It’s time once again to dust off the dirt bike, strap on your helmet, grab a few mates and head into the bush.
The 2019 Dirt Guide Cross-Country Series kicks off next weekend (June 1), again promising to be anything the riders want it to be … a serious competition for New Zealand’s elite dirt bike racers, a challenging afternoon’s ride in the bush or just a leisurely cruise along leafy forest pathways. It will appeal to all-comers and nobody should be fooled by the varied skill-level aspect of the series, because it is precisely 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.
Several Dirt Guide race winners from the past, riders such as Coatesville’s Sam Greenslade, Titirangi’s Callan May, Manawatu’s Paul Whibley and Howick’s Liam Draper, to name a few individuals, have all raced internationally and they can each trace their beginnings to dirt bike competitions such as this one. Ararimu’s Richard Sutton was outright winner of the Dirt Guide Cross-country Series last season – sensationally beating the many 450cc campaigners with his 125cc bike – and he will perhaps rank among the favourites again this time around, although he recently injured himself and will be at less than 100 percent at round one.
This three-round series for 2019 kicks off at Ohakuri – about halfway between Tokoroa and Taupo – on Saturday, June 1, and it is sure to attract riders from both ends of the aptitude and competitiveness spectrum. Round two is set for the same course just three weeks later, on June 22, and the third and final round of the series on August 24, also at the popular Ohakuri venue. That final round doubles up as round two of five in the parallel-but-separate NZ GNCC cross-country series, that competition piggy-backing onto select major events throughout the North Island and set to kick off in the Woodhill Forest on July 28.
The popularity of The Dirt Guide Series has grown steadily since its inception in 2008 and, with separate trails and several different grades incorporated into the day’s racing, catering for all levels of confidence and ability. Each of these events is also an ideal opportunity for the lesser or novice riders to learn from masters such as 2017 Dirt Guide Series winner Whibley, a two-time former champion in the United States.
“We want all dirt bike owners to come and have a go at bush riding,” said Dirt Guide Series promoter Sean Clarke, of Tokoroa. “With riders getting older every year, we are really keen to provide an experience to entice the younger riders to come along and ride. There are classes for riders as young as seven. Only a few people ever win races like this, so it’s not really about the winning, but about participation.”
The talent runs deep at the sharp end of the competition, with riders such as Stratford’s Josh Hunger (Husqvarna), Whitianga’s Blake Wilkins (Husqvarna), Wellington’s Jake Whitaker (KTM), Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman (KTM), Te Awamutu’s Kevin Archer (KTM), Raglan’s Jason Dickey (KTM), Whanganui’s Seth Reardon (Yamaha) and Cambridge’s Ashton Grey (Yamaha), to name just a few, among those worth watching and learning from over the course of the two-hour senior race.
The central North Island location of the Dirt Guide event virtually guarantees a good-sized entry list. In addition to the expert grade riders, the series caters also for junior riders and for intermediates, veterans and women as well.
The forest venue 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.
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.
Words and Photo by Andy McGechan