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

YZ85

The 2019 YZ85 gets a massive update, and utilises a newly designed 85cc liquid-cooled, 2-stroke heart featuring a case reed-valve intake and a mechanical Yamaha Power Valve System (YPVS). Combined with redesigned cylinder and head, crankcase, crankshaft, connecting rod, transmission, exhaust and CDI unit, the new YZ engine is said to provide broad tractable power across the rev range without losing peak power at high RPM.

In the frame department, the 2019 YZ85 scores a semi-double-cradle steel frame, removable subframe and redesigned aluminium swing-arm provide a nimble feel, confident handling and ease of maintenance. The ergonomics feature a flat, comfortable seat, four-position adjustable aluminium tapered handlebars and adjustable reach levers to provide comfort and ease of movement for a wide range of young rider sizes.

Braking has also been updated, with a new, stiffer front brake line with new routing improves braking feel, while wave-style brake discs offer improved self-cleaning and cooler-running performance. The 220mm front disc and 190mm rear disc are designed to deliver strong, precise stopping power Yamaha says.

The new YZ85 also features KYB®’s race-proven, fully adjustable 36mm coil spring fork with one-piece outer tubes and tapered shape to provide optimal rigidity balance. This provides exceptional handling, bump absorption and ease of set-up for race-winning performance. The KYB® fully adjustable link-type shock utilises specially designed damping characteristics to match the new chassis.

YZ250F

For 2019, the YZ250F boasts an all-new engine design that features an electric starter, a new cylinder head, piston, cam shaft profile, cylinder geometry, larger diameter clutch and more – all working together to deliver top notch power, with even more mid-top power.
Its bilateral beam frame is completely revamped with an optimized engine mounting position to improve the machine’s rigidity balance, which benefits cornering ability, and traction. Redesigned bodywork and ergonomics provide a lighter and more compact feel that bind rider and machine as one. The class leading KYB® suspension with updated internals provides the optimal balance between comfort and race-winning performance.

Along with all the above, and an addition we’ve suspected would filter down since last year’s YZ450F launch, is that the all-new 2019 YZ250F also comes standard with a Communication Control Unit (CCU) which allows riders to connect wirelessly to their bike, and tune it according to their preferences – all they need is a phone and the Yamaha Power Tuner app.

This works nicely with the two-mode adjustable engine mapping on the YZ250F, which allows the rider to adjust engine character with the push of a button, making it easy to tune the YZ250F for changing track or weather conditions.

As is the the way it seems the moto world is heading, Yamaha have included a compact starter motor and ultra-lightweight lithium-ion battery into the 2019 YZ250F. While it definitely  brings the convenience of push-button starting for quick and effortless restarts under pressure and relaxed riding when the clock isn’t ticking, it seems the days are drawing closer when a kick starter won’t be needed anymore, and that’ll be a bit sad for those of us who enjoy kicking their bike into life.

Visually, surrounding the fully redesigned chassis of the the 2019 YZ250F is a new lighter, compact body from tip to tail.  The radiator shrouds incorporate a new air duct with a concave shape that not only improves styling, but is also narrower for better knee grip and overall rider movement.  The seat height has been reduced by 8mm towards the front and almost 20mm lower at the tail end, giving the rider better manoeuvrability on the bike.  

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Zach Osborne is out for the remainder of the 2018 Pro Motocross season.

The disappointing news comes after Osborne was involved in a first turn pile-up during the start of Moto Two at the Thunder Valley National  last weekend in Lakewood, Colorado.

During the pile-up, Osborne sustained a shoulder injury, a torn labrum, which will require surgery to get the Husqvarna rider back to riding fitness. His doctors expect the recovery time needed extends past the current 2018 motocross season, hence his withdrawal from racing.

“I am extremely bummed to say the least, Osborne said. This fourth consecutive championship aboard the FC 250 was one that I wanted bad. It’s almost surreal that it has come to an end, but I know everything happens for a reason. I’ll use this time to prepare mentally and physically for the challenge of my first year in the 450 class. I am excited to get my recovery started and move onto the next step of my career!”

Husqvarna Factory Racing expect Osborne to make a successful recovery, however in the midst of having two injured 450 riders, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory racing have announced that the one and only Phil Nicoletti will be filling in aboard the FC 450 Rockstar Edition, for the remainder of the Pro Motocross season. Nicoletti comes to the team with thirty top-ten finishes in his Pro Motocross racing career.

“I am happy to have the opportunity to finish out the Pro Motocross season with the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team, he said. I look forward to getting on the bike and showing everyone what I have. Thank you to everyone backing me, see you at the High Point National!”