The Husqvarna bike brand continues to dominate the scoreboard after the weekend’s fourth of seven rounds in the 2019 New Zealand Enduro Championships in the Wairarapa.

Eketahuna rider Charlie Richardson took his Husqvarna FC250 to finish a close third overall at the event just south of Martinborough on Sunday, with a gaggle of five other Husqvarna riders following close behind him, meaning the distinctive white Husqvarna bikes filled out six of the top eight positions on the day.

Whanganui’s Seth Reardon (Yamaha) won the day, his first major victory at this level, with Manawatu’s Paul Whibley (Yamaha) claiming the runner-up spot, but the battle for manufacturers’ honours weighs heavily in favour of the popular and reliable Husqvarna bike brand. Husqvarna riders have amassed a staggering 360 competition points over the four rounds thus far, swamping the scoreboard, with riders of KTM bikes earning 289 points. Yamaha is third best on the table, with 202 points.

It’s impossible to say yet which individual might win the series outright because there have been four different winners in as many events so far this season. Helensville’s Tom Buxton (KTM) won round one of the series near Whangamata in March, Cambridge rider Dylan Yearbury (Husqvarna) clinched the win at round two near Porirua in April and Thames rider Chris Birch (KTM) topped the podium at round three near Tokoroa two weeks later, with Reardon the latest to be the day’s hero.

The stand-out riders who finished behind Reardon, Whibley and Richardson on Sunday were Stratford’s Josh Hunger (fourth on the day, Husqvarna TE300), Cambridge’s Beau Taylor (fifth, Husqvarna TE250), Christchurch’s Josh Dando (sixth, Husqvarna FX350), Rotorua’s Bradley Lauder (seventh, Husqvarna TE300) and Thames rider Jason Davis (eighth, Husqvarna FE350).

Unfortunately for Richardson, he has been able to contest only two of the four rounds thus far and is therefore down in 13th overall for the series, but such is the depth of talent in this sport in New Zealand that any rider among the top 20 or so are capable of winning on any particular day.

“I had a pretty good day on Sunday,” said Richardson. “It was extremely slippery after rain there through the previous week, but I managed to stay clean and consistent and I got there in the end. I had a shocking day at the series opener, but my result at Martinborough has pushed me up the standings a bit,” said the 21-year-olsd shepherd.

The next round of the series is closer to home for Richardson, near Masterton in three weeks’ time, on June 29.

With scores from only six of the seven rounds to be counted – riders to discard their one worst result – the race for the championship win outright, and for the various class titles too, could still go down to the wire at the double-header final weekend, rounds six and seven, at Hokitika, in Westland, in July.

Eketahuna’s Charlie Richardson (Husqvarna FC250), who is enjoying racing his bike at cross-country, enduro and motocross events as well.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

 

This season’s New Zealand Enduro Championships will nudge past the halfway stage this weekend, with the fourth round of seven set for rugged terrain in the Wairarapa.

This 2019 Yamaha and Mitas Tyres-sponsored series has featured three different winners so far, so it’s virtually impossible to tell yet which individual might deserve the tag of outright title favourite.

However, the fog of uncertainty may lift a little this Sunday afternoon (June 9).

Round four on Sunday takes riders to remote Ruakokoputuna Road, south of Martinborough, and results there could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the 2019 championship.

Points from only six of the seven rounds are to be counted, with riders to discard their one worst result, so the race for the outright win, and the various class titles too, could remain wide open right until the final showdown in July.

“The course is steep farmland, but nothing too extreme,” said Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ) enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson. “It is very similar to tracks we have used in the past and one of my favourites,” he said. “It has been a bit wet there lately, so sharp, fresh tyres might well be recommended.”

Helensville’s Tom Buxton won round one near Whangamata in March, Cambridge rider Dylan Yearbury clinched the win at round two near Porirua in April and Thames rider Chris Birch topped the podium at round three near Tokoroa two weeks later.

And nipping at their heels throughout have been a gaggle of very fast individuals, any of whom are capable and well-positioned to move up and take the series lead – riders such as Whanganui’s Seth Reardon, Whangamata’s Jason Davis, Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker, Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman or Cambridge’s Beau Taylor.

Even Stratford’s Josh Hunger, Rotorua’s Bradley Lauder, Cambridge’s Ashton Grey and Christchurch’s Josh Dando, who also feature among the leading dozen or so riders, could possibly count themselves outside chances of winning the series overall, while entries have come in for Sunday’s event from Tauranga’s former motocross world champion Ben Townley and Manawatu’s Paul Whibley, a two-time former cross-country champion in the United States.

It’s highly unlikely that any of the event winners so far will go onto be crowned national champion this year, with Buxton and Yearbury currently overseas and Birch also committed off-shore, leaving a vacuum that will almost certainly be filled by the likes of Reardon, Davis, Whitaker, Wightman or Taylor.

This weekend’s event at Martinborough and the round five event that follows at Masterton on June 29 could be pivotal in the championship chase, which will wrap up with a double-header, rounds six and seven, on consecutive days in Hokitika in July.

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 Photo by Andy McGechan

The 2019 edition of the Hellas Rally Raid saw a little less than 200 competitors take on a 1,200km adventure in the mountains of central Greece. Opting to enter the week-long event on the potent twin-cylinder KTM 790 Adventure R, Birch went head to head against a number of racers on all kinds of enduro machines.

Putting in a consistent run in the opening stages of the race, KTM ambassador and racer Birch made full use of his vast experience to climb up in the overall rankings as the race went on. Crossing the finish line on Sunday with a total race time of 27 hours and 39 minutes, Chris was only thirty minutes behind overall winner Leonardo Tonelli.

Earning fourth in the event’s overall standings, Birch dominated the M6 class for twin-cylinder motorcycles over 660cc. Topping the class’ standings by more than seven hours to second-placed Alberto Ballardin, Birch led an all-KTM podium with Oliver Bassi finishing third in the class.

With Chris Birch demonstrating the immense potential of the new KTM 790 Adventure R in real rally racing conditions, please find more info on the bike here.

Chris Birch: “It’s been a great week of racing here in Greece and I’m very happy with fourth overall and with the win in the Adventure bike class. Ever since I rode the prototype KTM 790 Adventure R my eyes were set on racing this cool new machine. I’m happy I crossed the finish line of this rally on this bike. A huge highlight for me was learning how to get the most of this cool machine. It’s an amazing motorcycle and it’s taken me a while to learn how to explore its vast potential. The places we went in this race were incredible. From remote mountain passes with stunning scenery to enduro-styled trails in the valleys. The low point for me was losing my navigation gear for almost 250km and being forced to ride in the dust of other riders. Luckily the mechanics from the Kini Red Bull squad did a great job and fixed the issue at the next service point. Overall, it’s been an amazing experience racing the big bike in Greece and I enjoyed every moment of it.”

Words and Photos: KTM Press

 

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

Spaniard beats 300 riders to win the opening race of WESS 2019 in Portugal.

The World Enduro Super Series roared back into life this weekend with Mario Roman coming out on top at the Toyota Porto Extreme XL Lagares to stake an early claim for the title of Ultimate Enduro Champion 2019.

Mario Roman

Here is all you need to know:

– Britain’s Jonny Walker made the early running, taking victory in Friday night’s Endurocross race. Spanish rider Alfredo Gómez then picked up the baton, winning Saturday’s Prologue on the cobbled streets of Porto.

– 300 competitors, including 50 pros, entered Sunday’s Hard Enduro feature race in the baking Portuguese heat.

– Germany’s Manuel Lettenbichler set the early pace, eating up Gómez’s hard-won headstart with ease and taking a six-minute lead into lap two.

Manuel Lettenbichler

– Lettenbichler, however, appeared to run out of steam at the crucial moment and he was soon reeled in by Roman and South Africa’s Wade Young.

– Roman then broke the resistance of both Young and Lettenbichler, opening up a gap of four minutes over Young to take an emphatic win at the first WESS event of the season.

– Graham Jarvis crossed the line in third and looked like he’d snuck in at the last for the final podium spot, but Lettenbichler reclaimed the place when he was awarded time he lost on lap one due to a track-marking error.

Graham Jarvis and Billy Bolt

– Roman said: “I feel amazing, it’s so good to get the win. In 2016 I finished about a minute behind Alfredo [Gómez] and then two years in a row I had mechanical issues with my bike, but I always believed in myself and knew I could do it this year.”

– Young said: “It feels great to get second today. At one point I was down in sixth and I was lacking some confidence after struggling in one of the rivers – that spent a lot of my energy. I came back strong though and towards the end people were starting to get tired and I was able to dig a little deeper and keep going.”

– Lettenbichler added: “I had to stop to move a bridge on the first lap so that cost me some time, but thankfully they’ve awarded that back to me and I’ve come away with third. It would have been nice to get the win, especially after leading for over half of the race. But whatever the result, I am happy with my riding and it’s been a good start to this year’s WESS championship.”

Taddy Blazusiak

The next stop for WESS 2019 is France’s Trèfle Lozérien AMV from May 17-19.

Wade Young

Alfredo Gomez

Wade Young

Words by Red Bull Content Pool, Photos by Future7Media