Rotorua’s Ethan Harris, the outright winner of the senior race at the opening round of the Dirt Guide series last month. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

There is simply no excuse for not tackling the Dirt Guide Cross-country Series and Rotorua’s Ethan Harris and Taupo’s Wil Yeoman would be the first individuals to tell you that.

These two riders were the day’s main winners at round one of the series near Tokoroa last month, Harris winning the two-hour senior race and Yeoman winning the 90-minute junior race that was held earlier in the day.

It’s the second of three rounds of the popular competition this weekend, set for the same Ohakuri venue, in forestry about halfway between Taupo and Tokoroa, and it is guaranteed be another thriller.

More than 100 riders lined up for the senior race at round one and, just as race organiser Sean Clarke had predicted during the earlier riders’ briefing, someone was going to win that had not really won a big race before and he was right, with Harris borrowing his dad’s bike and taking the win by nearly two minutes from Cambridge rider Ashton Grey.

Grey put up a good fight, fighting through traffic after a bad start to take second overall. Whitianga’s Blake Wilkins snatched third overall, passing Drury rider Richard Sutton within sight of the finish line.

Te Awamutu’s Rachel Archer was also impressive that day – she failed to quickly start her 250 four-stroke bike and, by the time she got going, she was 20 seconds behind the entire field.

Archer rode the wheels off her bike, finishing eighth overall, just behind her father, veterans’ class rider Kevin Archer.

In the juniors it was a great battle for the win between Yeoman and Whangaparoa’s Daniel Refoy, a tussle that went down to the wire with Yeoman taking the win by less than two minutes.

Now into its 10th year and continuing to grow, the secret for the Dirt Guide Series’ success is that it caters for young and old alike and, while it does offer something to tempt the less-experienced novice and junior riders, it is also a challenge for the more serious and highly-competitive senior racers.

The series will have nudged past the halfway stage by late Sunday afternoon and the third and final round of the series is set for July 22, also at Ohakuri.

The final round doubles up as the opening round of the parallel-but-separate NZXC cross-country series, that competition piggy-backing onto select major events throughout the North Island.

The Dirt Guide Series is sponsored by Michelin, Bel Ray, Renthal, O’Neal, DRC, Zeta, Kiwi Rider magazine, Oakley, TCX boots, Yoshimura and Forest Trail Events and SatCo Logging Equipment.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

Ever wanted to ride in a real rally event like DRD contributor and KTM Ambassador Chris ‘Birchy’ Birch, but never had the backing of a manufacturer to get you there? Well, that could all change thanks to KTM!

The Ultimate Race is a special opportunity KTM are offering to participants of the 2018 KTM Adventure Rallye worldwide, to race at the Merzouga Rally in 2019 aboard the brand new KTM 790 Adventure R.

The catch is you not only have to get secure your place at the KTM New Zealand Rallye pronto, but you also need to be one of the top two qualifiers in a special event to be held at the Rallye in order to get the chance to compete in an exclusive class at the Dakar series race in Morocco.

The fully supported ride includes flights, accommodation, entry fees, as well as a KTM 790 Adventure R to race on with a full race service. Competitors will be given a fantastic opportunity to be coached by some of the world’s finest and fastest offroad bikers, and be treated like factory supported riders during the trip in which they will negotiate some of the most epic terrain. The winner of the Ultimate Race will receive an incredible prize, which will be announced shortly.

The Merzouga Rally is a race over five days plus a prolog and includes a marathon stage in the Moroccan desert. Stages are varied, navigation is key and the race enjoys entries from a wide range of abilities from amateur rally riders, to the factory pros. The Ultimate Race will take place over Merzouga’s varied terrain in a route specifically designed with bike and rider in mind, in parallel with the pro class of the Merzouga Rally.

To be in with the chance of winning a place at the Ultimate Race, those entering one of the six KTM Adventure Rallies this year on a twin cylinder machine will be able to sign-up to race a qualifying section during the course of each event.

The top two riders from each of the KTM Adventure Rallies, which this year take place in Italy, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and USA, will be awarded with the Ultimate Race opportunity.

The idea behind the KTM Adventure Rallye is to provide KTM customers and fans with the possibility to embrace the spirit of KTM in an organised tour where riders can enjoy epic dirt roads, powering through unchartered forests and the possibility to conquer extreme riding territory whilst sharing it all with like-minded riders.

We’ve been there and done that, and it was an EPIC time! Watch the full length feature of last year’s KTM NZ Adventure Rallye below to see what you’ve been missing out on.

Courtney Duncan (Altherm JCR Yamaha YZ250F) extended her world championship lead at the weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

It was a Yamaha clean sweep at the latest round of the Women’s Motocross World Championships (WMX) in Italy overnight, but, most significantly for her many Kiwi fans, it is New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan who remains in the top spot for the series.

Otago’s Duncan took her Altherm JCR Yamaha YZ250F bike to twice finish runner-up at this fourth round of six in the world series at Ottobiano, in the Lombardia region of Italy, and she now enjoys a 21-point lead over her two main rivals, fellow Yamaha riders Kiara Fontanesi and Nancy van de Ven.

Dutch rider van de Ven won the Grand Prix, finishing third and then first in the two races, while Italian defending world champion Fontanesi posted a 1-3 score-card to share the weekend’s overall honours.

Duncan had started the weekend with a 15-point lead at the top of the standings, ahead of German rider Larissa Papenmeier, but she has now boosted that considerably, with Fontanesi and van de Ven now sharing second spot in the championship, and this despite Duncan twice being beaten to the chequered flag in Italy.

Papenmeier has slipped back to fourth overall in the championship chase after she twice finished fourth at the weekend.

“Italy was not my best weekend,” said Duncan afterwards.

“In the first moto I made a small mistake on the opening laps, which made me really have to work for it. I made my way back to second right behind the leader. It was frustrating because I felt I let that win slip away but we didn’t give up and limited the points damage, so from that side I’m happy,” she said.

Duncan has a solid buffer now as the championship heads towards the final two event – in The Netherlands on September 16 and then Italy again on September 30 – and that could be vital for the 22-year-old Kiwi who will possibly never enjoy the advantage of racing a WMX event on her home turf.

Maybe this season it will be third time lucky for the young woman from Palmerston.

Duncan finished third overall last year after a contentious jury decision denied her the title when the second race was stopped at the final round in France, while she was leading.

Duncan had also been leading the series during her WMX debut season in 2016, but was forced to the sideline with injury when she crashed into an errant photographer, who had been standing on the race track at the German GP.

Although at that stage the “new kid on the block”, Duncan stamped her authority and won five of the 14 races in 2016, more than any other individual that year, and this was even after her “run-in” with the photographer.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

Brad Groombridge doesn’t mind if you call him “boring”, not if means he’s national champion yet again.

Truth is, his riding style is far from boring, although spectacular is not always the best way to tackle an enduro course and the Suzuki star is certainly an expert at that.

The Alpinestars-sponsored national series came to a thrilling conclusion with racing in the Santoft Forest, near Bulls, on Saturday, followed by the final round on farmland near Martinborough on Sunday and on both days Groombridge was a dominant force.

The 27-year-old Taupo locksmith took a brand new Suzuki RM-Z250 bike to win both days of the back-to-back rounds four and five of the New Zealand Enduro Championships in the lower North Island at the weekend.

And, apart from setting the brake and clutch levers to his preferred angle and applying his personalised graphics, he took the stock-standard bike and absolutely smoked the competition.

He was the series leader in the premier AA Grade (formerly called Expert Grade) after the first three rounds and so it was perhaps little more than a formality that he would continue on and add the 2018 title to the first national enduro title he won in his “first serious attempt” in 2016.

He finished runner-up in the enduro nationals last season, despite crashing out heavily at the series opener that year.

It has been a golden run for the Suzuki man this season – he rode a Suzuki RM-Z250 to claim overall runner-up in the MX2 (250cc) class in the motocross nationals earlier this year, then wrapped up the 2018 national cross-country crown at the final round of that series near Mosgiel last month – making it three successive national cross-country title wins.

He secured the 2018 enduro crown with a round to spare on Saturday, his win at Santoft enough for him to collect the crown early after his nearest challengers, Wellington’s Jake Whitaker and Paeroa’s Chris Power, struck problems in the pine forest.

Whitaker finished the day an unaccustomed seventh overall at Santoft and Power placed ninth overall on Saturday. This gave Groombridge a 26-point championship lead and, with a maximum of only 25 points available for a win at Martinborough, the Taupo man could therefore not be beaten.

Groombridge won the day at Martinborough anyway, stamping his authority on the sport and making history at the same time.

It is believed to be the first time ever that one individual has finished on the podium in three separate motorcycling codes in the same season – motocross, cross-country and enduro.

“I knew I’d wrapped up the title after Saturday’s effort and I didn’t know whether the rules were that I still had to race on Sunday as well,” said Groombridge.

“So I raced Sunday anyway, just to be sure.”

Groombridge won the day on Saturday by 52 seconds from Whanganui’s Seth Reardon and he won the day on Sunday by 18 seconds from Masterton’s Jacob Hyslop.

“There were a few riders missing from the champs this year and so there possibly could have been four or five of us fighting for the title. With them out, it made things a little easier, but I still needed to ride well and to finish each day to get the job done.

“I rode smart and didn’t do anything too extreme.

“I want to race all three codes – the motocross, cross-country and enduro nationals – next year too. That’s the plan anyway, if I’m not away racing overseas. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

In terms of class honours for the enduro nationals, Groombridge won the combined under-200cc two-stroke class and under-300cc four-stroke class; Whitaker won the over-200cc two-stroke class; Power won the over-300cc four-stroke class and Hamilton’s Phil Singleton won the veterans’ (over 40 years’) class.

In the class battles within the A Grade (formerly called intermediate grade), Thames rider Natasha Cairns won the women’s class; Masterton’s Sam Callaghan won the under-300cc and under-200cc two-stroke class; Havelock North’s Tom Hislop won the over-300cc and over-200cc two-stroke class; Putaruru’s Phil Skinner won the Veterans 2 (50-54 years’) class; Auckland’s Jeff Van Hout won the Veterans 3 (over-55 years’) class and Masterton’s George Callaghan won the Veterans 4 (40-49 years’) class.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

Thames rider Natasha Cairns (KTM), a female making history as the leading rider in the A Grade (intermediate competition) this year. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

History was made when the 2018 New Zealand Enduro Championships season wrapped up with double-header rounds four and five in the lower North Island at the weekend.

The Alpinestars-sponsored series came to a thrilling conclusion with racing in the Santoft Forest, near Bulls, on Saturday, followed by the final round on farmland near Martinborough on Sunday.

Taupo’s Brad Groombridge, the series leader in the premier AA Grade (formerly called Expert Grade) after the first three rounds, did just what everyone perhaps expected at the weekend, easily sealing up the title win for 2018.

He won both days of racing and actually nailed overall victory this season with a round to spare, his win at Santoft on Saturday enough for him to collect the crown early after his nearest challengers, Wellington’s Jake Whitaker and Paeroa’s Chris Power, encountered difficulties in the pine forest.

Whitaker finished the day an unaccustomed seventh overall at Santoft and Power placed ninth overall on Saturday. This gave Groombridge a 26-point championship lead and, with a maximum of only 25 points available for a win at Martinborough, the Taupo man could therefore not be beaten.

Groombridge won the day at Martinborough anyway, the 27-year-old completing a glorious season in which he had earlier in the year finished overall runner-up in the MX2 (250cc) class at the motocross nationals and also won the cross-country nationals for a third consecutive season.

It is believed to be the first time ever that one individual has finished on the podium in three separate motorcycling codes in the same season.

Whitaker finished runner-up to Groombridge in the AA Grade, with Power settling for third overall, Taumarunui’s Cody Davey fourth and Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman fifth.

Meanwhile, it was all eyes on Thames rider Natasha Cairns in the A Grade (formerly called intermediate) classification.

She led the A Grade at the start of the day at Santoft and, by finishing runner-up on Saturday and then third in the grade on Sunday, she easily wrapped up that title overall, becoming the first female in New Zealand history to win an enduro title in a grade that is not gender-specific.

She finished the A Grade ahead of Masterton’s Sam Callaghan and Putaruru’s Phil Skinner.

She also won the separate battle-within-the battle for women’s class honours.

In terms of class honours, Groombridge won the combined under-200cc two-stroke class and under-300cc four-stroke class; Whitaker won the over-200cc two-stroke class; Power won the over-300cc four-stroke class and Hamilton’s Phil Singleton won the veterans’ (over 40 years’) class.

In the class battles within the A Grade, Callaghan won the under-300cc and under-200cc two-stroke class; Havelock North’s Tom Hislop won the over-300cc and over-200cc two-stroke class; Skinner won the Veterans 2 (50-54 years’) class; Auckland’s Jeff Van Hout won the Veterans 3 (over-55 years’) class and Masterton’s George Callaghan won the Veterans 4 (40-49 years’) class.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan