Extreme off-road racing probably doesn’t get much tougher than this, but the Kiwis up are definitely up for it.

New Zealand dirt bike riders love a good challenge and so the sport’s governing body in this part of the world, Motorcycling New Zealand, has answered the call with the creation of a new four-round hard enduro series, set to kick off near Whangamata this weekend.

The inaugural NZ Xtreme Off-road Championship will firstly send riders into the deep, dark trails of the Taungatara Forest, not far from Whangamata, on Saturday, with rounds to follow near Porirua, in Hawke’s Bay and, finally, at Oxford, near Christchurch.

MNZ enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson 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.”

Only two of the three rounds of the NZ Xtreme Off-road Championship are to be counted, with riders to discard their two worst scores, while double points offered for the Nut Buster final round in the South Island.

Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury, who won the Husqvarna Hard Enduro last October, 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.

Other leading New Zealanders such as brothers Angus and Hamish Macdonald, Liam Draper, Sean Clarke, Chris Birch, Callan May, Brad Groombridge, Sam Greenslade, Phil Singleton, Grant Herbert, Spence McCintock, Jane Bennett and father and daughter pair Kevin and Rachael Archer have all tested themselves at extreme or “hard” enduros overseas in recent years – tackling renowned events such as the Hattah Desert Race in Australia or the Romaniacs Hard Enduro in Romania – and they lived to tell the tale, proving themselves the equal of many of the sport’s international stars.

The 2018 NZ Xtreme Off-Road Championship calendar:

Round one: August 25, Taungatara Forest, Whangamata.

Round two: September 22-23, Moonshine Extreme, Bulls Run Rd, Porirua.

Round three: November 3-4, Over The Top, Hawke’s Bay.

Round four: November 16-17, Nut Buster, Oxford, Christchurch.

 

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

Husqvarna Motorcycles have announced British rider Billy Bolt has re-signed with the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team.

Bolt will stick with the team for at least another three years after signing the new contract with Husqvarna, which sees the young British racer continue to compete with the team until at least the end of the 2021 season.

Enjoying a solid season of World Enduro Super Series competition, Bolt currently sits third in the series provisional standings. Kicking off the championship with an impressive victory at Extreme XL Lagares, Bolt is the highest-placed Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team rider at the halfway mark in the inaugural WESS championship.

“I’m really happy to renew my contract with Husqvarna for an additional three years, Bolt commented. I’m in a great place right now and I am confident the team can provide all that’s needed to take my career to the next level. Extending my contract like this gives me the security and stability to continue improving in the future. The atmosphere within the team is one of the best in the paddock, which is a huge part of why I’m so pleased to be continuing with them. I feel fortunate to be part of the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team and I’m super motivated to continue giving my best.”

At just 21 years of age, Bolt is arguably one of the most promising talents in the global outdoor and indoor enduro racing scene. Together with his impressive results in the ongoing WESS series, in 2018 the Brit also secured his debut SuperEnduro victory in Sweden to become the FIM SuperEnduro World Championship runner-up.

Bolt is held in high esteem by the team management of the Rockstar Husqvarna Factory Racing team, with Team Manager Andi Hölzl stating:

“Billy is one of the most talented up and coming riders and we are extremely pleased that we will continue working with him for the next three years. Kicking off the outdoor racing season with victory at the Extreme XL Lagares and winning the Prologue at Romaniacs, he has already demonstrated he’s a top contender at the World Enduro Super Series. His third position in the provisional WESS standings shows what he’s capable of. We’re happy to have him aboard and we look forward to continue supporting his racing goals in the future.”

The Atacama Rally, on Chilean soil, turned out to be hugely successful for Monster Energy Honda Team’s Argentinean rider Kevin Benavides, who clinched overall victory and the leadership of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.

The final day, on a 155-kilometre looping route, starting and finishing in Copiapó, was battled out over the same course that had been used in Stage One. Competitors had to have their wits about them and were faced with some challenging navigation in the dunes as well as some off-piste and dry river beds.

Kevin Benavides rounded off the Atacama Rally as he had started; proving to be the sharpest rider in the race, claiming the final stage and the overall rally victory after an intense final day. The Argentine dominated, stamping his mark of authority throughout the stage and leaving adversaries unable to keep his trail. Moreover, the victory takes Benavides and the Honda CRF450 RALLY to the head of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship leader board, where he now shares the same points as the incumbent world champion.

The next appointment for the competitors will be at the Desafío Ruta 40 in Argentina to be held at the end of next week. The race will take place from 25th to 31st August getting underway in San Miguel de Tucumán and concluding in San Juan.

 

Kevin Benavides

  FINAL OVERALL: 1ST

I’m very happy; it has been an amazing Atacama Rally for me. I won three stages and I felt very comfortable on the bike, which has worked perfectly throughout the even. The team has worked very well and this has given me the tools needed for the victory. I was able to stay very focused and was confident in myself. Winning here is not easy – Quintanilla is very strong. I’ve been looking forward to this victory for a long time and I’m really savouring it!

Results Stage 5

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap
1 BENAVIDES Kevin 2 ARG Monster Energy Honda Team 1:40’10
2 PRICE Toby 11 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +1’18
3 QUINTANILLA Pablo 1 CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team +2’00
4 WALKNER Matthias 3 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +2’28
5 GONCALVES Paulo 4 POR Monster Energy Honda Team +3’28
6 CORNEJO José Ignacio 10 CHI Monster Energy Honda Team +3’49
7 BRABEC Ricky 15 USA Monster Energy Honda Team +5’16
8 CAIMI Franco 8 ARG Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +9’33
9 VAN BEVEREN Adrien 6 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +10’01
10 DE SOULTRAIT Xavier 9 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +10’06

Mount Maunganui’s Rhys Carter will be racing in blue from now on. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

RHYS CARTER MAKES THE SWITCH TO YAMAHA

Yamaha has added another string to its bow with news this week that Bay of Plenty motocross international Rhys Carter will be joining the boys in blue.

Josh Coppins Racing, in association with Yamaha-Motor New Zealand and Yamalube are thrilled to announce a new partnership with Carter, who, in addition to racing with success domestically and internationally, operates the Carter Coaching entity.

The 28-year-old Carter, a professional motocross coach and the 2018 New Zealand MX1 No.4, will throw his leg over his new Yamaha YZ450F first the first time at the upcoming Motocross of Nations in the United States, the most auspicious of all events at which to herald his switch from Kawasaki.

The Mount Maunganui man said he was “thrilled and excited” about the move.

“I will be working closely with Josh Coppins Racing and, when you see what Josh does with his team and how well he runs it, you just know it’s clean-cut and professional and fantastic to be a part of,” said Carter.

“The depth of knowledge that Josh has in this sport is very hard to come by. We both want to give back to our sport and I do that with my coaching clinics, so it’s very exciting for both of us.

“I will be under a separate Yamalube Yamaha banner, but closely associated with Josh’s Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been and I believe I can win the national MX1 title. It gives me a huge boost to have Josh supporting me.

“I’m pleased also to be able to bring my own career-long sponsors on board with me.”

From April next year, at the conclusion of the 2019 New Zealand Motocross Championships season, Carter will pour more focus into his coaching, as well as taking over the role of operating the bLU cRU Racing scene, a function that encourages and helps to equip fledgling Yamaha riders.

Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team manager Coppins said he was proud to welcome Carter on board.

“Rhys will be joining the blue and white world, effective immediately, and, as of April 2019, will be responsible for assisting Yamaha in generating the next world champion,” said Coppins.

“Rhys is a very good racer, but we also have long-term plans for him to be coaching Yamaha riders.

“He will run demonstrator bikes for us this summer too … offering Yamaha YZ65, YZ85 and YZ125 bikes for young riders to try out.”

With Carter on board, Yamaha is further strengthened as presents an extremely potent force for the 2019 national championships season.

Racing alongside Carter in the MX1 class will be former national MX2 champion and current national MX1 No.3 Kayne Lamont, the Mangakino man continuing to race the Yamaha YZ450F for the Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team, while 2018 national 125cc champion Maximus Purvis, also from Mangakino and also an integral part of the Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team, will now step up to the MX2 (250cc) class.

Words by Andy McGechan

 

The longest stage in the Atacama Rally, held on Wednesday in Copiapó, turned out to be a great success for Kevin Benavides behind the bars of the Honda CRF450 RALLY. The Argentinean Monster Energy Honda Team rider set off this morning from first place and proved to be not only unreachable, but also managed to chalk up the day’s fastest time.

This second stage, the longest of the Atacama Rally, with a total of 440.88 kilometres – including 375.91 against the clock – had the start of the special stage delayed due to the usual appearance of the ‘camanchaca’, a dense local fog that kept the security helicopter, which guarantees race safety, firmly grounded. Once the action got underway, it did so over 73 kilometres less than had previously been scheduled, reducing the special to a total of 303 kilometres.

Benavides set a cracking pace on a battle ground of mostly track, but with some off-piste where he was able to really put the Honda CRF450 RALLY through its paces. By the end of the 303 kilometres, the Monster Energy Honda Team rider had opened a one minute margin over the nearest second-placed rival. As a result Benavides now lies 1’53” ahead of Pablo Quintanilla in the general rankings.

American Ricky Brabec was the second quickest of the Monster Energy Honda Team, posting fifth, 3’17” adrift of his team-mate. Paulo Gonçalves and José Ignacio Cornejo both turned out solid performances and will be looking to claw back time from their adversaries over the coming days.

2018 Cross-Country Rallies
Stage Round FIM-3 , 2

Results Stage 2

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Constructor Time/Gap
1 BENAVIDES Kevin 2 ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda 3:44’04
2 SUNDERLAND Sam 5 GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +1’01
3 PRICE Toby 11 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +2’05
4 WALKNER Matthias 3 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +3’00
5 BRABEC Ricky 15 USA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +3’17
6 QUINTANILLA Pablo 1 CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna +3’33
7 CAIMI Franco 8 ARG Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +4’27
8 GONCALVES Paulo 4 POR Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +5’55
9 VAN BEVEREN Adrien 6 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +13’04
10 MENA Oriol 14 SPA Hero Motorsports Team Rally Hero +13’13
11 DE SOULTRAIT Xavier 9 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +14’16
12 SHORT Andrew 12 USA Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna +17’54
13 CORNEJO José Ignacio 10 CHI Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +20’09
14 GIEMZA Maciej 19 POL KTM Orlen Rally Team KTM +30’21
15 RODRIGUES Joaquim 16 POR Hero Motorsports Team Rally Hero +31’43