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