Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Graham Jarvis heads into today’s start of the infamous Romaniacs Hard Enduro Rallye as leader of the 2019 World Enduro Super Series. With two consecutive WESS wins under his belt, the on form British rider starts round five of the series confident of further success and is joined by teammates Billy Bolt and Alfredo Gomez.

Jarvis comes into the 16th edition of Romaniacs on a superb run of form having won both rounds three and four of WESS – the Erzbergrodeo Hare Scramble and the recent Hixpania Hard Enduro. Enjoying a 120-point advantage at the top of the current series rankings, the experienced 44-year-old will be aiming to claim a record-breaking seventh win in Romania and with it extend his championship lead.

2018 World Enduro Super Series winner Billy Bolt continues to regain both strength and form following his off-season injury sustained over the winter. Fifth in the championship, Bolt narrowly missed the podium at the Hixpania Hard Enduro, fighting through the pack after a tough start to claim an impressive fourth-place result. Approaching Romaniacs in his best form of the season so far, the young Brit is looking to make his mark on the 2019 event.

Billy Bolt – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing

One place ahead of Bolt and in fourth in the WESS standings, Alfredo Gomez tied on points with teammate Jarvis at Hixpania after winning the first two days of racing. The Spaniard is unquestionably on form and hungry to claim his first ever WESS win.

Featuring five days of racing, with a Prologue on the streets on Sibiu followed by four days in the surrounding mountains the Romaniacs Hard Enduro Rallye looks set to be one of the toughest and most demanding events on the WESS calendar. The race will test the riders’ skill, stamina and mental strength.

Alfredo Gomez – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing

Andi Hölzl

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Team Manager

“Romaniacs is always a race that Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing look forward to, but this year, following Graham’s incredible result at Erzberg, we are even more motivated. The weather during the coming days will make a huge difference to the outcome of this year’s event, but like always it will certainly be difficult. Graham likes it when the conditions are super challenging, so we’re confident that he can again fight for a good result. Billy’s been busy in recent weeks testing and riding. While he doesn’t have the experience that Graham does, he’s raced here enough to know what to expect and is looking forward to it. Alfredo has also been busy and is really ready for this race. Romaniacs is very special, very different to all other races, so we know everyone must take things one day at a time. You never know what’s coming at Romaniacs, which is part of the reason why, as a team, that we like it so much.”

Round five of the World Enduro Super Series takes place in Sibiu, Romania from July 30 to August 3.

Graham Jarvis – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing

Photos: Husqvarna Motorcycles Press

There were six different winners in seven rounds of competition this season, but, in the end, there could only be one champion and this year it was Seth Reardon.

The Whanganui rider was heavily favoured to wrap up the main title in this season’s Yamaha and Mitas Tyres-sponsored New Zealand Enduro Championships and that’s what he did at the weekend’s double-header, the final two rounds of the series near Hokitika on Friday and Saturday.

Christchurch international Hamish Macdonald (Sherco), at home for a seven-week spell as the FIM Enduro GP World Championships take their regular (Northern Hemisphere) summer break, dominated both days at Hokitika.

But these two race days were his only appearances in New Zealand this year and so he was never likely to be a title contender. It was a similar story with several of the other event winners too.

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, Thames rider Chris Birch (KTM) topped the podium at round three near Tokoroa two weeks later, Reardon (Yamaha) won round four near Martinborough on June 9 and Rotorua’s Bradley Lauder (Husqvarna) won round five near Masterton on the last weekend of June.

However, overseas riding commitments meant neither Buxton, Yearbury or Birch could mount a full domestic campaign this year, virtually ruling themselves out of New Zealand title contention.

The 21-year-old Reardon therefore began his weekend near Hokitika with a massive 23-point advantage over his nearest challenger, Cambridge’s Beau Taylor (Husqvarna), and when Reardon finished third on Friday and then third again on Saturday it was job done.

Reardon earned the ‘overall’ trophy for the premier AA Grade (formerly referred to as Expert), ahead of Taylor and Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman (KTM).

Masterton’s Philip Bly (KTM) won the A Grade (formerly referred to as Intermediate), finishing ahead of Thames rider Natasha Cairns (KTM) and Omihi’s Ethan McBreen (Husqvarna).

“It was a bit wet on Friday, but conditions were perfect on Saturday,” said Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson. “The host Westland Motorcycle Club named it the ‘Mud Fest’ for a reason, but I think everyone enjoyed the two days. There had been 10 consecutive days of rain around Hokitika leading up to the event, so it was about as good as it was going to get. The organising club did a great job of running the event. It was certainly a challenge for everyone involved, riders and event crew alike, but they coped well. We are already talking with clubs about events for next season and hope to use some new venues too. We are also looking now ahead to the extreme series, set to kick off at Whangamata in September.”

The various class winners this season were Reardon (Yamaha, E1, up to 200cc 2-stroke, up to 300cc 4-stroke); Stratford’s Josh Hunger (Husqvarna, E2, 201cc+ 2-stroke); Christchurch’s Josh Dando (Husqvarna, E3, 301cc + 4-stroke); Whangarei’s Adrian Broughton (KTM, Vet 1, 40yrs +); Thames’ Natasha Cairns (KTM, women); Masterton’s Philip Bly (KTM, Vet 2, 50-54yrs); Auckland’s Jeff Van Hout (KTM, Vet 3, 55yrs +).

New Zealand Top Trail Riders Championship class winners were Omihi’s Ethan McBreen (Husqvarna, TTR1 up to 200cc 2-stroke, up to 300cc 4-stroke); Pakotai’s Josh Alexander (KTM, TTR2 201cc + 2-stroke, up to 301cc+ 4-stroke); Upper Hutt’s Kevin Birdsall (Honda, Vet 4 40yrs +).

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.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

The Silk Way Rally, the second round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, has concluded in Dunhuang, China, with all three of the Monster Energy Honda Team trio crossing the finish-line after more than 5,000 kilometres of rally.

The Silk Way Rally came to an end in Dunghuang some ten days after getting underway in the Russian city of Irkutsk and crossing from the north to the south of Mongolia on the maiden appearance of the motorcycle category in the competition. En route competitors had to deal with nine stages packed with a multitude of terrain types on territory as yet unchartered for most of the bikers involved. All three Monster Energy Honda Team riders managed to make it to the end of the rough ordeal. The arduous 5,000 km slog brings a wealth of experience to each of the riders as well as producing some crucial information that will help to further develop the Honda CRF450 RALLY.

Kevin Benavides, who took fourth overall place in the rally, also snatched four stage victories to become the rider with most wins in the special timed stages. In spite of having shown some serious on-track clout, the Argentinean fell foul of a note of the roadbook misinterpreted which effectively curtailed chances of overall victory.

Joan Barreda’s fall while in contention with the front-runners likewise ruled the Spaniard out of the battle for the final glory. Barreda displayed high-speed and showed fine race pace throughout the rally and, over various stages, held top positions for lengthy stretches.

 

Chilean rider José Ignacio was also demonstrating improved handling, in spite of some of the adverse conditions on the Russian routes. Nevertheless, the rider was progressing in leaps and bounds until a penalization put paid to chances of finishing among the top guns.

 

“It was a tough race for everyone,” outlined Monster Energy Honda Team’s Sporting Director, Ruben Faria. “This was a new date in the calendar and a brand new adventure as we faced three unknown countries with different languages. It really was a great adventure for everyone involved. It didn’t turn out to be the result that we were looking for but we did manage to finish the rally with all three of the bikes and all the riders made it to the end without any physical problems which is also important. The next race will be the Atacama Rally and hopefully the luck that was missing in this race will accompany us in that one. We have learned a lot from this race and we will keep working so that things go even better in Chile.”

The next race for the Monster Energy Honda Team will be the Atacama Rally. The third round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship will have the Chilean city of Copiapó as its nerve-centre. Riders can expect a curtain-raising prologue and five stages from 2nd to 7th September.

Photos: Honda Racing Corporation

The 10th and final stage of the Silk Way Rally proved to be one of the toughest of the event. Winding its way along fast rocky tracks and through the ravines and dry river beds of the Gobi Desert, the 255-kilometre timed special required 100 percent focus right to the finish.

Sam Sunderland, having ridden superbly in terms of speed and navigation through Russia and Mongolia, created a comfortable advantage at the head of the overall motorcycle class when the rally entered China. Using his extensive skill and experience, he put in a champion’s ride to maintain a fast and largely mistake-free pace and carried his lead to the final stage of the event, finally claiming outright victory.

With no fewer than three stage wins – one having opened stage five – Sam’s dominant performance at the Silk Way Rally gives him his second consecutive victory in this year’s FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship to extend his lead with two rounds left to race.

Sam Sunderland #6

“It’s really cool to take the win here in China. I’m really happy with the job done by myself and the team – it wouldn’t have been possible without this big effort from everyone to come to Russia, Mongolia and now China. It’s been a huge adventure and one that we’ll all remember for a long time, that’s for sure. For me I’m so happy to get the win, it makes it two-out-of-two this championship and it’s a really important one because of the points earned this round. I felt really good at the beginning of the event and was able to create a good gap. I felt a bit sick during the middle stages but was able to manage the race and stay on a good pace right to the end. I’m really pleased for Andrew, who has ridden a great race, and also Luciano and Laia. Now I’m looking forward to a bit of rest.”

Putting in an impressive performance throughout the event, Luciano Benavides placed eighth on the final stage to claim fifth place overall and top the Junior class. Continuing to learn and gain experience, the young Argentinian rode a mature race, often bouncing back from small navigation errors to complete each stage consistently and secure his solid top-five result. With two rounds of this year’s FIM championship remaining, Benavides’ goal is to increase his rally knowledge and overall speed.

Luciano Benavides 

“For me, it has been a really good rally – I finished fifth overall and won the Junior category. It’s been a tough rally, but I have certainly learned a lot. I made a few mistakes in the last few days that ended up costing me some time, but I know what I did wrong and I need to go away now and work on those areas. Overall, I am happy with how I rode and the bike has been perfect. My confidence is growing all the time and each rally we do I learn a little bit more and gain a lot of experience. Finally, I want to thank the team – to be in this KTM family is an amazing feeling and everyone did a great job.”

KTM Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz rode to a safe 13th place on stage 10 in order to minimise any possible mistakes and safeguard her position in the overall standings. The Dakar Women’s Champion marked her first competitive outing in this year’s FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship with an excellent seventh place overall – beating many of the championship regulars in the process. Laia’s impressive speed and consistent, error-free finishes paid off, especially at an event as tough and demanding as the Silk Way Rally. Sanz will now take some rest before continuing her Dakar preparation at the next race in Chile.

Laia Sanz

“I took it easy today as I wanted to stay safe and keep my position in the standings. Overall, it has been a good rally for me, these last days have been tough and certainly very tiring as well as being technical. I’m happy to be at the end safely and I’m very happy with my result. The organisation of the rally has been really good and I’m so happy that I came. I had some really good days in Mongolia but here in China I struggled a bit more. Now, after some rest, I will continue to train and focus as always on the Dakar Rally next year.”

Rider Standings – Final

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap
1 SUNDERLAND Sam GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team 26:12’47
2 SHORT Andrew USA Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing +20’22
3 VAN BEVEREN Adrien FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +21’01
4 BENAVIDES Kevin ARG Monster Energy Honda Team +21’37
5 BENAVIDES Luciano ARG KTM Factory Racing Team +36’50
6 MENA Oriol SPA Hero Motorsports Team Rally +51’50
7 SANZ Laia SPA Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +1:56’26
8 TOMICZEK Adam POL KTM Orlen Rally Team +2:08’04
9 BARREDA Joan SPA Monster Energy Honda Team +2:54’25
10 GIEMZA Maciej POL KTM Orlen Rally Team +3:10’31
11 CORNEJO José Ignacio CHI Monster Energy Honda Team +4:06’10

Photos: KTM Press Center

Stage five marked the second half of the Silk Way Rally’s marathon stage. Following Wednesday’s long 470-kilometre timed special, bikes were left in parc fermé overnight where the only maintenance allowed had to be carried out by the riders themselves. With today’s stage clocking a total of 364.59 kilometres including a 337-kilometre timed special through the plains of Mongolia, bike and tyre preservation throughout the two days of riding proved key to a top result.

With a win on the first half of the marathon stage, the task of opening day five was given to Sam Sunderland. The British rider, using all of his experience, skill and speed maintained a strong but safe pace over the course of the two days. Despite leading the riders out into the fast tracks and mountain passes, Sam navigated the route perfectly, arriving at the finish after leading the entire stage. Today’s win increases Sunderland’s margin at the top of the provisional overall standings to over 13 minutes.

Sam Sunderland #6

“Stage five was another really fast stage, so I’m happy to complete it safely. Opening the route is always a big challenge, but here there are a lot of animals by the side of the track and you are always second-guessing what they are going to do. Luckily, I didn’t have any scary moments, so I was happy about that. I just tried to keep consistent throughout the stage and keep pushing. I’m really happy because I ended up winning the stage and it’s the first time I have won a stage while opening. The bike has been great on the second half of the marathon stage with no service, and the Michelin tyres have held up really well after two long days of riding. Things are going well, so I’ll continue to take each day as it comes.”

Second-fastest on the first half of the marathon stage, Luciano Benavides set out this morning with the goal of chasing down teammate Sunderland. Unfortunately, a couple of small errors ended up costing the young Argentinian some time and so in order to preserve himself and his KTM 450 RALLY, Luciano opted to stick to a solid pace and make it safely to the finish. With sixth place on the day’s stage, Benavides remains second overall, close to four minutes ahead of his brother Kevin in third.

Luciano Benavides #77

“Today was really tough for me. It was a really fast piste and very stony in places. I started really good and my rhythm was ok but today I was a little bit tired and lost focus in a couple of places, which ended up costing me some time. The marathon stage went well overall – I didn’t crash and the bike is ok and everything feels good in myself and on the bike. I’m really happy to finish these long stages and looking forward now to the next few days.” 

Putting in her best performance of the rally so far, Laia Sanz excelled on the fast, flowing stage five to post the eighth-fastest time, just less than nine minutes down on teammate Sunderland and only 21 seconds behind Benavides. The result elevates Laia two places to ninth overall in the provisional standings.

Laia Sanz #44

“I’m really happy today – it was another really fast stage but I felt confident on the bike and was able to keep to a good pace. The bike has been perfect with no problems over the whole marathon stage. I’m really looking forward to the coming stages now and hope I can keep posting some strong results.”

Now entering the second half of the event, stage six will cover a total of 411.75 kilometres of which 408.17 kilometres are timed special. The route leads competitors away from Mandalgovi to Dalanzadgad, which lies at an altitude of 1,470 metres.

Rider Standings

(Top 10 Only)

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap
1 SUNDERLAND Sam GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team 12:44’26
2 BENAVIDES Luciano ARG KTM Factory Racing Team +13’44
3 BENAVIDES Kevin ARG Monster Energy Honda Team +17’18
4 GONCALVES Paulo POR Hero Motorsports Team Rally +21’10
5 MENA Oriol SPA Hero Motorsports Team Rally +26’02
6 SHORT Andrew USA Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing +26’20
7 VAN BEVEREN Adrien FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +26’42
8 CAIMI Franco ARG Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +29’39
9 SANZ Laia SPA Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +55’08
10 CORNEJO José Ignacio CHI Monster Energy Honda Team +1:01’08

Photos: KTM Press Center