Would you call it a whitewash or perhaps an orange squash?

Riders of the distinctive orange KTM bike brand clean swept all three grades at round one of the New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series in a damp Taungatara Forest near Whangamata on Saturday.

Bronze, silver and gold level courses were offered, designed to cater for all the various skill levels, and Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker (KTM 350EXC-F) led a KTM 1-2-3 in the premier Gold Grade on Saturday, finishing the day ahead of New Plymouth’s Tony Parker (KTM 300EXC) and Helensville’s Tom Buxton (KTM 300EXC).

Interestingly, Kiwi international Chris Birch (KTM 250EXC) actually won the day outright, finishing nearly six minutes ahead of Whitaker but the Thames man was classified as a non-championship rider because he will not contest the entire four-round series and was also not licensed for the Nationals.

The top 12 finishers in the Silver Grade all rode KTM bikes, with veteran Huntly rider Warren Tapp (KTM 300EXC) the stand-out competitor there, while Thames woman Natasha Cairns (KTM 250EXC) led the way in the Bronze Grade at the gruelling event on Saturday.

“Yes, Chris Birch won the day as a non-championship rider,” confirmed Whitaker, a record eight-time former National Moto Trials Champion who converted to enduro competitions just a few years ago. “Chris had a good lead over me on lap one, although I managed to pull him back a bit on lap two. It was pretty challenging and I struggled a bit with the creek bed sections. I didn’t really have the bike set up properly for the long river sections,” said the 28-year-old father-of-one. “The extreme terrain kind of suits me though and my trials riding experience helps a lot when the going gets tough like this. I think I have an advantage over many of the other riders when trials skills are needed.”

Rounds will now follow at Moonshine, off Bulls Run Road, near Porirua in just two weeks’ time, on September 22, before a two-dayer in Hawke’s Bay (at Taradale on day one and at Tutira on day two) on November 2-3.

Just as it did for last year’s inaugural New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series, the competition will again wrap up with another double-header weekend, at the Nut Buster hard enduro at Oxford, near Christchurch, on November 15-16.

Only three of the four rounds of the NZ Extreme Off-Road Championship are to be counted, with riders discarding their one worst score from the three North Island rounds, while double points are offered for the Nut Buster final round in the South Island.

 

The 2019 NZ Extreme Off-Road Championship calendar:

Round one: September 7, Taungatara Forest, Whangamata.
Round two: September 22, Moonshine Extreme, Bulls Run Rd, Porirua.
Round three: November 2-3, Over The Top, Hawke’s Bay.
Round four: November 15-16, Nut Buster, Oxford, Christchurch.

Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker (KTM), leading the way in the Gold Grade after the opening round of the NZ Extreme Off-Road Championships at the weekend.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

 

The Kiwi girl was already assured of the individual World title after her victory in the weekend’s first moto at Afyonkarahisar in Turkey but everyone in the compact English team was determined to end the series on a high with yet another moto and overall GP win. And they did it in style, the lone Kawasaki girl grabbing the holeshot to race clear of the chasers at several seconds a lap, celebrating victory by an overwhelming twenty-nine seconds with a classical whip. Courtney completed the individual championship thirty-six points ahead of her closest rival and Kawasaki take the Manufacturers’ title by twenty points. It was their fourth consecutive two-moto-win maximum GP score and the third-in-a-row, an unbeaten run of success, for the incomparable 2020 KX250 which Kawasaki and the DRT crew introduced mid-summer.

Courtney Duncan: “It was so cool to clinch the title and take away the pressure. I had nothing to lose so I just put down the hammer; I had a good flow, could have fun, throw some whips and embrace the moment. What a way to end the series! Nine motos out of ten and four GPs out of five! The whole year has been so amazing. I was in a dark spot last year, in a rut mentally and physically, but Steve took a chance on me and I really gelled with the team and the bike from day one. We committed and we succeeded! I’m having as much fun this year as I did when I started riding way back at seven years of age; that’s so important and it’s what brings results. We switched to the 2020 at Loket in July and the results speak for themselves with six wins from six starts; it’s such a nice bike. I’m just so grateful to my family for all they did to make this possible for me and it’s great to have them here this weekend to share this moment. My thanks too to Kawasaki, DRT, Monster Energy and everybody who has supported me all year.”

The championship double was not only a stunning success for Kawasaki – the fifth title in the history of FIM WMX racing – and for the New Zealander but also for Steve Dixon. The DRT team owner has played a pivotal role in world motocross for more than a quarter of a century with innumerable GP victories, podiums and medals but the 2019 success is his first World title.

Steve Dixon: “The whole season was fantastic. We didn’t run a rider in the WMX for ten years but I heard Courtney was looking for a change; I put it to Steve Guttridge at Kawasaki Motors Europe, he was OK on the idea, so we took it from there. My first job was to work out what had happened to Courtney in the past and put it right. She was so relaxed this year and really gelled with the KX250 from day one. We got the 2020 model with even better performance mid-summer and Courtney really liked it. I think the results speak for themselves because this is a standard bike with an after-market pipe you can buy in the shops and she’s won every race. Courtney has signed for another two years so we can go on from here to even more success. I have had a lot of seconds and thirds in the world, even a Nations victory, in the past and now in my thirtieth year we’ve achieved a World title at last.”

Steve Guttridge (Kawasaki Motors Europe Racing Manager): “We are delighted that together the Dixon Racing team and Courtney have delivered this World title for Kawasaki. The level of racing in the WMX class gets higher every season but with Courtney’s confidence in the KX250 she could display a dominance this season which was a pleasure to watch. We are already looking forward to the challenge of defending the title together in 2020.”

Words and Photos: Kawasaki Europe

When the going gets tough, the tough get going… probably straight to the top of the podium in the NZ Extreme Off-Road Championship series.

This year’s second annual edition of the  four-round Yamaha-sponsored hard enduro competition kicks off in the Taungatara Forest, not far from Whangamata, this Saturday (September 7), with rounds to follow at Moonshine, off Bulls Run Road, near Porirua on September 22 and a two-dayer in Hawke’s Bay (at Taradale on day one and at Tutira on day two) on November 2-3.

Just as it did for last year’s inaugural series, the competition will again wrap up with another double-header weekend, at the Nut Buster hard enduro at Oxford, near Christchurch, on November 15-16.

Only the bold, brave and superbly talented should expect to win an event as tough as this, but that should not deter any accomplished dirt bike rider from giving it a crack.

Only three of the four rounds of the NZ Extreme Off-road Championship are to be counted, with riders discarding their one worst score from the three North Island rounds, while double points are offered for the Nut Buster final round in the South Island.

Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury won the inaugural the NZ Extreme Off-Road Championship series last season and he will certainly be one rider to look out for, his credentials undeniable, but so too is the curriculum vitae presented by record eight-time former national moto trials champion-turned-enduro rider Jake Whitaker, of Wainuiomata, and just-crowned national enduro champion Seth Reardon, of Whanganui.

Cambridge rider Dylan Yearbury (Husqvarna), winner of the NZ Extreme Off-Road Championship last season and expected to be a title threat again this time around.

Other leading riders such as Canterbury brothers Angus and Hamish Macdonald, Tokoroa’s Sean Clarke, Thames rider Chris Birch, Titirangi’s Callan May, Hamilton’s Phil Singleton, Helensville’s Tom Buxton, Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman, Oamaru’s Bradley Simpson and Napier’s Mackenzie Wiig, to name a few, could also be expected to threaten for the main trophy this year.

“The aim of the Extreme Off-Road Championship is to provide events that will be designed using the available terrain to be extremely challenging for the riders and an ultimate test of the riders’ ability and skills,” said Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson.

He said the events would be “a little tougher than a normal national enduro, but not impossible. Most riders know what they’re up for and Kiwi riders seem to crave the extra challenge. The skill levels of riders are increasing these days, which is a good thing, and I think that’s a worldwide trend. The events are getting tougher and tougher and the riders are getting better and better.”

He said there would be bronze, silver and gold level courses set for the riders, to cater for all the various skill levels.

The 2019 Yamaha NZ Extreme Off-Road Championships are supported by Mitas tyres, Macaulay Metals, Best Build Construction, Silver-bullet, Kiwi Rider magazine, Dirt Rider Downunder magazine, Moto Events NZ and NZ Car Parts (Auckland).

The 2019 NZ Extreme Off-Road Championship calendar:

Round one: September 7, Taungatara Forest, Whangamata.
Round two: September 22, Moonshine Extreme, Bulls Run Rd, Porirua.
Round three: November 2-3, Over The Top, Hawke’s Bay.
Round four: November 15-16, Nut Buster, Oxford, Christchurch.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

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.”