Husqvarna builds their bikes tough and expects that they’ll last the distance with even the toughest of treatment and over the most daunting of terrain.

And it’s highly likely that one of their riders will prevail too when the 2019 Husqvarna Hard X race plays out in forestry near Atiamuri in just over a week’s time.

This annual four-hour cross-country race, set for December 14, is a unique challenge that will feature some of the same terrain used for the separate Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro events, “but on a more compact 25-kilometre course”.

The event had originally been scheduled to run in March, but the fire risk art that time was too great and so it was postponed until now.

Event organiser Sean Clarke describes the challenge as “mostly Bronze level trails, but with a few Gold and Silver deviations”, meaning there will be something for everyone but also that it will provide a stern test for the elite riders entered.

And this perhaps plays right into the hands of 25-year-old Cambridge diesel mechanic Dylan Yearbury, one of the favourites to win the race after his recent impressive outings at similar events across the country.

Yearbury (Husqvarna FC250) was a stand-out competitor at the Nut Buster Hard Enduro, part of the two-day final round of the New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series near Christchurch last month, and he also won the three-day Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro near Tokoroa last year, so he certainly holds no fears for the four-hour cross-country “sprint” at Atiamuri on December 14.

“I have never raced this event before, but I’m looking forward to it,” said Yearbury.

“This should be nice and technical and that suits me. I have been focussed a lot lately on my riding and I’m getting good results. I am using this event as part of my build-up towards me returning to racing in the United States next year. I head back to my base in South Carolina on January 27.

“I had my first taste of racing the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) in the US this year and my best result was finishing fifth in a GNCC race in the XC2 (250cc) class. I also finished second at a national enduro event there.

“I have only limited support in the US, but hope that I can attract some attention and gain a little factory support in the future.”

Riders entering the Atiamuri event must nominate themselves as either Gold, Silver or Bronze grades competitors – depending upon their age, ability and fitness levels – and that’s the course they will be assigned to tackle, with the grades each scored separately.

Clarke said the event, which will run from 11 am until about 3 pm, would have mass appeal.

“This Hard X event is to show riders what a three-day hard enduro is like but in a compact way,” he explained. “It will be a lot easier to enter and ride. Riders don’t need a GPS device on their bikes, they don’t need headlights or taillights and they don’t need to be concerned with the thought of six hours of gruelling riding, like what they might encounter at a hard enduro … this is really just a long cross-country race.

“Everyone is probably thinking it’s going to be a psycho-hard event, but it’s not,” said Clarke.

Another of the elite Gold level riders will be Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker, a record eight-time national trials champion, and it will be his fine balance attributes and his skill with precise throttle control that he acquired from that parallel motorcycling code that may give him a slight edge.

Taupo’s Hadleigh Knight is another worth watching out for. He won the three-round Dirt Guide cross-country series which wrapped up near Tokoroa two weeks ago.

The outright winner of the Hard X event last year was Helensville’s Tom Buxton and this is one rider in particular who rivals such as Yearbury, Whitaker and Knight will most be keeping a close eye on this time around too.

The Husqvarna Hard X race is being held in a private forest on Ongaroto Road, about 30 minutes’ drive south of Tokoroa and 30 minutes’ drive north of Taupo, and the venue will be signposted on SH1 near Atiamuri. There is no charge for spectators.

Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury (Husqvarna FC250), exhibiting hot form at the moment and one of the favourites to win at Atiamuri.

Yearbury is supported by Husqvarna NZ, Fox NZ, Mitas tyres, NV Motorcycles in Morrinsville, Northern Accessories and XRC (Xtreme Race Components).

The Husqvarna Hard X race is sponsored by Husqvarna New Zealand, Forest and Trail Events, Michelin Tyres, Kiwi Rider magazine and Satco NZ Ltd.

Credit: Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

In a historic first for Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ), two Kiwi world champion riders Courtney Duncan and Hamish MacDonald were officially presented with their 2019 FIM World Championship medals at a glittering ceremony in Monaco, on Sunday night. (Monday NZ time).

Since MNZ became affiliated with the FIM in 1986, New Zealand has never had two riders win world championship events in a single season.

MacDonald and Duncan experienced a red carpet entrance into the beautiful Sporting Monte-Carlo venue, which boasts views out across one of the most famous bays in Europe and mingled with other 2019 FIM World Champions, including Alex Marquez – Moto2, Tim Gajser – MXGP, Bartosz Zmarzlik – Speedway GP, Emma Bristow – Women’s TrialGP, Bradley Freeman – EnduroGP and Sam Sunderland – Cross Country Rallies.

They then joined nearly 600 guests at the most illustrious occasion on the international motorcycling calendar, before being awarded for their incredible achievements. Dunedin-based 23-year-old Duncan (Kawasaki) dominantly won the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship in 2019, after three years of near misses, since bursting onto the scene as a race-winning rookie in 2016. While 20-year-old MacDonald (Sherco), of Christchurch, claimed the FIM 125cc Youth Enduro World Championship – New Zealand’s first title in the discipline, thanks to an impressive second season at this level.

MNZ General Manager Virginia Henderson says: “It was an extremely proud day for the New Zealand motorcycling community to see Courtney and Hamish receive their medals. The FIM Awards provide a fitting moment to recognise and reward the exploits and achievements of all the two-wheel heroes and heroines and officially crown them as the 2019 FIM World Champions.”

FIM President Jorge Viegas said before the event that: “It will be with immense pride that we welcome our many FIM Champions both individual and team – some new and some returning – who through their incredible skill and bravery continue to increase audiences both at the events and via the amazing TV coverage the various disciplines enjoy.”

“It is always moving to see our champions standing shoulder-to-shoulder on stage with the individuals and organisations that protect and promote motorcycling activity around the world, and who nurture the sporting heroes of the future!” Viegas added.

Duncan says it was “definitely a proud moment receiving my world championship medal among all the other winners.” 

Her victorious season started with a win in the opening moto of the season at Valkenswaard, The Netherlands. Although she slipped to fourth in the second moto and allowed Dutch rider Nancy van der Ven (Yamaha) to claim the top spot, that would prove to be the only moment she would let her guard down all season.

Consecutive doubles in Portugal, the Czech Republic and Italy, set up a title shot at the final round in Turkey, where she wasted no time in wrapping things up with a dominant 12-second victory in the first moto. Duncan signed-off her 2019 assault with a second race win, making it nine from ten for the season, as she followed in the footsteps of fellow Kiwi Katherine Oberlin-Brown (nee Prumm), who won the Women’s World Cup in 2006 and 2007 before the class was elevated to FIM World Motocross Championship status.

MacDonald showed the world how it was done this year too, by scoring a podium in every single race that he finished in the seven-round season. The first Kiwi rider to compete at world level in over fifteen years, he also showed no shortage of grit and determination to come back after breaking his shoulder at the third round in Spain, where he missed out on the points completely after back-to-back double victories in Germany and Portugal.

His only other no-score after that was on the second day in Italy and despite having conceded the championship lead to Italy’s Claudio Spanu (Husqvarna), MacDonald gradually fought back to make sure of the title with a pair of third places at the final round in Ambert, France. 

He and Duncan were treated to all the super-star treatment in Monaco – complete with a helicopter transfer into Monte Carlo and Duncan was dressed for the awards night by Kiwi fashion label Company of Strangers, from her hometown of Dunedin.

“It was a huge honour to be representing New Zealand at these awards and to have Hamish alongside – another Kiwi – is pretty special for our country. I will enjoy this moment before I get back to work towards next season,” Duncan says.

MacDonald was blown away by the hillside district of Monte Carlo, describing it as “amazing and so beautiful.”

“It was great to represent New Zealand on a world stage – not just myself too which is pretty crazy because New Zealand has never had two world champion riders in one year!” Hamish says.

Like Duncan, he will start increasing his hours on the bike and cross-training, as he prepares for the upcoming season, where he moves up to the junior enduro category.

“It will be tough, but I like a challenge and I’m excited to see what it brings, and hopefully I can come back to Monaco next year! Summer will be hard training for me. I don’t know if I’ll race any events in New Zealand yet. I’ll also be doing lots of riding, running and cycling preparing for my return back to Europe in January 2020.” MacDonald says.

Duncan also heads back to Europe around the same time, as her first round is in Britain at the end of February, where she will begin her title defence. 

“I’ll start to build for the season when I’m returning to New Zealand at the end of the week. It’ll be another big year, which I’m looking forward to.” Duncan says.

Words: MNZ, Lower Image: Noel May, Top Image: Dario Agrati


The 2019 New Zealand Supercross Championships wrapped up in Tokoroa on Saturday evening with stylish and stunning displays of riding from all combatants.

Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ) motocross commissioner Ray Broad and MNZ supercross co-ordinator Jim Cooper both said they were impressed with the calibre of the riding that was on show at round one of the series at Winton two weeks ago and at the final round at Tokoroa on Saturday.

Oropi’s former national Supercross champion Ben Townley dominated the 450cc SX1 class at both rounds of the Transdiesel eni Lubricants-sponsored series, although Rangiora’s Cody Murphy was equally outstanding and went close to pinching wins from him on several occasions at Tokoroa.

Tauranga’s Roydon White raced the Tokoroa event only, but his performance on Saturday was enough to earn him the No.3 ranking.

In the senior SX2 (250cc) class, there was also one man in charge of proceedings this year, Mount Maunganui’s defending national SX2 champion Josiah Natzke.

Balclutha’s Madison Latta was also impressive in finishing the championships in the runner-up position, while Ohaupo’s Carlin Hedley and Richmond’s Liam Hutton produced fireworks in the fight for the last podium spot, Hedley eventually edging out Hutton by 12 points.

Hedley had won the Senior Lites (125cc) title last season but stepped up to 250cc machinery for 2019.

In other class results, Christchurch’s Marshall Phillips won the Senior Lites title this year; Rangiora’s Korban Paget topped the Junior 250cc class for a second consecutive season; Darfield’s Tyler Wiremu won the Junior 125cc class and Invercargill’s Jack Symon won the Junior Lites (85cc) class.

Hedley was additionally awarded the Des Caulfield Cup for “most improved rider” of the series.

Des Caulfield was one of the men who provided land when supercross first began in New Zealand in the 1980s.

“The award was recognition for the best-performed newcomer, who demonstrated he had potential to go forward in the sport,” said Broad.

“Carlin (Hedley) is starting to develop as a promising supercross rider and he is an extremely enthusiastic individual.”

Cooper added a comment that the “racing throughout this series was incredible”.

“The number of entries wasn’t huge, but the entertainment value was fantastic. We are looking ahead now to next season and building on this and keeping the fans coming along.”

Transdiesel eni Lubricants sponsored the series, while the Winton event was additionally sponsored by Brent Scammell Honda and the final round at Tokoroa is supported by Craig Stevens Yamaha

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan,


As was predicted, this year’s edition of the New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series went right down to the wire in Canterbury at the weekend.

The fourth and final round of the Yamaha-sponsored competition was wrapped up after two days of brutal riding at two vastly different venues around Christchurch on Friday and Saturday, with the series outcome unsure until the final few moments of race action.

The weekend’s two-dayer began with an enduro-cross at the Christchurch A&P Showgrounds on Friday, followed by the Nut Buster hard enduro at nearby Oxford the following day.

Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker eventually claimed the glamour Gold Class trophy on Saturday afternoon, although even he wasn’t sure he’d done enough until moments after the final session and he needed all his magical skills from years of winning national trial championships to get him through the demands of the weekend.

He had been locked in a fierce battle throughout this year’s extreme series with Helensville’s Tom Buxton and, when they locked horns again on Friday and Saturday, the battle intensified still further.

Christchurch rider Hamish Macdonald, just returned from international duties and making his first appearance in this domestic series, won the enduro-cross on Friday, but most eyes were on the see-saw battle for championship honours between Whitaker and Buxton.

Whitaker finished ahead of Buxton in the enduro-cross and this gave him confidence ahead of the next day’s extreme enduro.

But the racing the next day was perhaps even more intense, with virtually nothing to separate the two men on the hilly course.

Although Buxton did eventually finish ahead of Whitaker on Saturday, that wasn’t quite enough and so Whitaker narrowly took the national Extreme Enduro Championship title ahead of Buxton.

New Plymouth’s Tony Parker, Rotorua’s Bradley Lauder and then Napier’s Mackenzie Wiig rounded out the top five overall for the 2019 championship standings in the premier Gold Class.

Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson said the final round had lived up to all expectations.

“It was certainly challenging,” he said. “The winds were extreme and riders were being blown off their bikes at some places along the ridge lines. Then there was a huge downpour in the afternoon, making it muddy and very slippery too.”

Riders nominated themselves as either Gold, Silver or Bronze class competitors, depending upon their skill and fitness levels, and the battle for silver and bronze glory was equally fierce.

In the Silver Class, Hastings rider Brett Gunson won the series ahead of  New Plymouth duo Daniel Herbert and Mark Horwell.

The top three in the Bronze Class this year were Whitecliffs’ rider Luke Corson, Rerewhakaaitu’s Zach Sefuiva and then Hastings rider Michael Toulmin.

Best of the Silver Veterans (40-49 years) for the series was Auckland’s Troy Field, with Kaukapakapa’s Lucia Oles topping the Bronze Women’s Class.

Stevenson praised the host Christchurch Off-Road Motorcycle Club.

“They did a tremendous job of running this event,” he said. “So much effort was put in by these people and it was certainly appreciated.”

Only three of the four rounds of the championship were counted towards the final tally, with riders to discard their one worst score from the three North Island rounds.

The 2019 Yamaha NZ Extreme Off-Road Championships were 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).

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker (KTM), who won the tight final battle for glory in the New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series, which wrapped up near Christchurch at the weekend.

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

Te Awamutu’s Rachael Archer (Yamaha), now back in New Zealand after her successful cross-country campaign in the United States and worth looking out for in Canterbury this weekend.