Ready to rumble in Copiapó. The Atacama Rally gets underway

The Atacama Rally, third round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, kicks off today with the curtain-raiser – a short prologue stage that will determine the competitors’ starting order for the first full stage. 

After making the first contact with Chilean terrain and overcoming the mandatory administrative and technical checks, Monster Energy Honda Team is hot to trot for the Atacama Rally which gets underway today, at 17:00 hrs (local time in Chile, GMT -4).

The result of the prologue will be decisive in establishing the starting positions for the first full Atacama Rally stage. The top finishers will be able to choose their positions – the fastest rider being the one who gets to choose last – for the starting order of the stage held on Tuesday August 14. The full stage will run from Copiapó-Copiapó, covering 358.87 kilometres, including a total of 266.30 kilometres of timed special.

The Atacama 2018 will be unique, traversing the immensity of the Atacama Desert. Is set to be a magical race, breathtaking and above all challenging, taking riders’ abilities to the limits to conquer the driest desert in the world.

This is a unique opportunity to live the Atacama Desert to the full, with its contrasting geographies and demanding routes, combining dunes, the sandy tracks of Chile’s northern coast, rocky trails and high-speed stretches —an endless succession of new places to discover.

In the Atacama Region, with 5 competitive stages over more than 1,200 km, at the pure heart of the incredible Atacama Desert.

AUGUST 8, 2018: Perhaps there is nothing better than a good rider, a great bike, a huge dollop of determination and some careful coaching by one of New Zealand’s dirt biking elite.


These elements all came together at the weekend to earn Dannevirke teenager Ben Paterson the No.2 spot in his class at the weekend’s Yamaha Taikorea 500, the second round of six in the Moto SR-sponsored NZXC cross-country series.

The 16-year-old, a year 12 pupil at Napier Boys’ High School, recently graduated from the inaugural Paul Whibley Racing (PWR) academy and he arrived at Whibley’s own Taikorea Motorcycle Park, near Himatangi, for Sunday’s race keen to collect his new Yamaha WR250F – purchased through the PWR Yamaha Demo Program – and get straight into the thick of the action on the pristine track.

However, with no time to complete set-up work on the bike, he lined up for the gruelling two-hour senior race with his bike still in road trim – sporting headlight, tail-light, blinkers, number plate mount, side-stand and horn – an odd sight with all the other racers lined up on trimmed-down, race-ready machinery.

It didn’t seem to matter to Paterson, though, who was quick at getting to grips with the brand new, straight-out-of-the-crate bike and equally adept at dealing with the treacherous sand, steep hills and tree roots that lay in his path, eventually settling for a brave 17th overall.

The race was actually won outright by Titirangi rider Callan May (Yamaha YZ250F), another rider who has benefitted recently from Whibley’s coaching.

Significantly though, Paterson had done enough to finish second overall in his intermediate four-stroke class, behind Martinborough’s James Purdie (Yamaha YZ450F).

“I purchased the bike through the PWR academy, but was only able to pick it up on Sunday and didn’t have time to convert it for racing. Also, I had not been racing at all because I didn’t have a bike, so my preparation for this race wasn’t the best,” said Paterson.

“It was nice to ride and I felt good on it straight away.

“It was quite funny in the race actually, because I tooted the bike’s horn as I launched off jumps at Taikorea … just something to bring a smile to the face of spectators,” he laughed.

“This bike is almost exactly the same as a YZ250F, except it comes with blinkers and such on it, so I knew I could do well on it.

“I’ve been racing for about five years now and getting faster all the time, but my stint in the PWR academy has made the biggest difference for me. It was six months of hard work, quite brutal really, but it’s made me a much better rider.”

Former Kiwi international Paul Whibley had groomed the track to perfection and he was trackside on Sunday, observing the form of Paterson, among others, as he considered fresh coaching points for future PWR academy sessions.

The popular NZXC Series, now in its fourth season, was the brainchild of Whibley, who created the competition to “better prepare New Zealand riders for racing in major cross-country events overseas”, and it seems to be working with several Kiwi riders now making waves in the United States and Europe.

The 40-year-old former Manawatu forestry worker, affectionately dubbed “The Axeman” on the motorcycling scene, was a two-time outright winner of the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) in the United States (in 2009 and 2012) and a record six-time winner of the parallel Off-Road Motorcycle and ATV (OMA) series there as well.

He was also New Zealand cross-country champion in 2015 and now dedicates much of his time coaching and advising aspiring champions, as well as running the NZXC Series.

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


Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan


Action from the 2017 Monster Energy AUSX Open. Photo by
Daniel Kalisz Photographer

The world’s best Supercross and Freestyle Motocross riders are heading to our shores to compete in a high-octane, action-packed event at Mt Smart Stadium in November – the Monster Energy S-X Open.

The first event of its kind for New Zealand, the Monster Energy S-X Open Auckland kicks off on November 24, showcasing the greatest international talent on two wheels in an official FIM recognised competition.

Created by the founders of the popular AUS-X Open event in Sydney, S-X Open Auckland will bring motorsport fans more extreme action than ever seen in the city before, including home-grown talent.

The event also forms the second and final round of the new Monster Energy S-X Open Supercross FIM Oceania Championship, meaning Auckland will play host to the grand final of a new championship series which promises to be the largest off-road motorcycling series outside of the USA.


SUPERCROSS is coming to NEW ZEALAND! We are proud to announce that the S-X OPEN is coming to Auckland!Like the AUS-X OPEN Sydney in Australia, the world’s greatest Supercross stars are set to race at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium on November 24!SIGN UP NOW FOR PRE-SALE! #NewZealand #November24 #Auckland #MtSmartStadium #Supercross

Posted by S-X Open Supercross on Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Organisers will announce the line-up in coming days, and event co-founder and director Adam Bailey is calling all sports and adrenaline fans to come and be a part of motorsport history in November.

“This will be the biggest action sports event to ever hit Auckland and we’re incredibly excited to be bringing our show across the ditch,” says Adam Bailey.

“We know how much Kiwis love their motorsport and there’s no more extreme version of motorsport than Supercross in a world-class stadium with the world’s best riders laying it all on the line. New Zealand has some amazing riders and this will be their very best opportunity to show the world what they can do against the best from Australia and the USA.”

S-X Open Auckland will feature pyrotechnics, live music and first-class concert-like entertainment values at the Mt Smart Stadium. There will be a pit paddock area accessible on the outside of the stadium for all motorsport fans to get up close and personal with their favourite teams and riders. It promises to be an amazing spectacle for all ages to enjoy.

“We’re well underway with plans to not only secure an incredible line-up of riders but have a whole host of announcements that will excite fans. There’s nowhere you’d rather be than in Auckland on November 24!” says Adam Bailey.

Adam Bailey and his team will soon announce the athlete line-up, the racing schedule and more details.

For more information about the event and to sign-up for pre-sales, see

Jake Whitaker (KTM 300XC) is a force to be reckoned with on the cross-country racing scene. Photo by Andy McGechan


Wainuiomata motorcyclist Jake Whitaker is used to combating and overcoming the most treacherous of terrain.

And now, competing in an entirely different motorbike code, he’s doing the same thing, but this time at eye-watering speeds.

The record eight-time New Zealand moto trials champion has long ruled the roost in the battle of balance and fine throttle control that epitomises trials bike riding – where bike control over daunting obstacles is more of a factor than outright speed – but he switched his sporting focus to cross-country and enduro racing a few seasons ago and now it seems he’s mastering that too.

The 27-year-old furniture polisher took his KTM 300XC bike to finish a close runner-up in the first of six rounds in the NZXC cross-country series near Tokoroa last month, chasing former Kiwi international Callan May to the chequered flag.

Round two of that series was held at the Taikorea Motorcycle Park, on the outskirts of Palmerston North, on Sunday and again Whitaker was challenging for the win, although forced in the end to settle for third overall in the two-hour race, behind May and Masterton’s Adam Easton.

However, those two results have earned Whitaker the outright lead in the battle-within-a-battle for class honours, Whitaker so far unbeaten in the XC1 class (for riders on over-250cc two-stroke bikes or over-300cc four-stroke bikes).

“This is the best I’ve done at cross-country racing,” said Whitaker. “Speed events like this have never been my strength, but I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable with it.

“I’m so happy to be up the front and, at Tokoroa, I was actually leading the race for a long time too.

“The bike is awesome to ride, so light and nimble. Taikorea was a fast track and very rough too, completely different to what I excel at (trials riding or extreme enduro events) and I guess I just need to race more of these types of events.

“I’m getting quicker all the time and this was the best result I’ve ever achieved at Taikorea. My hands were pretty messed up at the end … lots of blisters … but I was able to finish and that’s the main thing.”

Now at the two-thirds stage of this competition, Whitaker finds himself in second position overall in the NZXC Series standings, just a handful of points behind May, and he’s looking forward to applying more heat on his main rival over the coming months.

The NZXC Series continues at Muriwai on September 2; hits Matata on October 13; then heads to the Woodhill Forest, on November 10, before it finally wraps up at Waimiha, in the King Country, on December 8.


Words and photo by Andy McGechan