The four-rider PWR Yamaha team came away with two wins from the four-round New Zealand Cross-Country Championship’s series opener in Marton yesterday.

Starting off their season in style was Team Manager Paul Whibley, who showed his international class by claiming a comprehensive victory in the senior category on his Yamaha YZ450FX and team youngster Wil Yeoman (14) with a dominant win in the Junior race.

The 2015 national cross-country champion, Whibley hasn’t raced in New Zealand for several seasons but the Taikorea-based legend demonstrated the speed and skill that saw him become a two-time Grand National Cross Country Championships (GNCC) winner in the United States.

“I took the holeshot and led the way around the 23km Rangitikei region’s track. I opened up an early lead thanks to kicking up some dust and I knew I had to keep a strong pace up to prevent getting caught late in the race,” Whibley says.

“The YZ450FX worked great and the MotoSR suspension soaked up everything the Marton property threw at us. I took the win with a solid lead after three hours over [three-time national champion] Brad Groombridge and Charles Alabaster,” Whibley adds.

At the end of the demanding race, his Michelin rear tyre “had worked awesome all day and was still in great shape with no knobs missing,” he notes.

The cross-country circuit certainly suited Taupo’s Yeoman, who dominated the 90-minute Junior race – leading every lap.

“The track had a great variety of terrain, with a really tight piece of bush single track which my Yamaha YZ125X handled awesomely. I was able to get the holeshot and had a few battles in the first lap before moving into first for the rest of the race,” he summarises.

The other two PWR Yamaha riders had tough days out and are thankful the series’ format allows for the points from the best three rounds of four to count towards the overall title.

Whanganui 21-year-old Seth Reardon says his race was “not what I wanted.” “I had a few issues with my start and that set me back to about 20th position. It was so hard to pass in the dusty conditions, but I made my way to 7th by the third lap. I then got a flat rear tyre halfway through that lap and had to pit to change it. I lost four placings in that process,” he says.

He was able to chargeback through the pack on his Yamaha YZ250FX to 6th overall and 1st in class 4 (0-300cc 4-stroke).

Cambridge-based 19-year-old Ashton Grey literally got bogged down, after entering a muddy hole.

“About 10 minutes into the race, I made a bad judgement and rode into a big bog hole, where I was submerged up to the seat. I had to wait for marshals to come help get my bike out and ended up 10 minutes behind any other rider,” he says.

He spent the rest of the three-hour race chasing the slower riders down and trying to make passes, to eventually finish 26th.“I’m able to learn from it. It was not what I would have liked to happen at the first round, and I’ll spend the rest of the series making that up,” a disappointed Grey says.

Team Manager Paul Whibley applauded landowner Cam Smith for doing an “amazing job with his Holly Farm track – mowing the faster grass section, and laying it out with plenty of spectator viewing as it weaved between open and steep farmland, bush-lined gorges, pine trees and native bush sections.”

With five rounds until the second round, hosted by the Central Hawkes Bay Motorcycle Club on Sunday, March 22 at Flemington, the PWR Yamaha riders will have a chance to work on their fitness and make more gains in bike speed.

Three of the four members of the PWR Yamaha team (from left to right) are Seth Reardon, Team Manager Paul Whibley and Ashton Grey. CREDIT: AROHA REARDON

Yamaha Motor New Zealand’s Motorsport Manager Josh Coppins says: “We were happy to see a lot of Yamaha representation across the various classes and great results achieved by the brand’s riders. With three rounds remaining, I look forward to seeing what our PWR Yamaha team can achieve.”

2020 NEW ZEALAND CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIP
Round 1 – Bushriders Motorcycle Club – Sunday 16th February – Marton
Round 2 – Central Hawkes Bay Motorcycle Club – Sunday 22nd March – Flemington
Round 3 – Marlborough Motorcycle Club – Sunday 26th April – Nelson
Round 4 – Taupo Motorcycle Club – Saturday 23rd May – Taupo

2020 NEW ZEALAND ENDURO CHAMPIONSHIP
Round 1 – 29th March 2020, Whangamata (Thames Valley MCC) – CANCELLED
Round 2 – 18th April 2020, Tokoroa (South Waikato MCC)
Round 3 – 27th April 2020, Blenheim (Kapi Mana MCC)
Round 4 – 24th May 2020, Martinborough (Kapi Mana MCC)
Round 5 – 30th or 31st May 2020, TBC (Kapi Mana MCC)

PWR YAMAHA TEAM WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING SPONSORS:

Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Yamalube, GYTR, YMF, YMI, Motomuck, Workshop Graphics, MotoSR, Oneal, Arai, Oakley, IMS, Zeta, Tire balls, TCX, Michelin, Renthal, Twin Air, USWE, EK Chain & Brownell Earthmoving.

Credit: Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Photos by Aroha Reardon and Charlotte Galpin

Manawatu’s Paul Whibley (Yamaha), the national cross-country champion in 2015, determined to challenge for the No.1 position again this year.

They say it’s harder to defend a title than it is to win it in the first place. And that may well be the case for Raglan’s Jason Dickey when he begins his New Zealand Cross-country Championship title defence in the Rangitikei region this weekend.

The four-round Yamaha-sponsored 2020 championships kick off on farmland near Marton on Sunday, with Dickey well aware that last season’s runner-up, Whanganui’s Seth Reardon, will be just one of at least a dozen extremely fast rivals determined to take away his No.1 ranking.

The nation’s dirt bike elite will converge on farmland at Smith’s Holly Farm, 235A Galpins Road, RD2, Marton on Sunday (February 16) with all riders knowing a good result is essential if their respective bids for glory are to bear any fruit.

Points from only the best three results from the four rounds will be counted towards the championship titles.

Dickey and Reardon will need to respect the man who was national champion in 2016, 2017 and 2018, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge, who is also among the favourites again this time around.

Manawatu’s former national cross-country champion Paul Whibley is another expected to challenge for the senior title this year, along with the always-fast Brandon Givens, from Raglan, Rotorua’s Ethan Harris, Hamilton’s Andrew Charleston and Hamilton’s Phillip Goodwright.

Te Kauwhata’s Jacob Brown, Pukekawa’s Jim Orton, Toko’s Karl Roberts and Napier’s Mackenzie Wiig could also be battling near the front.

“We have had two former national cross-country champions (Awakino’s Adrian Smith and Marton’s Cam Smith, no relation) marking out the track for us, so it should be an excellent course, ” said Motorcycling New Zealand cross-country commissioner Chris Smyth.

“It might be a little dry and dusty if we don’t get rain before the weekend, but it should be an excellent test for the riders. There is a wide variety of terrain they will cover … from open farmland to tight native bush sections, gorse and pine trees … a bit of everything really.

“We have a new non-championship class this year too – the Yamaha Cup class for riders aged between 15 and 19 years. This is a development class. This is where the riders of the future may come from,” he said.

The 90-minute junior race kicks off at about 9am on Sunday, with the three-hour senior race to follow at about 11.30am.

The New Zealand Cross-country Championships series is supported by Yamaha NZ, O’Neal apparel, The Dirt Guide, Oakley goggles, Bel Ray oils and Michelin tyres.

2020 NZ Cross-Country Champs
Round One – Sunday, Feb 16 – Bush Riders MCC, Marton
Round Two – Sunday, March 22 – Central Hawke’s Bay MCC, Flemington
Round Three – Sunday, April 26 – Marlborough MCC, Nelson
Round Four – Saturday, May 23 – Taupo MCC, Taupo

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Husqvarna rider Dylan Yearbury proved unstoppable at the marathon dirt bike race near Atiamuri on December 14.

It was the first time that the 25-year-old Cambridge diesel mechanic had attempted to race the annual Husqvarna Hard X cross-country race, but it didn’t take him long to settle into a groove and he eventually went on to comfortably win the gruelling battle.

It was meant to be a four-hour race, but with Yearbury (Husqvarna FC250) taking on average only 53 minutes to complete each lap, it meant he entered the timing zone at the end of his fourth lap with time still time left on the clock and so he was sent out to complete a fifth energy-sapping lap.

In the end, he was one of four riders to complete five laps in the allotted time and remarkably he crossed the finish line more than nine minutes ahead of runner-up rider Tom Buxton (KTM), of Helensville, with another Husqvarna rider, Napier’s Mackenzie Wigg, finishing 13 minutes later, to claim third overall.

“The race was not as tough as some I’ve done,” said Yearbury, “but it was very tiring. Riders never really got a break and I’m feeling pretty tired now (even two days later).

“I loved the bike. It’s actually a motocross bike and so I’m thinking about racing it at the Whakatane Summercross just after Christmas.”

The Husqvarna Hard X event had originally been scheduled to run in March, but the fire risk art that time was too great and so it was postponed until the weekend and perfect weather conditions greeted the more than 150 riders entered.

Event organiser Sean Clarke said the course featured “mostly Bronze level trails, but with a few Gold and Silver deviations”, which meant there was something to challenge all levels of rider ability.

Riders registered themselves as either gold, silver or bronze grade competitors, facing terrain and obstacles to match their skill levels.

Otaki’s Matt Lauder, Aucklanders Ben Hastie and James Kerr and Pio Pio riders Danny Blakeman and Shane Singleton were the stand-outs in the Silver Grade, with Taupo’s Wil Yeoman, Te Awamutu’s Rachael Archer and Thames rider Natasha Cairns the leading riders in the Bronze Grade.

Gold Grade winner Yearbury has impeccable credentials for this kind of competition.

He was exceptional at the Nut Buster Hard Enduro, part of the two-day final round of the New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series, near Christchurch last month, and he also won the three-day Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro near Tokoroa last year, so his debut in the Husqvarna Hard X cross-country race at the weekend was never going to trouble him unduly.

Yearbury was using this event as part of his build-up towards returning to race major cross-country events in the United States next year.

“I had my first taste of racing the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) in the US this year and my best result was finishing fifth in a GNCC race in the XC2 (250cc) class. I also finished second at a national enduro event there.”

If Yearbury can hammer some of New Zealand’s best extreme enduro and cross-country racers the way he did at the weekend, there is perhaps no doubting that he’ll be a contender in the US near year.

Yearbury is supported by Husqvarna NZ, Fox NZ, Mitas tyres, NV Motorcycles in Morrinsville, Northern Accessories and XRC (Xtreme Race Components).

The Husqvarna Hard X race was sponsored by Husqvarna New Zealand, Forest and Trail Events, Michelin Tyres, Kiwi Rider magazine and Satco NZ Ltd.

Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury (Husqvarna FC250), runaway winner of the weekend’s annual Husqvarna Hard X cross-country race near Atiamuri

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Husqvarna builds their bikes tough and expects that they’ll last the distance with even the toughest of treatment and over the most daunting of terrain.

And it’s highly likely that one of their riders will prevail too when the 2019 Husqvarna Hard X race plays out in forestry near Atiamuri in just over a week’s time.

This annual four-hour cross-country race, set for December 14, is a unique challenge that will feature some of the same terrain used for the separate Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro events, “but on a more compact 25-kilometre course”.

The event had originally been scheduled to run in March, but the fire risk art that time was too great and so it was postponed until now.

Event organiser Sean Clarke describes the challenge as “mostly Bronze level trails, but with a few Gold and Silver deviations”, meaning there will be something for everyone but also that it will provide a stern test for the elite riders entered.

And this perhaps plays right into the hands of 25-year-old Cambridge diesel mechanic Dylan Yearbury, one of the favourites to win the race after his recent impressive outings at similar events across the country.

Yearbury (Husqvarna FC250) was a stand-out competitor at the Nut Buster Hard Enduro, part of the two-day final round of the New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series near Christchurch last month, and he also won the three-day Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro near Tokoroa last year, so he certainly holds no fears for the four-hour cross-country “sprint” at Atiamuri on December 14.

“I have never raced this event before, but I’m looking forward to it,” said Yearbury.

“This should be nice and technical and that suits me. I have been focussed a lot lately on my riding and I’m getting good results. I am using this event as part of my build-up towards me returning to racing in the United States next year. I head back to my base in South Carolina on January 27.

“I had my first taste of racing the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) in the US this year and my best result was finishing fifth in a GNCC race in the XC2 (250cc) class. I also finished second at a national enduro event there.

“I have only limited support in the US, but hope that I can attract some attention and gain a little factory support in the future.”

Riders entering the Atiamuri event must nominate themselves as either Gold, Silver or Bronze grades competitors – depending upon their age, ability and fitness levels – and that’s the course they will be assigned to tackle, with the grades each scored separately.

Clarke said the event, which will run from 11 am until about 3 pm, would have mass appeal.

“This Hard X event is to show riders what a three-day hard enduro is like but in a compact way,” he explained. “It will be a lot easier to enter and ride. Riders don’t need a GPS device on their bikes, they don’t need headlights or taillights and they don’t need to be concerned with the thought of six hours of gruelling riding, like what they might encounter at a hard enduro … this is really just a long cross-country race.

“Everyone is probably thinking it’s going to be a psycho-hard event, but it’s not,” said Clarke.

Another of the elite Gold level riders will be Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker, a record eight-time national trials champion, and it will be his fine balance attributes and his skill with precise throttle control that he acquired from that parallel motorcycling code that may give him a slight edge.

Taupo’s Hadleigh Knight is another worth watching out for. He won the three-round Dirt Guide cross-country series which wrapped up near Tokoroa two weeks ago.

The outright winner of the Hard X event last year was Helensville’s Tom Buxton and this is one rider in particular who rivals such as Yearbury, Whitaker and Knight will most be keeping a close eye on this time around too.

The Husqvarna Hard X race is being held in a private forest on Ongaroto Road, about 30 minutes’ drive south of Tokoroa and 30 minutes’ drive north of Taupo, and the venue will be signposted on SH1 near Atiamuri. There is no charge for spectators.

Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury (Husqvarna FC250), exhibiting hot form at the moment and one of the favourites to win at Atiamuri.

Yearbury is supported by Husqvarna NZ, Fox NZ, Mitas tyres, NV Motorcycles in Morrinsville, Northern Accessories and XRC (Xtreme Race Components).

The Husqvarna Hard X race is sponsored by Husqvarna New Zealand, Forest and Trail Events, Michelin Tyres, Kiwi Rider magazine and Satco NZ Ltd.

Credit: Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Any one of more than half a dozen riders could be expected to clinch the coveted Dirt Bike Series title when the competition wraps up near Tokoroa on Saturday.

The three-round cross-country racing series has again proven extremely popular this season, with Motorcycling New Zealand Hall of Fame inductee Sean Clarke renowned for setting courses that are both challenging and enjoyable, and many of New Zealand’s elite riders are again expected to tackle this weekend’s event.

The racing will be at the same venue that was used for both the first two rounds, at Ohakuri, south of Tokoroa, so there should really be no surprises in store for the athletes and perhaps average speeds might even be a little higher.

“The course features a bit of everything … it’s supposed to be a challenge, but, at the same time, not overwhelming. We want all dirt bike owners to come and have a go at bush riding,” said Tokoroa’s Clarke.

There will be plenty of top-level riders entered, with individuals such as Rotorua’s Bradley Lauder (Husqvarna), Wellington’s Jake Whitaker (KTM), Whitianga’s Blake Wilkins (Husqvarna), Whanganui’s Seth Reardon (Yamaha), Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman (KTM), Cambridge’s Ashton Grey (Yamaha) and Tauranga’s Reece Burgess (KTM), to name just a few, among those worth watching out for on the day.

Former Kiwi international Callan May, from Titirangi, won the two-hour senior race at round one in early June, closely followed across the finish line by Reporoa’s Hadleigh Knight, just back from racing in Japan, and then Manawatu’s two-time former United States cross-country champion Paul Whibley.

Knight had his revenge at round two three weeks later, winning the day ahead of Grey and Wilkins.

The racing will be intense in the junior ranks this weekend too, with top riders to watch for on Saturday including Taupo’s Wil Yeoman (Yamaha), Oparau’s Hunter Scott (KTM), Rotorua’s Hunter Steens (Yamaha), Putaruru’s Jacob Dover (Yamaha) and Eketahuna’s Luke Brown (Yamaha).

The central North Island location of the Dirt Guide event virtually guarantees a good-sized entry list, with more than 180 riders showing up to the first round and a similar number expected this Saturday.

The competition has wide appeal, attracting a diverse range of talents, suiting novice riders but also enticing the cream of New Zealand’s dirt biking community to turn up in large numbers.

It is events such as this that have created, inspired and nurtured Kiwi cross-country racing talent over the years before setting some of our brightest young talent on pathways to top-level international competition.

In addition to the expert grade riders, the series caters also for junior riders and for intermediates, veterans and women as well.

The venue at Ohakuri is signposted from Atiamuri on SH1, midway between Tokoroa and Taupo, with the 90-minute junior race set to kick off at 9.30am, while the two-hour senior race will start just after midday.

Saturday’s race doubles up also as round two of the parallel-but-separate NZ GNCC cross-country series, that competition piggy-backing onto select major events throughout the North Island.

Whibley won the opening round of the NZ GNCC series, at Woodhill Forest, west of Auckland, last month, finishing ahead of Reardon and Wightman that day.

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.

Manawatu’s Paul Whibley (Yamaha YZ450FX), third overall at round one of the Dirt Guide Series and likely to be among the leading riders at Ohakuri this weekend too.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan