This is just too good not to share. That’s the considered view of South Island-based Yamaha dirt bike rider April Mainland.

With many years of dirt bike riding experience under her wheels, the 36-year-old recently stepped to a new high level of competence and confidence and, inspired also by others, she knew her positive technique and attitude was something she should share with other girls and women on the motorcycling scene.

Mainland started off “wanting to inspire women to face their fears” riding dirt bikes. “I was in contact with Yamaha-Motor New Zealand to discuss the purchase of a new bike when it was suggested that they could support me to become an ambassador for women in motorcycling. As a trail rider and a gal that works outside of the motorbike industry, I guess it was a good fit to demonstrate riding as a hobby rather than a full-time job. I am a training advisor for Primary ITO (Industry Training Organisation), which means I advise and manage on-the-job training regarding agriculture in the Nelson/Marlborough area.”

“I’m doing that during the week but have a hobby at the weekends with a wee venture I’ve started called ‘Inspiring Adventure’, a business that I would like to grow. It’s about helping women to navigate the valley of fear and inspire adventure within themselves. It’s a chance for women to come riding with me, try some different motorbikes and ask the questions that they’d perhaps not have the confidence to ask their boyfriend or partner.”

“I have been riding bikes for a long time now, starting out as the girl who likes to sit on the bike because ‘it feels safe’, back then I was being told by the boys to ‘stand up because apparently that is safer …’ how is that so? As I became fitter and wanted to attack a bit more difficult terrain I learned that by standing on your pegs, a rider gets far better control and stability on the bike. I still sit on the bike seat far too much, especially as my fitness fluctuates, but at least I’m now riding more than just the flat paddocks at home. It’s this type of thing that I want to pass onto other ladies so they can feel safe in trying new experiences.”

“I recently took my new 2020-model YZ125X out to the Borlase Trail ride at Tapawera, near Nelson. What an epic ride and that bike was an absolute machine. I put a smaller sprocket on the front of the bike to help me to get through the slower single track without it losing revs. I’ve only once before ridden a 125, so I am still learning how to ‘keep it pinned’ without being scared of the power.”

“I was learning so much about this bike – She loves to sing! And a wee 125 ripping through the mature forest fire breaks is a bit of music to any enthusiast’s ears isn’t it? The sprocket change was ideal as I was able to hit all the AA trails and didn’t stall the engine while riding at a low speed to clear the obstacles. This ride was great,  I felt that I was riding the bike, rather than being taken for a ride by the bike. I felt like I was dominating the bike – a great feeling.”

“I felt the suspension working around the corners, I was able to use the clutch easily enough to keep up the throttle and clutch control for the corners. I am very excited about this bike – looking forward to having a few ladies come out to some ‘ladies days in the dirt’ in the coming months.”

So, armed with her YZ125X and a can-do attitude, April Mainland is ready to inspire, to share her experiences and hopefully make it easier for women of all abilities to accept the challenges of dirt biking, a challenge that she herself has embraced and is now getting so much joy and excitement from riding bikes off-road.

South Islander April Mainland (Yamaha) keen to share her dirt biking experiences.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

The KTM Junior Supercross initiative will once again take centre-stage at the high-profile 2019 S-X Open International FIM Oceania Supercross Championship, set to be contested in Auckland, New Zealand and Melbourne, Australia this November.

Globally recognised as a top-level introduction to the sport of supercross for aspiring stars aged between seven and eight years, KTM Junior Supercross will provide the opportunity of a lifetime for an incredibly fortunate group of youthful racers and their families.

There will be 10 positions available for the S-X Open event to be held at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland on 16 November, while 20 places will be available for the prestigious AUS-X Open Melbourne event to be held within Marvel Stadium on 30 November for the first time ever. Both world-class events are expected to be contested ahead of record crowds in attendance.

Successful applicants will be treated to a full factory VIP experience, including a KTM 50 SX built by factory technicians to ride during the event. A KTM gift pack provided to each young rider will feature a full set of riding gear to keep, plus trophies will be awarded to podium finishers.

Aside from extensive off-track activities and enjoyment that will include mentorship from KTM’s professional racers and a special rider signing where kids can meet their heroes, the KTM Junior Supercross entrants will take a dedicated track walk, two practice sessions and a fun-filled exhibition event during the S-X Open program.

Entry criteria will apply, with both events open to KTM customers only with 12 months of racing results being taken into consideration. Every applicant’s latest school report card, weight and height requirements must also be met.

The S-X Open International FIM Oceania Supercross Championship will be highlighted by a superstar international rider line-up again in 2019, coinciding with rounds four and five of the upcoming Australian Supercross Championship season.

A factory experience like no other delivered by KTM Australia and KTM New Zealand, registrations for the 2019 KTM Junior Supercross events are open now, exclusively at www.ridektm.com.au.

Jeff Leisk – General Manager, KTM Australia: “To be involved in the sport at this level, young aspiring riders and their parents, will certainly enjoy the KTM Junior Supercross experience. We aim to make them virtually feel like factory riders for the event, to give them that experience on a real supercross track in front of huge crowds. It’s an incredible opportunity and inspires riders to go onto bigger things in the sport, much like Ryan Dungey and others who at one stage took part in the challenge. It’s a really inspirational experience and these events are genuinely world-class, so it’s a pleasure to continue our relationship with the event organisers, AME Management, because we really love what they are doing for supercross in the region. The fact that they even consider the KTM Junior Supercross to be one of the highlights of their events just goes to show that they have the right vision that’s inclusive of tomorrow’s superstars and, from my own perspective, I know what it was like to be a young kid and an aspiring racer. So, while I never got to do anything like this, I know how impressionable you are at that age and that’s why it’s really special to be involved and to be providing families with this type of opportunity.”

It will be three fresh faces fronting up for New Zealand at the Motocross of Nations event at Assen, in The Netherlands, on September 28-29.

Taupo’s Wyatt Chase, Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis and British-based Canterbury rider Dylan Walsh will each be making their MXoN debuts when they wave the silver fern flag at the track built on the infield at the “Cathedral of Speed”, the TT track at Assen.

Chase confirms that he is certainly one man who is fizzing and he said he can’t wait to take on the world’s elite in The Netherlands. The Honda star said he is “thrilled and honoured” to be named to represent New Zealand at this year’s edition of the Motocross of Nations – commonly referred to as “The Olympic Games of Motocross” – and he simply can’t wait to repay the faith that has been shown in him by the selectors.

“It’s simply massive to race at this event. I’ve very excited. It’s an awesome opportunity that I’ve been given,” said the just-turned 20-year-old.

Hundreds of truck-loads of sand will be brought in to create the MXoN track on the infield on the Assen TT road-race circuit, giving the iconic event a unique twist and the energy-sapping sand will certainly sort the men from the boys. A crowd of about 80,000 is expected to flock to watch the racing at this most important event on the international calendar, and Chase knows the pressure to perform will be immense.

“It will be super gnarly at Assen and extremely challenging. But I have been putting in the work and hopefully I can get a good result for the team,” he said.

Taupo’s Wyatt Chase

Chase will race his Honda CRF450 in the MXGP class, while Purvis will race a Yamaha YZ450F in the Open Class and Walsh (Husqvarna TC250) has the MX2 (250cc) class duties for Team New Zealand. Although all three riders are MXoN rookies, they each have plenty of international racing experience.

Purvis raced his way to overall runner-up in the MX Development (under-19) class in Australia earlier this year and Walsh has been racing the MX2 class on the Grand Prix scene in Europe. Chase raced several rounds of the European 125cc Championships in 2016, in the United Kingdom, Italy and Belgium.

Chase confirms his build-up to the MXoN has been going well. He represented the North King Country Motorcycle Club when the annual MXoN fundraiser event – The Battle of the Clubs Motocross – was held at Taupo in June and he won the MX1 class battles that day. There was talk that day that perhaps Chase might be the ideal replacement for national MX1 motocross champion Cody Cooper, a Team New Zealand regular for the MXoN, with the Mount Maunganui-based Honda rider unavailable for the MXoN event this season, and that’s exactly as it’s panned out.

Chase proved unbeatable in two classes at the annual Mercer Sand Prix, north of Huntly, a few weeks ago, taking his Honda CRF250 to dominate the MX2 class, finishing ahead of Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly, and he then also took a Honda CRF450 to clean sweep the MX1 class, finishing ahead of Hamilton’s three-time former MXoN team rider Kayne Lamont.

“I rode both classes at Mercer just to give myself more of a work-out,” Chase explained. “The more time I spend on a bike at the moment, the better for my fitness. I’ve been putting in the hard work and I’m feeling confident. I have been riding in sand as much as I can and I will be heading down to Taikorea (near Himatangi) for some sand training sessions soon too. I feel the experience I have had racing in sand over the years, plus my overseas experience too will certainly help, but I’m not underestimating how tough it will be at the MXoN.”

British-based Canterbury rider Dylan Walsh

New Plymouth’s Shayne King will again co-manage Team New Zealand at the MXoN, sharing the managerial duties with Taupo’s Bevan Weal.

King was the 1996 500cc motocross world champion and a rider for New Zealand at the MXoN many times in the past. He said the race track at Assen would be “brutal” and Kiwi riders should be under no illusions about how tough it will be.

“Every year it’s the toughest motocross event in the world, but the circuit at Assen will be particularly challenging. It’s very deep sand, like nothing New Zealand riders will have encountered before.”

New Zealand has a remarkable record at this most prestigious of motocross events, which typically attracts three-rider teams from 40 countries, the Kiwis having finished third on the podium three separate times – in England in 1998, in Belgium in 2001 and in England again in 2006 – as well as finishing fourth in Belgium in 2003, fourth in France in 2005 and fifth in Austria in 1993.

In all, a Team New Zealand trio has finished among the top 10 on 14 memorable occasions. New Zealand finished 17th overall when the MXoN was held in the United States last year.

All three of the New Zealand team from 2018 – Cody Cooper, Rhys Carter and Hamish Harwood – were unavailable this year because of injuries or for personal reasons.

Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis

Words and Photos: Andy McGechan

Will 2019 be a year of resurrection and redemption for Kiwi battler Courtney Duncan?

For three years in a row, the Otago rider has come agonisingly close to winning the Women’s Motocross World Championships (WMX), only to be cruelly denied on each occasion.

The 23-year-old took two more giant strides towards winning the 2019 edition of the series when she dominated in the Czech Republic in late July and then took two more big steps when she repeated the feat at the following round at Imola, in Italy, three weeks later, again scoring back-to-back wins over the weekend.

This gave her an impressive tally of seven race wins from eight starts in the series thus far. Her only blight was the seventh placing she recorded at the series opener in the Netherlands in March. Duncan flew in from her hometown of Palmerston, near Dunedin, to blitz the qualifying session at the Czech Grand Prix at Loket, registering a time two seconds quicker than the next best WMX rider at the high-profile event.

She then won easily both WMX races on the hard-packed Czech track. Racing this year for the first time for the British-based Bike It DRT Kawasaki Racing Team, she did not return home after the Czech GP, but travelled instead to her team’s UK base and kept training there for the final push.

“There was a big gap between the first few rounds so I went back home after each one but now I will stay in the UK with the team until the end of the series,” she explained.

The flying Kiwi is now a solid 23 points in front of her German rival Larissa Papenmeier (Yamaha) with just one round (two more races) remaining – at Afyon, in Turkey, on September 7-8.

With 25 points on offer for a race win, Duncan’s 23-point advantage means she could possibly wrap up the world crown after the first race in Turkey.

Duncan crossed the finish line a massive 36 seconds ahead of Dutch rider Nancy Van De Ven (Yamaha) in race one in the Czech Republic and then repeated the dose, winning race two by the exact same margin, on this occasion crossing the line ahead of Papenmeier.

Duncan’s dominant performance at Imola, while not quite as stunning – she beat Papenmeier by eight seconds in race one and beat Papenmeier again, this time by just four seconds, in race two – it was still a major achievement.

 

“I was happy to come away from Imola with a maximum 50 points and extend the championship lead heading into the final round,” Duncan said. “My riding was far from my best. I was struggling to find my flow and couldn’t really catch a rhythm until towards the end. I was riding a little cautious in the first few laps with the title in the back of my mind, but when I came back after my slip I saw I could catch up and you don’t say no to a win if it’s on. Getting the wins on tough days makes the victory even sweeter.”

“I’m just so happy for myself and the whole team both here in Europe with (Kawasaki team owner) Steve Dixon and back home in New Zealand; everyone has been working so hard to achieve this success,” she said. “It was really nice to race with the 2020- model bike first the first time at Loket; I tested it a couple of weeks earlier and, after just 10 minutes, I knew it would be the bike I’d love racing. I’m very happy with the refinements Kawasaki have made. It’s a new engine so the power is a lot different, but it’s just so good and I could really feel the difference from my old bike.”

This season is Duncan’s first on the Kawasaki bike and she is well on target now towards emulating the Women’s World Cup successes achieved by fellow Kiwi Katherine Prumm when the Pukekohe girl took her Kawasaki KX250F to finish top in the world in 2006 and again in 2007.

Duncan should probably have already been crowned world champion. For three seasons now, the intrepid Kiwi has had luck abandon her in her hour of need. Twice she was denied the world title through injury and on the other occasion she was the victim of a controversial decision by officials.

Leading the series in 2016, she struck an errant photographer who was standing out on the track at the German  GP, crashed and broke her wrist. In 2017 she was again on target to win the title when a muddy hillside at the final round in France became impossible for the riders and the race was abandoned.

Instead of the race being wound back a lap prior to the stoppage (when Duncan had been leading) and a result declared from that, as normally happens, it was controversially decided to give the title to the French rider who was leading at the moment the race was finally halted, despite so many of the riders by that stage having illegally cut the course to avoid the hill.

Again leading the world series in 2018, she suffered further misfortune, this time injuring her right foot during a non-WMX race between the GPs, ruling her out of the final two GP events.

So, more determined than ever to finally achieve her goal, Duncan this year made the decision to join the Kawasaki outfit.

“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.”

2019 WMX Championship top 10 after four of five rounds: 

  1. Courtney Duncan (NZL, KAW), 189 points;
  2. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, YAM), 166 p.;
  3. Nancy Van De Ven (NED, YAM), 163 p.;
  4. Amandine Verstappen (BEL, YAM), 135 p.;
  5. Shana van der Vlist (NED, KTM), 122 p.;
  6. Lynn Valk (NED, YAM), 120 p.;
  7. Sara Andersen (DEN, KTM), 109 p.;
  8. Anne Borchers (GER, SUZ), 82 p.;
  9. Line Dam (DEN, HON), 81 p.;
  10. Nicky van Wordragen (NED, YAM), 65 p.

Words and Photos: Andy McGechan, Videos: MXGP TV

Any one of more than half a dozen riders could be expected to clinch the coveted Dirt Bike Series title when the competition wraps up near Tokoroa on Saturday.

The three-round cross-country racing series has again proven extremely popular this season, with Motorcycling New Zealand Hall of Fame inductee Sean Clarke renowned for setting courses that are both challenging and enjoyable, and many of New Zealand’s elite riders are again expected to tackle this weekend’s event.

The racing will be at the same venue that was used for both the first two rounds, at Ohakuri, south of Tokoroa, so there should really be no surprises in store for the athletes and perhaps average speeds might even be a little higher.

“The course features a bit of everything … it’s supposed to be a challenge, but, at the same time, not overwhelming. We want all dirt bike owners to come and have a go at bush riding,” said Tokoroa’s Clarke.

There will be plenty of top-level riders entered, with individuals such as Rotorua’s Bradley Lauder (Husqvarna), Wellington’s Jake Whitaker (KTM), Whitianga’s Blake Wilkins (Husqvarna), Whanganui’s Seth Reardon (Yamaha), Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman (KTM), Cambridge’s Ashton Grey (Yamaha) and Tauranga’s Reece Burgess (KTM), to name just a few, among those worth watching out for on the day.

Former Kiwi international Callan May, from Titirangi, won the two-hour senior race at round one in early June, closely followed across the finish line by Reporoa’s Hadleigh Knight, just back from racing in Japan, and then Manawatu’s two-time former United States cross-country champion Paul Whibley.

Knight had his revenge at round two three weeks later, winning the day ahead of Grey and Wilkins.

The racing will be intense in the junior ranks this weekend too, with top riders to watch for on Saturday including Taupo’s Wil Yeoman (Yamaha), Oparau’s Hunter Scott (KTM), Rotorua’s Hunter Steens (Yamaha), Putaruru’s Jacob Dover (Yamaha) and Eketahuna’s Luke Brown (Yamaha).

The central North Island location of the Dirt Guide event virtually guarantees a good-sized entry list, with more than 180 riders showing up to the first round and a similar number expected this Saturday.

The competition has wide appeal, attracting a diverse range of talents, suiting novice riders but also enticing the cream of New Zealand’s dirt biking community to turn up in large numbers.

It is 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.

In addition to the expert grade riders, the series caters also for junior riders and for intermediates, veterans and women as well.

The venue at Ohakuri 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.

Saturday’s race doubles up also as round two of the parallel-but-separate NZ GNCC cross-country series, that competition piggy-backing onto select major events throughout the North Island.

Whibley won the opening round of the NZ GNCC series, at Woodhill Forest, west of Auckland, last month, finishing ahead of Reardon and Wightman that day.

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.

Manawatu’s Paul Whibley (Yamaha YZ450FX), third overall at round one of the Dirt Guide Series and likely to be among the leading riders at Ohakuri this weekend too.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan