There are a couple of new gunslingers in town and they mean business.

Raglan motorcyclist Jason Dickey has been tearing up the countryside in recent major cross-country events and his impressive win on steep farmland at Flemington, near Norsewood, on Sunday has set him up now for a potential national title win, with Dickey’s victory at this first of four rounds in the 2019 New Zealand Cross-Country Championship perhaps a forecast of what’s to come.

Despite being a little slow to get off the start line on Sunday, the 24-year-old dairy farmer soon had his 2018-model KTM 350XC-F bike humming.

Dickey quickly moved through the traffic to put himself in a three-way battle for the lead, banging handlebars with fellow KTM rider Sam Brown, from Glen Murray, and Husqvarna rider Reece Lister, from Wairoa.

It was a gruelling battle, the three-hour race taking its toll on several key of the more than 50 riders entered, including Lister, who was forced to withdraw when the pain from an earlier ankle injury became too great.

This left the way clear for Dickey and Brown to engage in a one-on-one battle for the win, Dickey eventually prevailing and crossing the finish line nearly a minute ahead of Brown.

Taupo’s defending national cross-country champion Brad Groombridge had problems too, a long way back in the field after he’d crashed on the opening lap, although he did manage to work his way back up to finish third overall.

This result has shown that Dickey and Brown are both ready to step forward and challenge Groombridge for his title.

“I caught up to the leaders after my bad start but then I went off the track and dropped back a few places again,” Dickey said. “When the leaders pitted I snatched the lead and managed to hold it from there. I didn’t have any real problems, just a couple of lappers holding me up at times. Visibility in the dust wasn’t too much of a problem for me.”

Moving dirt is something that Brown is particularly skilled at, the 28-year-old Brown working as a digger driver during the week, and he was doing that with his KTM 450XC-F at a terrific pace on Sunday:

“I had a pretty good start and was leading the race inside the first lap. But halfway around that first lap I suffered ‘arm pump’ and just had to let Jason (Dickey) and Reece (Lister) go by me. I had a bit of a surge after that and got back into a battle with those guys again. I was in front until I pitted. I nearly ran out of gas. I didn’t think I was going to last the lap. I had a large enough tank that I only needed one fuel stop (for the three-hour race), but it was pretty risky. I caught back up to Jason but then he looked back at me and pulled away again.”

The 90-minute junior race, held earlier in the day, was won by Raglan’s Cody Rooks, followed by Napier’s Bryn Codd and Eltham’s defending junior champion Adam Loveridge.

It is now six weeks until round two of the series, set for Mosgiel on March 24.

NZ Cross Country Championships calendar 2019:
Round One: Sunday, February 10 – Central Hawke’s Bay MCC
Round Two: Sunday, March 24 – Mosgiel District MCC
Round Three: Sunday, April 14 – Marlborough MCC
Round Four: Saturday, May 25 – Taupo MCC

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Raglan’s Jason Dickey (KTM 350XC-F), outright winner of the senior race on Sunday.

Bike throttles will be twisted to the stops in the Central Hawke’s Bay region this weekend as the four-round 2019 New Zealand Cross Country Championships blast off.

The nation’s dirt bike elite will converge on farmland at 782 Ahiweka Road, Flemington, about 22 kilometres east of Norsewood, for round one of the series on Sunday (February 10) with all riders knowing a good result is essential if their respective bids for glory are to bear any fruit.

Points from three of the four rounds only are counted towards New Zealand titles in the various categories, with riders to discard their one worst score, but that still doesn’t leave a lot of room for error.

Outright senior winner last season was Taupo’s Brad Groombridge and he will be expected to rate among the favourites again this time around, especially considering his sharp performances at the parallel-but-separate New Zealand Motocross Championships, that series having just completed its opening round in Taranaki last weekend.

Groombridge was solid in his cross-country campaign last season, registering a 1-1-9-2 score-card over the series, and this was easily enough for him to edge out Taupo’s Nathan Tesselaar – who had a 4-3-1-3 score-card for 2018 – for the outright series win, the third consecutive year that Groombridge had taken the title.

Groombridge will of course be chasing title No.4 this year, although he knows to expect tough challenges from rivals such as Coatesville’s Sam Greenslade, Eketahuna’s Charlie Richardson, Titirangi’s Callan May, Hamilton’s Phil Goodwright, Bombay’s Richard Sutton, Stratford’s Josh Hunger, Raglan’s Brandon Given and Napier’s Mackenzie Wiig.

The talent pool is deep in the senior grade, with riders such as Raglan’s Jason Dickey, Te Awamutu’s Daniel White, Stratford’s Karl Roberts, Wairoa’s Reece Lister, Palmerston North’s James Galpin, Whanganui’s Seth Reardon and Cambridge pair Seton Head and Ashton Grey also likely to feature near the front.

In the junior grade, Eltham’s Adam Loveridge will be aiming to hold onto the title he won last year, although Napier’s Bryn Codd, the series leader early on in the 2018 series, will be looking to snatch back the ascendency.

Riders such as Cambridge’s Callum Paterson, Hamilton’s Caleb Richardson, Raglan’s Coby Rooks, Dannevirke’s Ben Paterson and Cambridge’s Michael Henry might have an influence on proceedings too.

“The venue on Sunday is a great track and should be pretty testing,” said Motorcycling New Zealand cross-country commissioner Chris Smyth. “It’s a property we have used in the past and about 25 kilometres in length. It features a bit of everything. It will be physically demanding, with steep rock ridges that will take some concentration from the riders. A few of the rider who were juniors last season may have decided to move up to the senior ranks and we just won’t know which individuals have done that until the day of the race. A few of the other juniors from last year will have remained in the junior ranks ad they are entitled to do that until aged 17, when the jump to senior grade in compulsory.”

The series is supported by The Dirt Guide, Oakley goggles, Bel Ray oils and Michelin tyres.

NZ Cross Country Championships calendar 2019:

Round One: Sunday, February 10 – Central Hawke’s Bay MCC
Round Two: Sunday, March 24 – Mosgiel District MCC
Round Three: Sunday, April 14 – Marlborough MCC
Round Four: Saturday, May 25 – Taupo MCC

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

For more information on this event, click over to http://motoevents.nz/nz-cross-country-championships-2019/

Auckland’s Tom Buxton made it look far easier than it should have been as he dominated the third and final round of the popular New Zealand Grand National Cross-country Championships in the King Country at the weekend. The 20-year-old from Helensville took his 2019-model KTM 350 EXC bike to win the two-hour race at Waimiha on Saturday by nearly four minutes from Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury and Titirangi’s Callan May. Buxton had finished third overall at the series opener at Matata in October, but won round two in the Riverhead Forest, west of Auckland, last month, and then his impressive follow-up win at Waimiha on Saturday confirmed his dominance and ensured that the series’ main trophy would go his way.

“I didn’t get the best jump off the start line … I got pushed around a bit at the start,” said Buxton, who works as a bull farmer. “The first corner funneled the riders in tight and I got blocked out, but it caused a few problems for lots of other riders too. I quickly made a few passes and was past about six riders within a few hundred metres and I was up to sixth position after about 300 metres. I put the hammer down and, as everyone in front of me made mistakes and slowed or crashed, I managed to work through and take the lead about 10 minutes into the race. I settled into a good pace and took it a little bit easy because it was very slippery under the bike’s wheels. After the first lap I knew where the track was taking us and that was it really. It’s mission accomplished for the GNCC series and now I can look ahead to tackling the 2019 New Zealand Enduro Championships. I have no plans yet to contest the New Zealand cross-country Championships … I don’t much like farmland racing and prefer the challenge of racing in forestry… so the enduro nationals will be my main focus in the New Year.”

May finished runner-up in the GNCC Series overall, with Yearbury, Drury’s Richard Sutton and Rotorua’s Ethan Harris rounding out the top five riders in the senior grade for this series. Taupo’s Wil Yeoman won the junior grade in the GNCC Series, with Tirau’s Alex Butler and Morrinsville’s Liam Calley completing the series podium. Buxton had been racing overseas for most of this season and not able to race much at home, making this series victory a fantastic way to herald his arrival back on the domestic scene. He had led the New Zealand Enduro Championships after winning the opening two rounds of that six-round series in April, but then decided to follow his dream and head to the renowned annual Romaniacs hard enduro event in Romania, abandoning the domestic racing scene at home.

“I was working as a track manager at the Romaniacs event, so I wasn’t racing there, but it was a great way to gain insight about the event. I hope one day to race the Romaniacs, but it is pretty brutal and I’m really in no rush to do it. I’m young. I’ve got time on my side.”

The KTM star will no doubt be among the favourites to win when the 2019 enduro nationals kick off early next year.

 

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan

 

Taikorea’s Paul Whibley may currently be injured and out of action, but his Yamaha NZXC Series will carry on regardless, the final round set for the King Country this Saturday.

The 40-year-old former NZXC Series winner, former New Zealand cross-country champion and a former two-time outright winner of the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) in the United States (in 2009 and 2012), Whibley has nothing left to prove on the race track, but that doesn’t mean he has been sitting idle.

The Manawatu man created the Yamaha NZXC Series four years ago, in June 2015, intended as “a competition to better-prepare rising Kiwi stars for a life of international race action” and his series is now regarded as one of the best off-road series in New Zealand.

“My intention was not to simply add more events to the calendar, but to use some events that were already there and combine them into something different,” said Whibley, “I’ve chosen the best of the bunch, piggy-backed onto them and called it the Yamaha NZXC series.”

Which explains why Saturday’s event at Waimiha doubles also as the final round of the parallel-but-separate New Zealand GNCC Series.

“I was looking at what younger guys need for when they venture overseas and some of the events in New Zealand were not really preparing them for what they’ll face,” said Whibley, “Racing over farmland is not really the same thing as riders will hit when they get to America or Europe. Forestry courses more accurately reflect what they will strike,”

This Saturday’s sixth and final round of the 2018 edition of the Yamaha NZXC Series is scheduled for the Pureora Forest, near Waimiha and Benneydale, a venue that should test even the most skilled and resilient of riders. Yamaha ace Callan May leads the series after the five rounds thus far, the electrician from Titirangi in impressive form and a massive 36 points ahead of Whanganui’s Seth Reardon (Yamaha YZ250FX) at the top of the Yamaha NZXC standings. The 26-year-old May took his Yamaha YZ250FX to win the first two rounds of the series, but he was then forced to settle for runner-up finishes, both times behind friend and rival Sam Greenslade at the two rounds that followed, at Woodhill Forest and Matata, in September and October respectively.

May was again runner-up at round five in November, this time behind Helensville’s Tom Buxton, but even that second-place performance could be classed as remarkable, with May having to charge through the entire field after a poor start, the race set in a damp a treacherous Riverhead Forest, west of Auckland.

Is will be that same style of strength and tenacity that should enable May to clinch the series’ main trophy this Saturday afternoon. The venue for this weekend’s finale is 741 Ongarue Stream Rd, Waimiha, with the 90-minute combined junior and mini bike race set to blast off at 9.30am, followed by the two-hour senior race at 12 noon.

The junior and mini track is six kilometres long, while the seniors are expected to conquer a 20-kilometre track.

Taupo’s Wil Yeoman (Yamaha YZ125) leads the junior grade by 29 points over Tirau’s Alex Butler after five of six rounds and so he too is well on target to win the junior trophy outright.

Whibley and the Yamaha NZXC Series are supported by Yamaha Motor New Zealand, PWR Yamaha, Arai, TCX, Oakley, G2, Asterisk, MotoSR, Vortex Ignitions, EC3D, Bush Riders MCC, Rosscos Start Up Services, Dirt Guide, Tire Balls, Renthal, BikesportNZ.com, CarbSport, FMF, Michelin, Yamalube CV4 GYTR, IMS, ONeal, Rekluse, Workshop Graphics and Motomuck.

 

Words and photo by Andy McGechan

 

In the true style and philosophy of READY TO RACE, KTM have decided to give their customers the opportunity to score themselves a mean KTM 450 Rally Replica. Almost identical to those ridden at Dakar, these machines are a must have for the Extreme Off-Road enthusiast.

The 450cc SOHC fuel-injection engine now provides increased engine power, thanks to a newly designed cylinder head, extended durability and an improved transmission that are complemented by a new engine management system, which includes a newly developed throttle body.

A new air filter box offers more room for the electrics and battery whilst also enhancing the centralisation of masses – a key point in the development of this new machine. The 2019 KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA enjoys a brand-new chassis, tested and developed with factory riders for the perils and style of Dakar we have seen in recent years, as it combines improved agility with enhanced stability for braking, whilst retaining the incredible straight-line stability that the KTM rally machines are renowned for.

 

A new swingarm in conjunction with a reworked linkage and shock absorber, along with WP XACT PRO 48mm closed cartridge suspension with sophisticated Cone Valve technology, provides improved traction when accelerating, as well as increased bottoming reserves. New bodywork utilises sophisticated aerodynamics to increase rider comfort while improving the visibility past the innovative carbon tower, which houses the navigational elements of the bike, to the front wheel.

A new, softer seat, revised fuel tanks, and new Akrapovič exhaust, which also contribute to mass centralisation and improved weight distribution, reiterate the design goal of a lightweight, agile, comfortable and stable bike.

Stefan Huber (KTM Factory Rally Team Leader): “The all-new KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA is based on our already-successful new factory machine that we began racing at the end of last year, which was specifically developed to win the Dakar. With the latest generation, our goal and focus was to develop a bike around the style of our current factory riders, who required something with more comfort, more agility and improved stability. We looked for an improvement in handling, a lower weight, as well as a bike that also meets the demands of the conditions and intensity that we now find at Dakar. The KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA machine is almost identical to those raced by our athletes, and is available for customers to get the opportunity to own and ride a really premium, purpose-developed rally machine with high-quality components and maximum innovation. It’s been truly revised from the ground up, and we are looking forward to seeing these bikes being raced by our customers.”

 

Selling at an impressive price of EUR 26,000 (NZ$45,800) these bikes may be for those with deep pockets and lots of time to spare!