5. The rest day will be held on January 11 in the country’s capital, Riyadh, and the event will conclude in Al Qiddiya on January 17 where the final podium and celebrations will take place.

Furthermore, other data, as yet unknown, was revealed by Castera to those present at the conference, including a prohibition of any training in Saudi Arabia, the distribution of roadbook prior to the stage, the creation of a Super Marathon stage for motorcycles (there will be two marathon days) plus a varied route design, which will cover different types of terrain in the Arab country.

Monster Energy Honda Team has confirmed its inscription for this new edition of the most veteran Cross-Country Rally in the world, and it will do so with a mixed team which will line-up experience alongside ambition. The riders of the Monster Energy Honda Team will also participate, this July, in the Silk Way Rally, the second round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship to be held in Russia, Mongolia and China.

Words and Photos by Honda Racing Corporation