This year’s annual New Zealand Trial Championships will be doing things by threes.

The championships will be held in Hawke’s Bay this coming Labour Weekend and will test riders at three different extreme venues over the three days.

In addition to that, the AdrenalinR Mufflers-sponsored contest will feature intriguing match-ups between a trio of separate three-rider groups that are each made up from three generations.

Paraparaumu’s John Lawton is the patriarch of the Lawton clan, with son Stuart Lawton and grand-son James also entered; Tauranga’s Nigel Shilton lines up this weekend alongside his son, Phillip Shilton, and his grandson, Cayden; and Hawke’s Bay fans of the sport will be thrilled to observe Hastings veteran Jeff March compete alongside son Luke March and grandson Ben.

Event organiser Warren Laugesen, himself a remarkable seven-time former winner of the premier title, said it shows that trials is “a great activity for all the family”.

“We are pretty excited to have a new minis class this year too. We want to encourage newcomers to the sport because this is a potential growth area. This is where we offer something for the next generation of riders coming through,” he said. “It would cater for riders aged up to 14 years and allows for electric and petrol-engine bikes. The courses laid out for the minis won’t be too daunting,” he added.

It will certainly be challenging for the senior riders, with tricky terrain set to feature steep rocks and treacherous creek beds. Laugesen said that two of the venues had never before been used for national-level trial events, so there may be a few surprises in store for the riders. The event runs from Saturday through until Monday and will test these elite riders over multiple laps on each of the three days – with each lap including a dozen difficult sections – and at three entirely different locations.

It is expected that Wellington youngster Dylan Ball will lead the charge to the top of the rankings in the premier Experts Grade class this year, although there are still plenty of contenders to watch out for, including Stuart Lawton, Taranaki’s Matt Foster and Christchurch’s Jules Huguenin.

The 15-year-old Ball has ridden internationally and he won the 2018 North Island champs in this top grade and also won the Junior Grade at the nationals last year. He has been knocking on the door for greater honours too over the past 12 months.

Other leading riders to watch for this weekend should include Dunedin’s father and son pair Gavin and Blake Fox, Christchurch’s Glenn Smith, Wellington’s Carl Robson, Ashhurst’s Kevin Pinfold, Hamilton’s Stephen Armistead, Northcote’s Ray Skinner, Hunterville’s Hannah Rushworth, Taranaki’s Daniel Herbert and Kaikoura’s David Trewin, to name a few.

Australian rider Kevin Zarcynski won the main trophy last year, but he will not be back to defend the title this time around.

Motorcycling New Zealand trial commissioner Paul Jackson said the sport was looking healthy and there are “a few things we are working on to see it pick up some more”.

“The minis and juniors is where it’s at … and it will be good to see if we can get these young ones hooked into the sport,” he said.

In addition to the Experts and Minis Grades, the competition this weekend includes A Grade, Intermediate, Presidents, Sportsman, Clubman, Twin Shock, Women’s and Junior grades in the programme.

Run by the Hawke’s Bay Motorcycle Club, day one of this event is set for Tongoio, north of Eskdale, on Saturday (October 26), with day two at Waitara Road, off the Napier-Taupo Road, and it all wraps up with day three at Dartmoor on Labour Day Monday.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Paraparaumu’s Stuart Lawton, leading a three-pronged title attack on behalf of his family this weekend.

The golden season just keeps on going for Whanganui enduro and cross-country ace Seth Reardon.

The 21-year-old boat-builder wrapped up his maiden New Zealand Enduro Championships title in July, as well as finishing runner-up in the New Zealand Cross-Country Championships that wrapped up near Taupo in May, and now he’s just added the North Island Enduro Championships title as well, his latest outright win without him even being in attendance for the final race.

Reardon (Yamaha YZ250FX) is currently overseas, preparing for his debut in the Grand National Cross-Country Championships (GNCC) in the United States, and so was unable to contest the sixth and final round of the North Island enduro competition near Masterton at the weekend.

But that didn’t matter because Reardon had already won the premier expert grade trophy with a round to spare.

He eventually won the North Island series by three points from fellow Yamaha ace Josh Hunger, of Stratford, with Cambridge’s Beau Taylor (Husqvarna TE250) claiming the third podium spot.

His American adventure is already underway – the intrepid Kiwi contesting the final two rounds of the GNCC series in West Virginia and then Indiana.

His campaign in the US may perhaps pave the way for him to follow in the wheel-tracks of fellow Kiwi Paul Whibley. Taikorea’s Whibley twice won the GNCC title in the US, in 2009 and again in 2012 and he was a record six-time winner of the parallel Off-Road Motorcycle and ATV (OMA) series in the US as well.

If Reardon can impress during his abbreviated US campaign this month, it is possible that he could earn a placement on a professional team there for the 2020 season.

His first race, in West Virginia at the weekend, did not quite go to plan with him finishing only 15th overall in the XC2 (250) class after he completed just two laps of the race (while fellow Kiwis Dylan Yearbury, of Cambridge, and Liam Draper, of Howick, finished the day 5th and 13th overall respectively in the same class).

“I had a good start going into the trees. Then, about halfway through the first lap, I went over the handlebars and landed right onto some huge rocks, spraining my wrist and bending my front disc, causing me to lose most of my front brakes,” Reardon explained. “We swapped wheels and I tried to go out for another lap, but it was too rough on the wrist. I had to get an X-ray and luckily it’s not broken.”

Reardon remains optimistic for his racing at the final round in Indiana on October 27.

“I am just going to carry on and train hard for the next round,” he said.

Meanwhile, Reardon also currently leads the New Zealand version of the GNCC after finishing runner-up and then first at the two rounds run thus far, in the Woodhill Forest in July and at Taikorea, near Palmerston North, last month.

He plans to return to New Zealand in time for round three, set for Matata on November 9.

Reardon is supported by Yamaha-Motor New Zealand, BluCru Yamaha NZ, JCR, PWR, Yamalube, JW Seatcovers, 24/7 Beancounter, W&W Construction, Axiam, Qwest, Boss Engineering, Possum Flooring, Swartz Tyres, Edmonds Painting, Masterbuilt, Pulse Performance, Ryan Construction, Hiremaster, Jurgens Demolition, Action Drainage & Construction, Attrill Agriculture, Tyre Shield, Monahans Barbers and the Higgie family.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

The trophy engravers will be working overtime after the 2019 edition of the New Zealand Mini Motocross Nationals in Hawke’s Bay at the weekend.

And the jewellers may as well get templates made for the recipients too, as they’ll no doubt be etching some of these same names into silverware again in the near future.

Talent certainly abounded at the Ngaruroro Raceway, at Mere Road in Fernhill, on the outskirts of Hastings, for this year’s two-day Un4Seen Decals-sponsored event – for riders aged between four and 11 years and riding bikes with engine capacities anywhere between 50cc and 112cc.

With an impressively-large entry list and intense racing at the weekend, it showed the sport in a positive light and showed it was extremely healthy at this grassroots level.

Cambridge rider William Pluck raced away with the premier trophy as he won the 9-11 years’ 65cc class, finishing the weekend 10 points clear of runner-up rider Rafe Paewai,

Pahiatua youngster Paewai actually won more races than Pluck – clinching three of five wins in this class – but, unfortunately, he also failed to finish one race and this cost him dearly.

Meanwhile, it was a fourth consecutive national mini motocross title win for Pluck, who had previously won the 7-11 years’ small trail bike class in both 2017 and 2018 and he had also won the 6-8 years’ 50cc intro trail bike class in 2016.

New Plymouth’s Travis Taylor finished third outright in 7-8 years’ 65cc class last season, but he stepped up a grade this year and ended up on the podium again, once more finishing third, just 10 points behind Paewai in the 9-11 years’ 65cc class.

Perhaps the most impressive performance of the weekend came from Tauranga’s Arama Te Whetu in the 7-8 years’ 65cc class.

Fourth overall in this same class last year, Te Whetu simply owned the race track this time around, finishing the weekend unbeaten in all five races, the only individual at the event to record a clean sweep of victories.

Runner-up to Te Whetu was Invercargill’s Ryan Keen, while Carterton’s Maddox Swanson, who won the 6-8 years’ 50cc class in 2018, settled for third overall in this 7-8 years’ 65cc class this year.

There was another rider besides Pluck who managed to make it consecutive title wins too – Christchurch’s Levi McMaster won the 4-7 years’ 50cc class last year and this time around he won four out of five races to end top of the 6-8 years’ 50cc class, comfortably edging out Gisborne’s Jaxon Pardoe and Greytown’s Jack Bennett.

Motorcycling New Zealand’s mini and junior motocross co-ordinator Michelle Davies said the host Hawke’s Bay Motorcycle Club “did a tremendous job”.

“With the way the weather played out, the riders actually had two entirely different tracks to deal with over the weekend,” she said. “On Saturday it was 20 degrees Celsius and the track was hard-packed and a little dusty. It rained overnight and on Sunday it was 13 degrees and the track was damp but perfect. It provided an extra challenge for the riders to learn how to adapt to changing conditions.

“Arama Te Whetu’s unbeaten performance at the weekend was the obvious stand-out, but special mention should also be made of Whangarei’s Hannah Perris, who finished fourth overall against the boys in the 7-8 years’ 65cc class.”

Perris finished just two points off claiming a podium position in her class.

The Central Otago Motorcycle Club, near Queenstown, will host the New Zealand Mini Motocross Nationals next year.

Final leading overall standings in the 2019 NZ Mini Motocross Nationals in Hawke’s Bay:

9-11 years’ 65cc class: 1. William Pluck (Cambridge); 2. Rafe Paweai (Pahiatua); 3. Travis Taylor (New Plymouth).
7-8 years’ 65cc class: 1. Arama Te Whetu (Tauranga); 2. Ryan Keen (Invercargill); 3. Maddox Swanson (Carterton)
6-8 years’ 50cc class: 1. Levi McMaster (Christchurch); 2. Jaxon Pardoe (Gisborne); 3. Jack Bennett (Greytown).
4-7 years’ 50cc class: 1. Rhys Perris (Whangarei); 2. Brody Sparrow (Pahiatua); 3. Van Hazelden (Cambridge).
8-11 years’ trail bike class: 1. Zoe Verhoeven (Cambridge); 2. Troy Downs (Te Awamutu); 3. Riley Westgate (Matamata).
7-9 years’ trail bike class: 1. Jack Hazelden (Cambridge); 2. Harry Pluck (Cambridge); 3. Reeve Lee (Taupo).
4-7 years’ 50cc intro class: 1. Jacob Wilson (Christchurch); 2. Charles Cox (Napier); 3. Atawhai Wirepa-Hei (Gisborne).

Cambridge rider William Pluck, comfortable winner of the premier grade at the mini motocross nationals in Hawke’s Bay at the weekend.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

The future of Kiwi motocross goes on show in Hawke’s Bay this weekend.

Riders aged between 4 and 11 – and riding bikes with engine capacities anywhere between 50cc and 112cc – head into battle when the Hawke’s Bay Motorcycle Club hosts the two-day 2019 New Zealand Mini Motocross Nationals at the Ngaruroro Raceway, at Mere Road in Fernhill, on the outskirts of Hastings, this Saturday and Sunday (October 5 and 6).

The championships are sponsored this season by Un4Seen Decals and the track that’s been provided is sure to test and/or delight these most talented young racers.

Many of the superstars from the premier 9-11 years’ 65cc MX class last season have now moved out of the mini ranks, graduating to the junior competition, and this perhaps creates opportunities for fresh names to be etched on trophies in that class this weekend.

Egmont Village rider Travis Taylor finished third overall in the younger 7-8 years’ 65cc MX class last year and he now steps up to the 9-11 year’s division, perhaps making his the favourite to win this time around, although Cambridge rider William Pluck may have something to say about that.

Pluck won the 7-11 years’ trail bike class last year and he now steps up to challenge for 9-11 years’ 65cc MX class honours.

Meanwhile, riders such as Pokeno’s Noah Otunuku, Palmerston North’s Murphy Barr, Auckland’s Colton Mcauley, Matamata’s Riley Westgate, Waipukurau’s Seth Iremonger and Pahiatua’s Rafe Paewai have each impressed in this premier 9-11 years’ 65cc MX class races at major mini motocross events in recent months and so they will also be worth respecting this weekend.

Several other class winners from last season have jumped up to higher divisions this year and they will be worth watching out for.

Last year’s No.4 in the 7-8 years’ 65cc class, Tauranga’s Arama Te Whetu, can expect to be challenged in this grade by Carterton’s Maddox Swanson, last year’s 6-8 years’ 50cc class champion.

Christchurch rider Levi McMaster won the 4-7 years’ 50cc class last year, but he will race in the 6-8 years’ 50cc class this weekend.

Pahiatua’s Paddy Parkes won the 4-5 years’ 50cc trail bike class last year but he has since graduated to the 6-8 years’ 50cc trail bike class, where he will face impressive Palmerston North rider Isla Nagel.

Current leading senior grade riders such as international star Josiah Natzke, from Tauranga, and Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis, Ngatea’s Ben Broad, Feilding’s Tony Cvitanovich, Cambridge’s Ashton Grey, Hastings rider Jye Deacon, Cambridge’s Trent Collins and Te Puke’s Jordan Milsom, to name just a few, can all trace their beginnings to the mini motocross ranks.

International pathways can certainly begin at the mini nationals.

Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Ray Broad said that MNZ had now changed the requirement for riders having to obtain a championship licence and a club licence is all that is now required, making it more affordable for more riders and families to compete.

“The mini nationals is a stepping stone for those starting out in motocross. It is great to see that big numbers will be turning up to this year’s event in Hawke’s Bay. Michelle Davies, our mini/junior motocross co-ordinator will be there as well,” said Broad.

Close racing like this can be expected at the mini motocross nationals near Hastings this weekend.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

The conditions were tough, but New Zealand’s “development squad” battled through and rose above them in The Netherlands at the weekend.

The three-rider squad representing New Zealand at the 2019 Motocross of Nations at Assen fought bravely to earn another top 20 finish at this big annual “Olympic Games of Motocross”.

It was a completely fresh trio of Kiwis selected to race at Assen’s Cathedral of Speed TT circuit at the weekend after all three individuals who represented New Zealand last year, when the MXoN was staged in the United States, had been ruled out for 2019 either because of injury or for personal reasons.

But Taupo’s Wyatt Chase (Honda), Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis (Yamaha) and Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh (Husqvarna) stepped into the breach to each make their respective MXoN debuts at this season’s 73rd annual edition of the event.

New Plymouth’s former motocross world champion Shayne King and Rotorua-based former top national-level racer Darryn Henderson shared the managerial duties and it was their experience and assistance, along with the sponsorship support from Penny Homes, Best Build Construction, plus the massive fundraiser undertaken by the Taupo Motorcycle club that supported Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ) to allow the Kiwi campaign to succeed.

Team New Zealand qualified 17th on Saturday and this gave them direct entry to Sunday’s main event.

However, a mechanical issue struck Walsh in race one and then he suffered a crash while running 12th in race two – that resulted in him dislocating his shoulder – and these two incidents ruined what had otherwise been a promising campaign.

Chase was toughness personified as he and the rest of the team kept it quiet that he had seriously injured himself during a training crash on Wednesday, a spill that left him suffering ugly, deep bruising all down his right thigh. He amazed everyone that he was able to battle on despite this.

Enduring intense pain, his 34th and 38th (actually a DNF) results from his two races don’t reflect his ability or his attitude and he deserves to be congratulated.

Meanwhile, the youngest team member, just-turned 19-year-old Purvis took his 250cc bike into battle against riders on 450cc bikes in the Open class and he proved to be something of a revelation, his 27th and 33rd results extremely honourable under the circumstances.

New Zealand ended up 19th overall.

As for the actual event winners, the favoured Dutch celebrated their first MXoN victory, Team Netherlands finishing the weekend well ahead of Team Belgium and then Great Britain, followed by Estonia and then last year’s champion Team France.

“The whole team was all about development. The guys even more than was expected of them and I’m extremely proud of all of them,” said King afterwards.

MMZ general manager Virginia Henderson said she was “absolutely thrilled to see our development team achieve at this level”.

“With Dylan Walsh already in Europe and doing well, he was going to play an incredible part in our team’s performance and he did just that, his performance instrumental in the team qualifying among the top 20,” she said. “A huge thanks must go to the team managers Shayne King and Bevan Weal for their incredible commitment and support to lead our team and to Darryn Henderson for stepping in at the last hour.”

The Motocross of Nations will be staged at Ernee, in France, next year.

Team New Zealand 2019 (from left) co-manager Darryn Henderson, MX2 class rider Dylan Walsh, MXGP class rider Wyatt Chase, Open class rider Maximus Purvis and co-manager Shayne King.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan