Australian rider, Toby Price, has secured the 2018 FIM Cross Country Rally Championship at the Rally du Maroc in Morocco.

Winning two of the five stages of the Moroccan rally, as well as the short, opening Prologue, Price secured the overall win ahead of his teammate Mathias Walkner with a comfortable margin of over seven minutes. With his nearest title rival, Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla finishing in fourth place overall, Price leapfrogged the Chilean rider in the standings to claim the championship by a six-point margin.

Toby Price’s journey to the 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship title has not been an easy one. A crash at the 2017 Dakar Rally forced him to retire early from the event with Price subsequently spending much of the year recovering from the broken femur he sustained. Returning to competition at the 2018 Dakar in January, Price impressed with his outright speed, ultimately taking two stage wins and finishing in third position overall behind teammate Walkner and Honda’s Kevin Benavides.

But it was riding with consistency throughout the 2018 season which paid off long-term for Price. Multiple stage wins as well as podiums at the Atacama Rally and Desafio Ruta 40, added to his win in Morocco, and resulted in the 31-year-old becoming a worthy 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion.

© RallyZone – Edoardo Bauer

“What an amazing season – I can’t believe it, Price commented. “It’s been a tough one and I didn’t expect to be at the top of the list at the end of it. I had some bad luck back in Abu Dhabi at the beginning of the year, but after that every rally has gone well and I’ve finished on the podium at every round. To win the world championship with a win here in Morocco makes it all that little bit sweeter. If I am honest, I was nervous out there on the final stage today, there are no guarantees in rally racing, especially when I had to lead the stage out. This is my first world championship in any category so I am so, so happy. It’s all credit to my team and everyone at Red Bull KTM, without them behind me I wouldn’t be standing on the top step. I’m standing on the top of the world and it’s the best feeling ever.”

“Winning the rally world championship is a great result for Toby and KTM, says KTM Rally boss, Jordi Viladoms. Last year was really tough with the injury to his leg. He wasn’t even fully fit when he arrived at the Dakar at the beginning of this year but he did an amazing job and took third position. This was already a great success considering what he had been through. As the 2018 season has progressed, Toby has shown more speed, more confidence and all his hard work has paid off by dominating this race and winning the championship here in Morocco. We are really happy for him and he deserves this title. We still have some time to improve even further and hope to arrive at Dakar even stronger.”

Wrapping up the Rally du Maroc in second place overall Matthias Walkner, although disappointed not to have taken the win, was pleased with his riding and the performance of his KTM 450 RALLY.

“It was a tough day today – very fast, rough and the sort of stage that you could easily make a big mistake, he said. I had a comfortable gap to the rider in third so I was able to take things a little steadier and aim for a safe finish. Overall, I am happy with my performance here in Morocco and thrilled to take third in the championship.”

Following an issue earlier in the rally where a heavy impact with a large rock damaged his rear tyre and mousse and resulted in lost time, it would always be a challenge for Sam Sunderland to bridge the gap to the front-runners. Despite the setback, the British rider posted some excellent stage results, enough to regain a position inside the top-10 at the climax of the event.

“I am really happy with my rally here in Morocco, the British rider commented – the team have all done a great job. I had some bad luck earlier on but overall I am pleased with how things have gone as my riding and navigation were strong throughout the rally.”

Team junior Luciano Benavides rode a solid Rally du Maroc and continues to gain valuable experience onboard his KTM 450 RALLY machine. The young Argentinian now looks forward to his next ride at the Dakar in three months’ time.

The FIM World XC Rally Championship returns next year with the 2019 Dakar Rally in Peru, starting January 6, 2019.

Final Standings – 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship

1. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 91 points
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 85pts
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 75pts
4. Paulo Goncalves (POR), Honda, 70pts
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 56pts

Invercargill’s Tynan Morrow (No.46) leads Featherston’s Jesse Shaw (No.66) and Whanganui’s Isaac Ashworth (No.208) in a charge towards the first corner in this 6-8 years’ 50cc class race at Moonshine on Sunday. Photo by Andy McGechan

There were plenty of fresh faces on the various podiums at the 2018 New Zealand Mini Motocross Championships near Porirua at the weekend.

The more than 160 riders who had entered this year’s TSS Red Baron Motorcycles and Friday Homes-sponsored mini nationals were greeted by an immaculately-prepared track at Moonshine, about halfway between Lower Hutt and Porirua, and the weather played its part too, with forecast Sunday afternoon showers staying away.

This helped to produce some of the closest and most exciting mini racing in years, with new champions being crowned in seven of the eight separate categories.

The only repeat title winner was Cambridge’s William Pluck, who successfully defended his 7-11 years’ small trail bike class.

Top rider for the weekend was Featherston’s Teddy Shaw, who won the premier 9-11 years’ 65cc class after a weekend-long battle with Richmond’s Wills Harvey, although several other riders also featured with race wins to their credit, including Waipukurau’s Jordan Coles, Taradale’s Boston Scott and Pahiatua’s Maz Parkes.

Harvey was just five points adrift of Shaw at the start of the weekend’s final 9-11 years’ race, but Shaw managed to stay ahead of Harvey throughout the seven-lap affair and the title was therefore settled in Shaw’s favour.

Third overall in this class was Coles, who finished 24 points behind Harvey.

“I just knew I needed to win or at least finish ahead of Wills Harvey in that last race,” said Shaw, a year seven pupil at Martinborough School.

Meanwhile, Pirongia’s Jacob Beattie won the 7-8 years’ 65cc class in what was another series of cut-and-thrust battles, with Temuka’s Hudson Swete quickly emerging as his main rival.

The close racing in this class also featured impressive performances from New Plymouth’s Travis Taylor, Tauranga’s Arama Te Whetu and Ashhurst’s Korbin McConchie, among others.

Swete finished the championship just eight points behind Beattie, with Taylor clinching the third podium spot, 13 points further back.

The president of the host Kapi Mana Motorcycle Club, Shane Doherty, said he was “blown away by how it all came together”.

“It was, I believe, the largest number of entries for a mini nationals in more than 10 years. The kids and the parents loved the track and we even gave it a few tweaks through the weekend to create fresh opportunities for passing, pushing the bunting out in some places to brings a few more berms into play.”

Other class winners were Maddox Swanson (Carterton, 6-8 years’ 50cc class); Levi McMaster (Christchurch, 4-7 years’ 50cc class); Harry Pluck (Cambridge, 6-8 years’ 50cc trail bike class); Paddy Parkes (Pahiatua, 4-5 years’ 50cc trail bike class) and Luke Denby (Ashhurst, 7-11 years’ big trail bike class).

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

Bay of Plenty’s Rhys Carter (Yamaha), who put on a brave showing in the United States at the weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

New Zealand is back among the top 20 nations in the motocross world after a brave performance in difficult conditions in the United States at the weekend.

The 72nd annual Motocross of Nations – an event often referred to as the Olympic Games of motocross – was packed with drama throughout the two days of qualification and points race action at the damp Red Bud circuit at Buchanan, in Michigan, but the Penny Homes-supported three-rider team from New Zealand battled through to finish up 18th out of the 30 countries represented.

Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper was Team NZ’s designated MXGP class rider and he finished 11th and 32nd in his two outings.

Auckland-based former Takaka man Hamish Harwood, the team’s MX2 (250cc) class rider, was forced to withdraw from the first of his two races when his bike’s engine overheated, but he returned for the next race and finished 29th out of the 38 riders who had started.

New Zealand’s Open Class rider, Mount Maunganui’s Rhys Carter, crashed early on Sunday morning, suffering a nasty haematoma on his leg. He refused to admit defeat, however, and lined up regardless for the afternoon’s races.

Rather than not start, and therefore accrue maximum penalty points, Carter chose to “circulate and gain valuable points” and his 37th and 35th placings were enough to help boost New Zealand above several of the other qualifying countries.

The trio of riders representing France – Gautier Paulin, Jordi Tixier and Dylan Ferrandis – won the event outright, now making it five consecutive years that the French have claimed the coveted Chamberlain Trophy.

Runners-up were Team Italy, with the trio from The Netherlands claiming the third podium spot. The host Americans were well beaten on their home turf, forced to settle for sixth overall.

“New Zealand can feel extremely proud of what our riders achieved,” said Team New Zealand co-manager Bevan Weal.

“We could possibly have done better, but there can be no faulting the determination and commitment shown by everyone and the amount of work put in by (co-manager) Shayne King was tremendous. We were helped too by the American who loaned us the pit truck for the weekend, David Eller, and he was a real fan of the Kiwis.”

He said the backing Team New Zealand received this year from New Zealand building company Penny Homes was also invaluable.

“When Rhys (Carter) fell and injured his leg, he burst a blood vessel, but he simply put in his mouth-guard, bit down on it, and circulated for points. Although obviously in pain, he still finished both of his races.”

Weal said the bravery shown by Carter was impressive.

Next year’s Motocross of Nations is set for the infield of the Dutch road-race facility at Assen.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

With the RedBud circuit in the United States hosting the 2018 MXoN, intermittent rainfall throughout the weekend created muddy and demanding track conditions. Yet despite the challenging weather, fans from all over of the world filled the hillsides around the American track.

Running the #1 plate on his FC 450 in the MXGP class for Team France, Gautier Paulin got off to a great start in the first race – the combined MXGP/MX2 class race. Involved in some great battles with eventual moto winner Jeffrey Herlings, Paulin claimed a well-deserved overall runner-up result in race one.

Getting another good start in the MXGP/Open moto – the third and final race of the day – the Frenchman battled hard throughout the moto to eventually finish third overall and play a significant role in helping Team France top the podium. Gautier also claimed second in the MXGP class’ individual standings.

“It is an incredible feeling to win the MXoN with Team France for a fifth time in a row, Paulin commented. I really have no words to describe how happy I am. Conditions were far from ideal during the whole weekend here at Red Bud, but we made things work to our advantage. I gave my best in both motos and kept pushing until the very end. A special thanks to all the members of my Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team. Winning this trophy with Team France is the best way to wrap up a long season.”

Results – FIM Motocross of Nations 2018 

Nations Final Classification 
1. France – 35pts
Gautier Paulin (Husqvarna), Jordi Tixier (KTM), Dylan Ferrandis (Yamaha)
2. Italy – 37pts
Antonio Cairoli (KTM), Alessandro Lupino (Kawasaki), Michele Cervellin (Yamaha)
3. The Netherlands – 41pts
Jeffrey Herlings (KTM), Glenn Coldenhoff (KTM), Calvin Vlaanderen (Honda)

Race 1 (MXGP + MX2) 
1. Jeffrey Herlings (KTM) 16 laps, 36:14.743; 2. Gautier Paulin (Husqvarna) 36:40.159; 3. Jorge Prado (KTM) 36:46.226… 12. Tanel Leok (Husqvarna) 38:14.473… 16. Martin Barr (Husqvarna) 15 laps, 36:18.396… 30. Ryan Sipes (Husqvarna) 14 laps, 36:43.277… 37. Henry Jacobi (Husqvarna) 6 laps, 15:48.678

Race 2 (MX2 + Open) 
1. Glenn Coldenhoff (KTM) 15 laps, 34:28.308; 2. Hunter Lawrence (Honda) 34:44.371; 3. Jorge Prado (KTM) 34:48.818… 7. Harri Kullas (Husqvarna) 35:01.213… 13. Max Anstie (Husqvarna) 36:05.633… 15. Pascal Rauchenecker (Husqvarna) 36:21.303… 17. Martin Barr (Husqvarna) 36:29.435… 25. Henry Jacobi (Husqvarna) 14 laps, 34:48.021… 36. Ryan Sipes (Husqvarna) 9 laps, 26:05.115

Race 3 (Open + MXGP) 
1. Glenn Coldenhoff (KTM) 16 laps, 35:53.888; 2. Jeffrey Herlings (KTM) 35:57.858; 3. Gautier Paulin (Husqvarna) 36:57.575… 6. Max Anstie (Husqvarna) 37:06.357… 12. Harri Kullas (Husqvarna) 37:48.751… 19. Tanel Leok (Husqvarna) 15 laps, 36:33.916… 21. Pascal Rauchenecker (Husqvarna) 37:04.714

Auckland’s Sam Greenslade (KTM 250 EXC-F) is one half of the winning two-man team at the Pirini Hour-Hour near Te Puke on Saturday.

It looks like it’s business as usual for KTM pair Sam Greenslade and Tom Buxton after they shared riding duties to score an impressive win at the weekend’s annual Pirini 400 four-hour motorcycle endurance race near Te Puke.

The race duration was actually longer than four hours, with Coatesville’s Greenslade (KTM 250 EXC-F) and Helensville’s Buxton (KTM 350 EXC-F) completing the seven-lap race in four hours, seven minutes and 42 seconds, edging out the two-rider team of fellow cross-country experts Ashton Grey (Cambridge) and Callan May (Titirangi) by nearly seven minutes.

Third best of the day was Rotorua pair Scott Birch and Callum Dudson, finishing the race another two minutes further back.

“We decided that Tom should be the rider to start, because he was on the bigger 350cc bike,” explained the 28-year-old Greenslade.

“He got a decent start and was in fifth at the end of the first lap, behind Ben Townley (Tauranga), Kayne Lamont (Hamilton), Cam Negus (Rotorua) and Callan May.

“I took over for my first stint on the track and went pretty hard out … I took the lead for our team on that second lap and we never looked back from there.

“Each lap took about 35 minutes and I was good with that. I had injured my knee earlier in the season, putting me out of the enduro nationals, but I’m fully recovered now and it was good to get another win under my belt.”

Greenslade had also won his previous outing, taking the glory at round three of the NZXC cross-country series in the Woodhill Forest, west of Auckland, two weeks ago.

Buxton was also pleased to be back on form so soon after returning from his non-racing trip to the Romaniacs event in Romania.

He had won the opening two rounds of the New Zealand Enduro Championships in April, before heading overseas and abandoning his challenge for that title.

Both riders will now be looking to continue their current winning form, each of them riding as individuals, at the next round of the NZXC series at Matata in just over a week’s time.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan