Dirt bikes, forest tracks and just enough twists, turns, bumps and logs to make it interesting …. that’s the second annual Husqvarna Hard X in just five weeks’ time.

The Husqvarna Hard X on March 30 could be New Zealand’s ultimate of extreme cross-country races, but don’t be frightened off by the event’s daunting title, because, although it could indeed push riders to their limit, it should still appeal to individuals of all skill levels.

The Husqvarna Hard X event in the Kinleith Forest, near Atiamuri, is a four-hour cross-country race that will “feature all the great trails and hard bits of a Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro, but on a compact course, with hard sections deemed suitable for the grade that the rider enters”.

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

“This is the second time we have held a Hard X event,” said Clarke, who has also previously run the difficult Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro Events in the same area of the country, about 30 kilometres south of Tokoroa. 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 tail lights 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.”

Riders classify themselves as either Gold, Silver or Bronze grade competitors and the course they’ll face will hopefully reflect that level of proficiency.

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

Clarke said the Bronze class would be about the same level as a hard section at a trail ride, with the Silver and Gold class courses will be just a little bit harder than that.

One of the elite Gold level riders will be Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker, a record eight-time national moto trials champion, and it will be his fine balance attributes and his skill with precise throttle control from that parallel motorcycling code that may give him the unbeatable edge, although he missed out on the main prize at the inaugural event last season.

The outright winner last year was Helensville’s Tom Buxton and this is one rider in particular who Whitaker will most be keeping a close eye on this time around too.

“Last year I finished second after leading half to three-quarters of the race,” recalls the 27-year-old father-of-one. “It was a technical course, but perhaps not as hard as I would have liked it. I think Tommy (Buxton) would be favoured again this year, but we’ll see what happens eh? This year I am focussing on national enduro and cross-country events and not so much riding trials bikes at all really. The fact that I have ridden a lot of moto trials events in the past gives me an edge at events like the Husky Hard X, especially when the course gets steep, with killer up-hills and down-hills and then creek crossings too. That’s where I make up ground over the other riders. Speed is involved, but it’s not so vital and I’ve been getting better with my speed anyway,” he said.

The following day, the Husqvarna Hard X Trail Ride will be held at the same venue (on March 31) and this is more of a social ride. For this follow-up event, parents are invited to ride with their children, as long as they accompany them the entire time.

The venue for these two events will be signposted on State Highway 1, 30 kilometres south of Tokoroa.

The Husqvarna Hard X Hard Enduro and Husqvarna Hard X Trail Ride events are supported by Husqvarna New Zealand, Satco NZ Ltd, Michelin Tyres, Kiwi Rider magazine and Forest Trail Events.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker, sure to be a contender at this year’s Husqvarna Hard X event in the Kinleith Forest, near Atiamuri, on March 30.

The major motocross season will officially begin with the Italian International MX series. This event has traditionally served as an indulgent teaser before the World Championship Series that will kick off on Sunday, March 3rd with the first race in Argentina. 

There are three rounds on the schedule for the Italian International MX series. On Sunday, January 27th, round 1 got everything started at Riola Sardo; round 2 will take place at Ottobiano on February 3rd and on February 10th, round 3 will be held in Mantua.

In Sardinia Sidi and their riders stood out immediately as absolute stars. In the MXGP race, Tony Cairoli (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) won the competition and laid down the law. Cairoli appeared to be in top form as he takes on the 2019 MXGP World Series on a quest to capture his tenth title. The Sidi house is also proud to point out the good eighth place obtained by Alessandro Lupino (Gebben Van Venrooy Kawasaki). Jorge Prado (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) won the MX2 race; after ending 2018 with the young Spanish rider as the winner of the MX2 World title, and now he looks like he’s ready to go to bat again. Sidi also gives a nod to Alberto Forato (Maddii Racing), who ranked in tenth place. 
Finally, Sidi also shined on the podium in the Superfinal round, which saw the best 20 riders from MXGP and the best 20 riders from MX2. In fact, Tony Cairoli once again put everyone in line, and Jorge Prado scored a fantastic third place, proving he’s got what it takes to keep up with the big boys. 

What is the secret weapon of all their champions’? Crossfire 3 SRS, of course. This is the unbeatable boot on any terrain and in any conditions. There are no equals; in the last several seasons it has earned the title of the most victorious boot ever in off-road riding.

Crossfire 3 SRS is available to the public in a wide range of colours, from the classics to more appealing modern hues aimed at satisfying every demand and creating the perfect matching look for any rider. Furthermore, an ample choice of available components and spare parts means to create an ever-changing, personalized look. 

From a technical standpoint, the strong suits of this boot, which make it so highly appreciated among top riders in world motocross, are: 

1) Hyper Extension Block: in action, the foot and ankle are subject to extreme movements and at risk of injury; with a ball joint on the ankle, this system prevents hyper-extension of the ankle, the top of the foot and rear tendons while the leg flexes forward and/or backward. 

2) Adjustable Calf System: the leg shaft of the boot has a replaceable muffler guard on the inside, to protect the leg from the heat of the engine and protect against wear. Furthermore, a rubber insert allows the rider to get a firmer leg grip on the motorcycle frame. With this system, the opening of the boot can be adjusted simply and practically on both sides to insure a perfectly comfortable fit, even on the largest calves. Not only that; this feature also meets the needs of riders who often wear knee guards and braces that need more room to be worn, without interfering with the proper closure of the boot. 

3) Dovetail Sole Srs: this is an innovative design and a revolutionary substitution system. The sole’s point and heel are fixed in place, while the central part, made up of a rubber insert, has been designed with a new interlocking system with 4 safety screws, so it can be changed out. The boot is also available in a version featuring the Ideal MX sole in rubber. 

Crossfire 3 SRS and Crossfire 3, with their various versions, cover all sizes from 40 to 50. The Sidi collection is available on the Motogear website, New Zealand’s Distributors:  https://www.motogear.co.nz/search?q=sidi+crossfire+3, where you can also verify the colours and models available for New Zealand.

Toni Bou and Takahisa Fujinami will be two of the riders who will open the FIM X-Trial World Championship next Sunday in Budapest, Hungary. Bou, starting as champion, will be on the hunt for a thirteenth indoor title.

The Laszlo Papp Sports Palace in Budapest will be the setting for the start of a new edition of the X-Trial World Championship. Next Sunday, January 20th, indoor trial riding’s highest category arrives in the Hungarian capital, where the season finished in the previous campaign. Repsol Honda Team will be represented by two riders: Toni Bou and Takahisa Fujinami.

Toni Bou, current champion, starts the campaign with the clear objective of recapturing the title once again. The first race of the year will be no walk in the park for the Repsol Honda Team champion: a rib injury suffered in December forced absolute rest and hampered the champ’s preseason training schedule. However, over recent weeks Bou has been able to return to action and, after competing in Sheffield, is ready to kick off the X-Trial World Championship calendar.

Team-mate at Repsol Honda Team, Takahisa Fujinami will be one of the guest riders for the opening indoor season event. The tenacious character of the Japanese veteran should see him vying for a podium place, precisely as he had previously done on the same stage in the most recent edition.

The final season schedule will feature seven events. After the premiere in Hungary, there will be three consecutive dates in Spain, first in Barcelona, then where Bilbao which debuts as host to a top flight event. Granada, Spain will mark the season’s next stop-off, before the campaign heads to Marseille. Next comes a transoceanic trial as the tournament crosses the Atlantic to Costa Rica where X-Trial will hold its first Central American event. The championship wraps up in Andorra, on April 27th.

Toni Bou’s record in the indoor competition could barely be more remarkable. The Montesa Cota 4RT rider, holds a string of twelve consecutive indoor championship titles (2007-2018) having been victorious on 56 occasions – a 70% win rate. Between 2012 and 2015 he achieved a record of 23 wins on the spin.



20 January 2019 Hungary Budapest
03 February 2019 Spain Barcelona
16 February 2019 Spain Bilbao
23 February 2019 Spain Granada
09 March 2019 France Marsella
06 April 2019 Costa Rica San José
27 April 2019 Anrdorra Andorra la Vella


Toni Bou

We are again about to start the season where the goal is the same as always: finish the competition with another title. It will not be easy, because an injury this winter stopped me from training as hard as I normally would. However, now it’s all behind me; I recovered and I feel good, and I am very motivated to go to Budapest after seeing how it all went last week in Sheffield.


Takahisa Fujinami

My only goal is to ride a good race, as I do not have the status of a fixed rider in the championship, but always want to finish as high as possible. Last year I ended up with a podium after getting off to a slow start in the trials which I was invited to take part in. Anything can happen and I hope to take advantage of the few opportunities that are presented to me and be able to finish on a good note.


Miquel Cirera

Team Manager

Once again we have the season ahead of us with the same aim as ever: another title for Toni Bou. In addition, we would also love it if Takahisa Fujinami does well in the rankings and hopefully he will be able to compete in as many championship trials as possible. We trust that Toni is now back to full fitness after the most recent injury and so he should be able to give 100% in the season’s first event in Budapest.




The brutality of the Dakar Rally today showed its most bitter face to Monster Energy Honda Team as Ricky Brabec was forced out on stage eight. Nacho Cornejo opened the track throughout almost the entire special and Benavides got delayed with navigational instrument issues.

It was an endless, troublesome day for the Monster Energy Honda Team riders who suffered the harshness of the Dakar Rally, particularly for Ricky Brabec, who was forced to abandon the race while still holding top spot in the general standings. “It was a shame, but I will go away happy with the good pace that I have set in this Dakar. I will return with even more motivation next year,” stated the American as he arrived back at the Pisco bivouac.

The eighth stage, the ‘Super-Ica’, got underway this morning with a mixed car and bike start which saw Nacho Cornejo and Ricky Brabec head out onto an open track with the pair both intent on obtaining crucial results in the special. Nacho was forced to open the way given that Sunderland claimed to have a bike issue and consequently started later. The Chilean was thus lumbered with the weight of opening throughout almost the whole day. Only towards the end was he briefly passed over a couple of kilometres by the car of Peterhansel who eventually got stuck in the dunes. Despite the handicap Cornejo performed valiantly on a high-speed, error-free ride to wrap up the day with the eighth fastest time.

Meanwhile Kevin Benavides had to endure a problem with the navigation equipment during the 361-kilometre special, which delayed the rider considerably. The Argentine Monster Energy Honda Team is sixth in the race overall.

Tomorrow Wednesday sees the penultimate stage of this 2019 Dakar Rally which will once again be held on a looping circuit, this time from Pisco. There race will include 313 kilometres of timed special stage out of a total of 410 kilometres on the day.

José Ignacio Cornejo  10


Today was a long day. I’m happy because I opened almost the whole special, except for a few kilometres when a car overtook me. It was very difficult to open the track all day in a very sandy stage, off-piste and in open desert, so I’m very happy with today’s stage. I think it will help me in the future, you learn a lot by opening the track. It’s a pity that Ricky had to retire, he was having a great race. Everyone was impressed because he was very solid. It encouraged him but also the whole team. Now we have to keep pushing forward, there are still two days left and everything can happen.

Ricky Brabec  15


It was a really hard day. There was nothing really positive about my day, especially for the race. The coolest part was getting a helicopter ride along the beach and back. It’s heart-wrenching. Not easy. We have to go home, take a break and come back. I’m at a loss for words. It was amazing to be on the top for the previous days. It’s really nice to have the team support me and the whole team. It felt like the vibes and the confidence in me were good. That helped me to achieve so many great days.

Kevin Benavides  47


Today the stage was complicated because I wasn’t able to validate a waypoint. It was a point which wasn’t visible but should have been very easy to find as it was just down a mountain as you entered the beach. I was at the right point and but the waypoint wouldn’t open. I went through there a thousand times and nothing showed up. I stopped Joaquim Rodrigues, he had it validated and I was at the same point and it wouldn’t go on to the next waypoint. Several other riders passed and after I stopped Michael Metge before the point and told him if I could follow him to see if it registered. Finally it did but I had already passed through many times. The organization has seen that I went through there many times. Now we have to wait and see what they will tell us about it. It’s a pity about Ricky, he was having a great race and we could have both battled until the end. I send him all my best.


Raul Castells

Monster Energy Honda Team Manager

Unfortunately, days like today, we have experienced before. These are things that can happen in motor sports and that, far from bringing us down will serve to strengthen us as a team because we will continue to fight for our goals, even if they are distant. Ricky was having an incredible race and I’m sure he will come back, even stronger if it is possible, to continue fighting for the number one spot. Likewise, I’d like to point out the great stage that Nacho Cornejo rode today having opened the track all day, but also that of Kevin, who had some problems with the navigation tools that we hope can be solved. We will keep fighting until the end.


Results Stage 8

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap
1 WALKNER Matthias 1 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team 03:55’25
2 QUINTANILLA Pablo 6 CHI Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing +00’45
3 PRICE Toby 3 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +01’13
4 SUNDERLAND Sam 14 GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +06’21
5 SHORT Andrew 29 USA Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing +09’51
6 VAN BEVEREN Adrien 4 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +11’48
7 BENAVIDES Luciano 77 ARG Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +12’51
8 CORNEJO José Ignacio 10 CHI Monster Energy Honda Team +13’48
9 BENAVIDES Kevin 47 ARG Monster Energy Honda Team +15’07
10 DE SOULTRAIT Xavier 18 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +15’50


Rider Standings


Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap
1 PRICE Toby 3 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team 28:53’08
2 QUINTANILLA Pablo 6 CHI Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing +01’03
3 WALKNER Matthias 1 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +06’35
4 SUNDERLAND Sam 14 GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +06’38
5 VAN BEVEREN Adrien 4 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +09’54
6 BENAVIDES Kevin 47 ARG Monster Energy Honda Team +21’41
7 SHORT Andrew 29 USA Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing +39’27
8 DE SOULTRAIT Xavier 18 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +46’17
9 BENAVIDES Luciano 77 ARG Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +01:04’24
10 CORNEJO José Ignacio 10 CHI Monster Energy Honda Team +01:05’44