Auckland’s Tom Buxton made it look far easier than it should have been as he dominated the third and final round of the popular New Zealand Grand National Cross-country Championships in the King Country at the weekend. The 20-year-old from Helensville took his 2019-model KTM 350 EXC bike to win the two-hour race at Waimiha on Saturday by nearly four minutes from Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury and Titirangi’s Callan May. Buxton had finished third overall at the series opener at Matata in October, but won round two in the Riverhead Forest, west of Auckland, last month, and then his impressive follow-up win at Waimiha on Saturday confirmed his dominance and ensured that the series’ main trophy would go his way.

“I didn’t get the best jump off the start line … I got pushed around a bit at the start,” said Buxton, who works as a bull farmer. “The first corner funneled the riders in tight and I got blocked out, but it caused a few problems for lots of other riders too. I quickly made a few passes and was past about six riders within a few hundred metres and I was up to sixth position after about 300 metres. I put the hammer down and, as everyone in front of me made mistakes and slowed or crashed, I managed to work through and take the lead about 10 minutes into the race. I settled into a good pace and took it a little bit easy because it was very slippery under the bike’s wheels. After the first lap I knew where the track was taking us and that was it really. It’s mission accomplished for the GNCC series and now I can look ahead to tackling the 2019 New Zealand Enduro Championships. I have no plans yet to contest the New Zealand cross-country Championships … I don’t much like farmland racing and prefer the challenge of racing in forestry… so the enduro nationals will be my main focus in the New Year.”

May finished runner-up in the GNCC Series overall, with Yearbury, Drury’s Richard Sutton and Rotorua’s Ethan Harris rounding out the top five riders in the senior grade for this series. Taupo’s Wil Yeoman won the junior grade in the GNCC Series, with Tirau’s Alex Butler and Morrinsville’s Liam Calley completing the series podium. Buxton had been racing overseas for most of this season and not able to race much at home, making this series victory a fantastic way to herald his arrival back on the domestic scene. He had led the New Zealand Enduro Championships after winning the opening two rounds of that six-round series in April, but then decided to follow his dream and head to the renowned annual Romaniacs hard enduro event in Romania, abandoning the domestic racing scene at home.

“I was working as a track manager at the Romaniacs event, so I wasn’t racing there, but it was a great way to gain insight about the event. I hope one day to race the Romaniacs, but it is pretty brutal and I’m really in no rush to do it. I’m young. I’ve got time on my side.”

The KTM star will no doubt be among the favourites to win when the 2019 enduro nationals kick off early next year.

 

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan

 

Yamalube Yamaha Rally team riders are all set to take on the 2019 Dakar aboard the newest edition of the WR450F Rally works machine. With this 41st edition of the prestigious event contested exclusively in Peru, Yamaha will be strongly represented by Adrien Van Beveren, Xavier de Soultrait, and Rodney Faggotter. Franco Caimi’s participation will be decided prior to the event’s start in Peru. Working hard during the last few months to be ready for the biggest event in the annual rally racing calendar, the Yamalube Yamaha Rally team members are all looking forward to the 2019 Dakar. Remaining under the guidance of team director Alexandre Kowalski, team manager José Leloir and sport manager Jordi Arcarons, all riders are looking to make the most of their experience as they battle against the world’s elite rally racers in what is expected to be an anything but easy event.

Spearheading the team’s efforts for yet another year is Adrien Van Beveren. One of the revelations of the 2018 Dakar Rally, Adrien is eager to impress by fighting for the overall victory next January. At the top of his game following months of hard work, the French rider is now ready to do battle in the dunes of Peru. “I couldn’t be any happier with how things have worked out the last few months. I had some good weeks of training on and off the bike and I feel I’ve made a big step going into the Dakar. Physically I feel even stronger than last year and I just want to work on some minor details before heading to Peru. Race organisers announced there’ll be more than 90% of dune stages. I love racing in sand so I feel really comfortable going into this rally. With the race being shorter and more intense than in the past, I believe the level of competition will be quite high. These conditions really suit my style of racing and I really can’t wait to take the start of the race in Lima.”

Putting in many thousands of racing and training kilometres aboard his WR450F Rally machine in 2018, Xavier de Soultrait is set to enter the fifth Dakar Rally of his career this coming January. Working hard to further improve his navigational skills, the Frenchman has his eyes set on climbing onto the podium in Lima. “If the race started tomorrow, I’m happy to say I’d be 100% ready for it. These last few months I’ve been working hard, riding my rally bike in the sand in France and elsewhere. Physically I feel strong and I’ve also worked a lot on navigation. Last year I had a very good first week in the dunes of Peru. We’ve done a couple of races there now so I am feeling comfortable with the terrain and the conditions in the area. The next Dakar will be shorter and I like this new format. We’ve made some small changes to the gearing and the suspension and our bike now is perfect for the conditions we expect to have. I’ve studied the stages a lot and made my plans for each one of them. If it all goes well I believe I have a good chance to be among the frontrunners and battle for a good overall result in Peru.”

Playing a crucial role for the Yamalube Yamaha Rally team during the last two Dakar Rallies, Rodney Faggotter remains with the squad going into the 2019 edition of the event. Enjoying an extremely consistent run that saw him finish 16th overall at the 2018 Dakar Rally, the Aussie will look to improve on this result in January 2019. “I’m looking forward to the 2019 Dakar. I’ve been racing some Bajas and training hard back home in Australia these last few months. I feel strong physically and also mentally. In the beginning of December we’ve spent a full week testing and training with the team in Morocco and that was a good morale booster for me. We have a great spirit within the team and I want to be there for my teammates if they need me. I want to have a good clean run and do my own race. This Dakar might seem shorter, but we all know it’s still going to be a long and demanding race. If it all goes well, I’m confident I can improve my overall result from last year and fight for a spot inside the top-10.”

With the team 100% ready to have Franco Caimi enter the 2019 Dakar Rally, his participation will be decided just before the start of the race. Doing everything possible to return to full fitness following his injury during the Morocco Rally, the rider from Argentina is expecting to undergo his last medical checks just a few days before the start of the event. “I’ve been working really hard to get back to fitness and I’m getting stronger and stronger every day. Ever since I came back home to Argentina after my injury in Morocco, I’ve been closely following the plan that my doctors together with my trainers have set for me. I’ve been working every day either in the swimming pool or on my bicycle and I will jump on my rally bike as soon as the doctors allow me to do so. I am doing the best I can at the moment and I am positive I will be allowed to race the Dakar in January. A few days before the start in Lima, I’ll have to pass the medical exams from ASO and then I’ll know whether or not I can race. For the past few weeks I’m making good progress and I am positive I will be able to make it happen.”

Further strengthening Yamaha’s presence at the 2019 Dakar will be Camelia Liparoti. Teaming up with Rosa Romero Font as her co-driver, the two highly-experienced racers will compete in Yamaha’s YXZ1000R side-by-side machine at the coming edition of the event in Peru. Taking place in the southern part of Peru, the 2019 Dakar Rally features a total of 10 demanding stages. The race kicks off on January 7 in Lima, with competitors returning to the Peruvian city for the big finish on January 17 and after an exhaustive 5,000km in the dunes of the South American country.

Race Schedule – Dakar Rally 2019
Stage 1 | Jan 7 | Lima to Pisco | SS: 84km | Total: 331km
Stage 2 | Jan 8 | Pisco to San Juan de Marcona | SS: 342km | Total: 554km
Stage 3 | Jan 9 | San Juan de Marcona to Arequipa | SS: 331km | Total: 779km
Stage 4 | Jan 10 | Arequipa to Moquegua | SS: 352km | Total: 511km
Stage 5 | Jan 11 | Moquegua to Arequipa | SS: 345km | Total: 776km
Rest Day | Jan 12 | Arequipa
Stage 6 | Jan 13 | Arequipa to San Juan de Marcona | SS: 317km | Total: 839km
Stage 7 | Jan 14 | San Juan de Marcona to San Juan de Marcona | SS: 323km | Total: 387km
Stage 8 | Jan 15 | San Juan de Marcona to Pisco | SS: 361km | Total: 576km
Stage 9 | Jan 16 | Pisco to Pisco | SS: 313km | Total: 410km
Stage 10 | Jan 17 | Pisco to Lima | SS: 112km | Total: 358km

 

Taikorea’s Paul Whibley may currently be injured and out of action, but his Yamaha NZXC Series will carry on regardless, the final round set for the King Country this Saturday.

The 40-year-old former NZXC Series winner, former New Zealand cross-country champion and a former two-time outright winner of the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) in the United States (in 2009 and 2012), Whibley has nothing left to prove on the race track, but that doesn’t mean he has been sitting idle.

The Manawatu man created the Yamaha NZXC Series four years ago, in June 2015, intended as “a competition to better-prepare rising Kiwi stars for a life of international race action” and his series is now regarded as one of the best off-road series in New Zealand.

“My intention was not to simply add more events to the calendar, but to use some events that were already there and combine them into something different,” said Whibley, “I’ve chosen the best of the bunch, piggy-backed onto them and called it the Yamaha NZXC series.”

Which explains why Saturday’s event at Waimiha doubles also as the final round of the parallel-but-separate New Zealand GNCC Series.

“I was looking at what younger guys need for when they venture overseas and some of the events in New Zealand were not really preparing them for what they’ll face,” said Whibley, “Racing over farmland is not really the same thing as riders will hit when they get to America or Europe. Forestry courses more accurately reflect what they will strike,”

This Saturday’s sixth and final round of the 2018 edition of the Yamaha NZXC Series is scheduled for the Pureora Forest, near Waimiha and Benneydale, a venue that should test even the most skilled and resilient of riders. Yamaha ace Callan May leads the series after the five rounds thus far, the electrician from Titirangi in impressive form and a massive 36 points ahead of Whanganui’s Seth Reardon (Yamaha YZ250FX) at the top of the Yamaha NZXC standings. The 26-year-old May took his Yamaha YZ250FX to win the first two rounds of the series, but he was then forced to settle for runner-up finishes, both times behind friend and rival Sam Greenslade at the two rounds that followed, at Woodhill Forest and Matata, in September and October respectively.

May was again runner-up at round five in November, this time behind Helensville’s Tom Buxton, but even that second-place performance could be classed as remarkable, with May having to charge through the entire field after a poor start, the race set in a damp a treacherous Riverhead Forest, west of Auckland.

Is will be that same style of strength and tenacity that should enable May to clinch the series’ main trophy this Saturday afternoon. The venue for this weekend’s finale is 741 Ongarue Stream Rd, Waimiha, with the 90-minute combined junior and mini bike race set to blast off at 9.30am, followed by the two-hour senior race at 12 noon.

The junior and mini track is six kilometres long, while the seniors are expected to conquer a 20-kilometre track.

Taupo’s Wil Yeoman (Yamaha YZ125) leads the junior grade by 29 points over Tirau’s Alex Butler after five of six rounds and so he too is well on target to win the junior trophy outright.

Whibley and the Yamaha NZXC Series are supported by Yamaha Motor New Zealand, PWR Yamaha, Arai, TCX, Oakley, G2, Asterisk, MotoSR, Vortex Ignitions, EC3D, Bush Riders MCC, Rosscos Start Up Services, Dirt Guide, Tire Balls, Renthal, BikesportNZ.com, CarbSport, FMF, Michelin, Yamalube CV4 GYTR, IMS, ONeal, Rekluse, Workshop Graphics and Motomuck.

 

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

 

A handful of unbeaten performances lit up the night sky at a damp round one of the New Zealand Supercross Championships at Tokoroa on Saturday. Four of the five championship classes were dominated by just one rider at the South Waikato Motorcycle Club’s circuit at Amisfield on Saturday night, although, in each case, results were never really certain until the final laps, with thrilling cut-and-thrust racing a feature of the night.

Oropi’s Ben Townley (SX1, open class), Mount Maunganui’s Josiah Natzke (SX2, 250cc), Ohaupo’s Carlin Hedley (SX Lites, 125cc) and Rangiora’s Korban Paget (Junior 250) each recorded a hat-trick of wins in their respective classes, perhaps setting the tone for how the championships might wrap up at the second and final round at Winton, near Invercargill, in two weeks’ time.

In the remaining championship class, the Junior Lites, it had looked like Hamilton’s Nicholas Westgate would take charge after he won the first two of three races on the night, but then visiting Czech Republic rider Julius Mikula won the final race, while Westgate managed only seventh, causing something of a boil-over.

Westgate’s brother, Dylan Westgate, finished with a 2-3-2 score-card on the night and this was enough for him to end up level on points at the top, only losing out to his sibling rival on a count-back, while a 3-2-4 score-card from Rongotea’s Rhys Jillings earned him the third podium spot, just ahead of Mikula.

Townley, who was National SX1 champion in 2016 but a non-starter last season, battled early on with fast-starting Taupo rider Cohen Chase, but once in front, Townley was never threatened. Nelson’s Reece Walker earned the third spot on the night’s SX1 podium with a solid 3-2-3 score-card.

For the senior SX2 class riders, the Tokoroa event was actually round two of the Nationals after the inaugural S-X Open Auckland, the international event that was held at Mt Smart Stadium the previous weekend, registering as round one for them. Natzke’s three wins from three starts at Tokoroa then pushed his advantage out from three points to 15 over Martens, who managed 3-3-2 at Tokoroa, while Mangakino’s Maximus Purvis captured the third podium position with a 4-2-3 score-card on Saturday night.

Motorcycling New Zealand supercross co-ordinator Noel May was thrilled with the rider turn-out at Tokoroa.

“It was pretty awesome,” he said. “About 18 months ago we had a meeting in Taupo and came up with a strategic plan to build a pathway for the riders, rebuilding the juniors, so that they feed into the seniors in the future and what we saw here at Tokoroa absolutely kick-started that. Entry numbers were up 40 percent on last year and we had more support classes here too. I want to tip my hat to the Junior Lites and Junior 250s too for turning out in force, and then having a dozen riders entered in SX2 and 10 in SX1 was great too. The junior 250s will kick on up into the SX2 class really soon, so that’s positive news going forward.”

The riders now head to the South Island for the final round of the series, to be hosted by the Southland Motorcycle Club at its Winton facility on December 15.

The Tokoroa event was supported by Craig Stevens Yamaha and the Winton event will be supported by Brent Scammell Honda.

 

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

 

The big annual New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville will again enjoy elevated status in 2019.

Already considered the biggest and most prestigious motocross event on the Kiwi race calendar, the Woodville GP was recognised as an FIM Oceania event for the first time last season, in January this year, and the success of that means it will again host the FIM Oceania Trans Tasman Challenge at next year’s 58th annual running on January 26 and 27. The spectacular two-day event at Woodville has always attracted huge interest from overseas, but the 2019 Honda-sponsored New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville, in just eight weeks’ time, is again enhanced as a true international competition.

The FIM Oceania Challenge includes competition for both junior and senior riders, with many of Australia’s finest expected to arrive and all of them determined to hammer their Kiwi counterparts. Participating riders from Australia and New Zealand have yet to be confirmed, but there is no shortage of willing candidates keen to lock horns in this inspired trans-Tasman showdown. The Australian will no doubt be seeking revenge after losing out to the New Zealand riders last season.

New Zealand’s chances of winning the FIM Oceania Challenge looked doubtful after the first day of racing at the 2018 edition of the Woodville GP, but a huge fight-back on day two turned it all around. The Australian contingent had the early advantage – leading by 410 points to 368 – after the junior phase of racing on the Saturday, but the senior Kiwis came on strong the following day and rescued the situation. New Zealand eventually won the 2018 FIM Oceania Challenge by 886 points to 829, with Auckland rider Hamish Harwood the main Kiwi aggressor.

It was certainly a talent-packed Australian contingent that arrived at Woodville in January this year – Kirk Gibbs, Jay Wilson, Cooper Pozniak, Mason Semmens, Bailey Malkiewicz, Tyler Darby, Jay Conforto and Australian national women’s champion Maddie Brown among them – and a similarly-potent Australian assault can be expected in 2019.

The Manawatu Orion Motorcycle Club (MOMCC) has hosted the Woodville GP every year since its inception in 1961 and is proud to again be chosen to stage this FIM Oceania competition.

MOMCC president Brett Wistrand said he wanted to thank FIM Oceania for giving the Manawatu Orion Motorcycle Club this opportunity again.

“We want to give the crowd great entertainment, something they can really get behind and there really is nothing better than the sporting rivalry that exists between Australia and New Zealand,” he said.

Racing over the two days at Woodville caters for minis, juniors, women and veteran racers, with the novelty river race on Sunday also a major crowd-pleaser.

 

Credit: Words and photos by Andy McGechan