With three different winners in as many events, this season’s New Zealand Enduro Championships have so far been one of the most fiercely-fought affairs in years.

Helensville’s Tom Buxton won the first of seven rounds in the Yamaha and Mitas Tyres-backed series near Whangamata in March, with Cambridge rider Dylan Yearbury clinching the win at round two near Porirua two weeks ago.

For the third round of the series near Tokoroa on Saturday it was multi-time former national champion Chris Birch, from Thames, who grabbed the top step of the podium for the premier AA course riders.

An infrequent competitor at the nationals these days, as overseas riding commitments keep him away, the 38-year-old Birch showed his undeniable class, winning the day by 44 seconds from Buxton, with another infrequent enduro competitor, Tauranga’s Ben Townley, finishing 27 seconds further back and claiming the third podium spot.

Yearbury and then Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman rounded out the top five riders on the AA course on Saturday.

In terms of the AA championship, Buxton leads by just four points from Yearbury, with Whanganui’s Seth Reardon – who finished sixth on Saturday – third overall for the series thus far, 18 points behind Yearbury.

Thames rider Chris Birch (KTM 300EXC), comfortable winner at Tokoroa on Saturday.

However, with Buxton and Yearbury both now heading away to events in Romania and Austria, it puts Reardon in a good position to take over the series lead if he performs well again at round four, near Martinborough on June 9.

Whangamata’s Jason Davis, who finished eighth on Saturday, is just one point behind Reardon in the series standings, so anything is still possible with a long way still to go before the engines are finally shut off after the final round near Hokitika on July 20.

Meanwhile, in the A course action, it was again a two-rider battle between Tokoroa’s Nick Wightman and Thames rider Natasha Cairns, with Wightman eventually winning the day overall by one minute and 25 seconds from Cairns.

With three wins from three starts now, Wightman leads the trophy chase for the A course riders, with Cairns and Masterton’s Philip Bly second and third overall respectively.

Bly finished the day fourth overall at Whangamata and at Porirua too, but finished the day seventh on the A course at Tokoroa.

“It was a fantastic day today. The course was perfect,” said Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson. “The sport seems to be very strong too. We had good competitor numbers today.”

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 Photos by Andy McGechan

Riders’ briefing gets underway at the Yamaha New Zealand Enduro Championships event at Tokoroa on Saturday, with organiser Sean Clarke (left) outlining potential hazards to the riders.

A see-saw battle has begun to develop in this year’s New Zealand Enduro Championships, with two men now sharing the top spot in the premier grade.

Helensville’s Tom Buxton won the first of seven rounds in the Yamaha and Mitas Tyres-backed series near Whangamata last month, with Cambridge rider Dylan Yearbury finishing runner-up, but those positions swapped around at round two near Porirua on Saturday.

Yearbury ruled the roost on the steep forestry course off Moonshine Road, Kapiti, edging out Buxton by just 16 seconds on the timing clocks. 

That means, with both riders hogging the top two spots thus far, they share the bragging rights, although there is still a long way to go.

Third overall on the premier AA course on Saturday was Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker, with Stratford’s Josh Hunger and Whanganui’s Seth Reardon completing the top five.

In terms of the championship, Yearbury and Buxton jointly lead by 14 points from Whangamata’s Jason Davis, who finished eighth on Saturday, with Reardon just one point further back and Whitaker another point back in fifth overall. 

“I was feeling good on the bike and enjoyed the special tests at Moonshine,” said the 24-year-old Yearbury afterwards. “I had no problems today and quite enjoyed the track. It was tight in places and hard work, but I liked it.”

Meanwhile, in the A course battle, it was Tokoroa’s Nick Wightman who led the way at Moonshine, crossing the finish line 46 seconds ahead of runner-up rider Ethan McBreen, from Omihi, while Thames rider Natasha Cairns was third overall on the day.

With back-to-back wins in the series thus far, Wightman leads the trophy chase for the A course riders, with Cairns and Masterton’s Philip Bly second and third overall respectively after two rounds.

Bly finished the day fourth overall at Whangamata and at Moonshine too.

“It was interesting to note that, in the junior support class, 13-year-old Wil Yeoman, from Taupo, opted to ride the full A course rather than the shortened junior course,” said Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson. “If he was eligible for the senior grades, he would have finished third overall in the A competition, and beating (Kiwi international moto trials rider) Dylan Ball by a considerable margin. He is one to watch for the future.”

The Yamaha New Zealand Enduro Championships next takes riders to the South Waikato region for round three in two weeks’ time, on Saturday, April 20. 

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

Cambridge rider Dylan Yearbury, now equal first in the 2019 New Zealand Enduro Championships after two of seven rounds.

Yamalube Yamaha Rally Team rider Adrien Van Beveren has won the motorcycle class at the Merzouga Rally 2019. Posting the fastest time on the fifth and final day of competition, the Frenchman rode his WR450F Rally to his third stage win of the event, securing an impressive eventual winning margin of close to 25 minutes.

Putting the finishing touches to a highly-positive week in Morocco, Van Beveren took to the final day of competition knowing that victory was well within his grasp. After four full, long and demanding days of desert racing, mathematically simply finishing the final day’s Grand Prix des Dunes would have secured him the overall event win. In completing the event as he started it, with a stage victory, Van Beveren wrapped up a memorable Merzouga Rally for Yamaha as he headed home a final day one-two finish, with Dragon Yamaha’s rally rookie Jamie McCanney claiming the second fastest time.

Focused on using the 10th running of the Merzouga Rally as the start of his preparation towards the Dakar Rally 2020, arguably more important than Van Beveren’s winning result was the navigational experience gained from opening several long and challenging stages.

Starting the six-day event with a fourth-place result on the opening prologue Adrien topped the opening full day of competition by five minutes. Opening the track on day two he placed third, perfectly navigating his was throughout the stage. Day three again saw Van Beveren claim the win, extending his overall motorcycle class lead. Runner-up on the penultimate stage of the event, he topped the final day’s Grand Prix des Dunes to complete a near-perfect week and claim an important overall motorcycle class win.

Competing in his first ever rally event and racing on a Dragon Yamaha Rally Team prepared WR450F Rally, Jamie McCanney successfully completed the event. Constantly improving throughout the Moroccan competition, once past the opening few days the Manxman settled into the event to earn a well-deserved 11th place final result.

Adrien Van Beveren and the Yamalube Yamaha Rally Team will next compete in the Silk Way Rally, which takes place in Russia, Mongolia, and China from July 6.

Adrien Van Beveren

Yamalube Yamaha Rally Team

“Today was a really cool day – it was so much fun to have a mass-start and race together through the dunes. Also, getting to race with Jamie was super nice. Of course, it’s great also to end the event with another stage victory, but that is just an added bonus. I’ve had a great feeling with my bike throughout the week and I have to say a huge thanks to all the team, who have worked so hard to support me. The Merzouga Rally was all about improving. Improving my navigational skills, and generally starting our preparations ahead of Dakar 2020. We came here focused on improving and I absolutely feel that we did that. The navigation here is very tricky, so to be opening the tracks as much as I did, that gives me a lot of confidence. This is a great team result. Next, we have the Silk Way Rally, but before then there’s more testing and training to do. We keep working…”

Jamie McCanney

Dragon Yamaha Rally Team

“The Merzouga Rally has been a great experience for me. I came here with one goal – to experience a rally for the first time and to learn. It’s been a steep learning curve, but a hugely positive experience. I feel that I progressed as the days went on. Missing one waypoint on day one cost me a lot of time, but I guess it’s good to learn from that mistake. Riding alone for 150-kilometres in competition is something I will remember for a long time. It’s been a great week here in Morocco and to have the support of such a positive, strong team has made it all the more enjoyable.” 

Merzouga Rally 2019

Provisional Overall Final Classification

1. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 15:28:02
2. Ross Branch (BWA), KTM, 15:52:39 +24:37
3. Oriol Mena (ESP), Hero, 16:01:03 +33:01
4. Joaquim Rodrigues (PRT), Hero, 16:02:23 +34:21
5. Alessandro Botturi (ITA), Yamaha, 16:15:43 +46:41
6. Maurizio Gerini (ITA), Husqvarna, 16:23:53 +55:51

Words and Photos: Yamaha Racing

Successfully completing the marathon stages of the 2019 Merzouga Rally on his WR450F Rally, Adrien Van Beveren now holds a nearly 23-minute advantage at the top of the provisional overall motorcycles class results. Placing second on today’s stage four, the Yamalube Yamaha Rally Team rider once again navigated superbly, finishing just under four minutes behind the eventual stage winner.

Holding a commanding overall lead heading into the second half of the marathon stage, the fifth and penultimate day of the Merzouga Rally featured a 205.27-kilometre special stage and more challenging navigation. Preparing his WR450F Rally himself at the marathon bivouac, Van Beveren was the first rider into the stage and opened the tracks throughout the day.

Easing his pace a little and focusing astutely on his navigation, the Yamalube Yamaha Rally Team rider nevertheless made a handful of small navigational errors, yet remained at the front of the motorcycle class. Despite only pushing at around 80% of his maximum, Van Beveren yet again went on to ride a near faultless stage. Second fastest to the day’s first check point – and comfortably faster than his closest rival in the overall classification – he then went on to record the second fastest time to the second and final check point.

In finishing as runner-up on stage four Van Beveren holds a sizeable near 23-minute advantage with just one day of competition remaining.

The fifth and closing stage of the 2019 Merzouga Rally will see all competitors compete in the Grand Prix des Dunes – a mass start race into the day’s 40.30-kilometre special stage.

Adrien Van Beveren

Yamalube Yamaha Official Team Rider

“I am very pleased with the way the marathon stages have gone for me, and really enjoyed them. Yesterday everything went well again. More tricky navigation, but importantly I had a great feeling with my bike and to win was fantastic. Being in the marathon bivouac last night was great fun – spending time with other competitors, and some of the riders that gave me great advice when I first started in rally, it was so cool. I arrived there with my bike in perfect condition, so today I focused on doing another good navigation. Opening the stage all day was tough, but again this race is the perfect training for me because I have to be completely focused on my road book, not following any other tracks from other riders. I did make some mistakes and got lost a few times, but I took my time. I was riding more like I would in training, not at 100%. It was a very good stage for me. I feel good, my bike is perfect, so now I look forward to the final dune stage.”

Merzouga Rally 2019

Stage 4 Provisional Classification

1. Ross Branch (BWA), KTM, 3:08:15
2. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 3:32:12 +3:57
3. Alessandro Botturi (ITA), Yamaha, 3:34:22 +6:07
4. Oriol Mena (ESP), Hero, 3:37:13 +8:58
5. Sebastian Buhler (DEU), KTM, 3:43:26 +15:11

Merzouga Rally 2019

Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 4]

1. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 14:33:01
2. Ross Branch (BWA), KTM, 14:55:59 +22:58
3. Oriol Mena (ESP), Hero, 15:03:18 +30:17
4. Joaquim Rodrigues (PRT), Hero, 15:07:19 +34:18
5. Alessandro Botturi (ITA), Yamaha), 15:16:44 +43:43

Merzouga Rally 2019 – Race Schedule

Prologue / March 31 / Erfoud
Stage 1 / April 1 / Erfoud to Erfoud
Stage 2 / April 2 / Erfoud to Erfoud
Stage 3 / April 3 / Erfoud to Marathon Bivouac
Stage 4 / April 4 / Marathon Bivouac to Erfoud

Stage 5 / April 5 / Extreme GP

Words and Photos: Yamaha Racing

Monster Energy Honda Team is back on the final podium of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. José Ignacio Cornejo finished third in the inaugural round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship which concluded today at the Yas Marina circuit.

The final stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge saw José Ignacio Cornejo take third place on the race’s final podium. Is the first time in the World Championship podium for the Chilean Monster Energy Honda Team rider, who was able to complete the 214.5-kilometre special error-free and make it back to the Yas Marina circuit in third overall spot after five days and some 1900 kilometres of intense racing in the Emirati desert.

Nacho finished the fifth and final stage of the rally in fourth position, crossing the finish-line less than two minutes behind the runner-up. The Chilean, besides winning two stages of the rally, also made it onto the podium in second place in the junior category. Monster Energy Honda Team brother-in-arms, Argentine Kevin Benavides, finished behind Cornejo, both in the day’s stage – posting fifth – as well as in the overall final standings where he has occupied fourth place. For the rider from Salta it was a triumph of sorts, to be able to finish the race in the top five, while burdened with a recent shoulder dislocation and a fractured rib.


It turned out to be a similar final balance sheet for the Spaniard Joan Barreda, who two weeks prior to leaving for Abu Dhabi broke three ribs and dislocated the left clavicle. In addition, on the second day, his right leg was pierced by the motorcycle’s foot-rest. Despite the woes, Barreda decided to battle on in the race, and after placing second in two stages, finished in third spot on the final day. The rider from Castellón had been sanctioned with a heavy penalty after being unable to conclude the first stage with a mechanical issue. 

Monster Energy Honda Team return to the action again with the second official round of the world championship, the Silk Way Rally, which will take place from 6th to 16th July, on a trek through Russia, Mongolia and China.

Kevin Benavides 

STAGE: 5TH  FINAL STANDINGS: 4TH

I’m happy to finish because the goal was to reach the end. It was a very hard week physically. It was not easy to ride with a dislocated shoulder and a broken rib. I was at 50%, but I gave 100% of that 50, and it’s very good to be able to finish with a fourth place. Every sacrifice has its reward and we must bear in mind that this championship is very long and we hope it will have a good ending.

Joan Barreda 

STAGE: 3RD  FINAL STANDINGS: 14TH

I am very satisfied because the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is a very physical rally, generally because of the extreme heat and the dunes that have to be overcome every day. Apart from the injury, it was great to be able to compete again, to get back to race pace and experience the physical aspects and the speed. So it’s been a good start to the season, especially taking into account the circumstances with which we arrived here and the mechanical problem we had on the first day. From there, we were able to draw some positive conclusions which is what we came here for.

José Ignacio Cornejo 

STAGE: 4TH  FINAL STANDINGS: 3RD

Today was a difficult day, opening the track; I am happy. I opened the track from beginning to end although unfortunately they took back a lot of time from me and I ended up in third position in the general. I am equally happy to get my first podium in the world championship, to go home after having won two stages and having opened the track during two more stages. Certainly this experience will be positive for my future. We are on the right track. I’m happy with my riding, and I’m picking up more and more pace. I want to thank the Monster Energy Honda Team for all the hard work these days, as well as my coach and my family who are at home supporting me. Thank you very much to all.

Stage 5 provisional results 

Pos.RiderNationTeamConstructorTime/Gap
1SUNDERLAND SamGBRRed Bull KTM Rally Factory TeamKTM2:39’59
2BENAVIDES LucianoARGKTM Factory Racing TeamKTM+3’26
3BARREDA JoanSPAMonster Energy Honda TeamHonda+6’43
4CORNEJO José IgnacioCHIMonster Energy Honda TeamHonda+9’41
5BENAVIDES KevinARGMonster Energy Honda TeamHonda+13’35
6AL BALOOSHI MohammedUAEBalooshi Racing KTM UAEKTM+20’14
7MESHARI JAFFAR MohammedKWTTeam JaffarKTM+20’23
8MARE AaronRSAVendetta Racing UAEKTM+22’18
9BLAIR RyanGBRSRG MotorsportsHusqvarna+24’14
10SHORT AndrewUSARockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory RacingHusqvarna+25’52

Privisional Final Standings

Pos.RiderNationTeamTime/Gap 
1SUNDERLAND SamGBRRed Bull KTM Rally Factory Team17:46’42
2BENAVIDES LucianoARGKTM Factory Racing Team+8’20
3CORNEJO José IgnacioCHIMonster Energy Honda Team+9’59
4BENAVIDES KevinARGMonster Energy Honda Team+34’51
5SHORT AndrewUSARockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing+1:01’40
6BLAIR RyanGBRSRG Motorsports+1:36’51
7MESHARI JAFFAR MohammedKWTTeam Jaffar+1:37’06
8ACKERMAN MarkRSASRG Motorsports+1:44’31
9AL BALOOSHI MohammedUAEBalooshi Racing KTM UAE+1:45’54
10MARE AaronRSAVendetta Racing UAE+23:27’08
14BARREDA JoanSPAMonster Energy Honda Team+33:16’23

Words and Photos: Honda Racing Corporation / RallyZone – Edoardo Bauer (Copyright)