The 2019 New Zealand Enduro Championships kick off in the Thames-Coromandel District this weekend and it’s anybody’s guess as to who might win.
Boosted from five to seven rounds this season, the Yamaha and Mitas tyres-sponsored series will take riders from round one at Whangamata in the north this Saturday, to round seven at Hokitika in the south, each offering extreme and varied terrain challenges for the riders.
But, difficult landscape aside, it is the talent of the riders and the reliability of their bikes that will determine who finishes on top when the final round wraps it all up in July.
One thing is almost certain … a new outright champion will be crowned in 2019.
Taupo’s defending national enduro champion Brad Groombridge injured himself while racing at the final round of the New Zealand Motocross Championships in Taupo last weekend, ruling him out of action this coming Saturday and possibly for longer than that too.
But there are plenty of talented riders who are capable of stepping forward.
Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker and Helensville’s Tom Buxton could be expected to battle near the head of the field on Saturday, while young guns such as just-turned 21-year-old Seth Reardon, of Whanganui, and Blake Wilkins, of Whitianga, will certainly keep them honest.
Whangamata’s Jason Davis returns to the race scene after several years away from the sport to raise a family and the former national champion is sure to be a contender this weekend, especially on home turf.
Others to watch out for include Thames rider Natasha Cairns, Taumarunui’s Cody Davey, Eketahuna’s Charlie Richardson, Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman, Rotorua’s Bradley Lauder, Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury, Taupo’s Nathan Tesselaar, Rotorua’s Ethan Harris, Cambridge’s Ashton Grey, New Plymouth’s Tony Parker and perhaps even cross-country ace Sam ‘Charlie’ Brown, from Glen Murray.
“It will be exciting to see Jason Davis back in action. It’s always a thrill to see him in action,” said Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson. “The racing will be a good test of man and machine and will cater for all abilities. The venue at Whangamata is one of the most popular on the calendar, sure to attract a large number of entries.”
The venue for Saturday’s racing is the Taungatara Forest, off State Highway 25, between Whangamata and Hikuai. The Taungatara Forest is about 10 minutes’ drive north of Whangamata and racing starts at about 10am.
There are 15 classes in total to cater for everyone, including two non-championship intro trail rider classes, and only six rounds count, with riders to discard points from their worst round.
The terrain is mostly clear-felled tree areas and virgin clay and ash-based forestry tracks. The national championship riders will be doing three loops of just under 50 kilometres and comprising five terrain tests. The intro trail riders will be doing two shorter loops with two terrain tests (not timed).
The 2019 Yamaha NZ Enduro Championships are supported by Mitas tyres Macaulay Metals, Best Build Construction, Silver-bullet, Dirt Rider Downunder magazine and Moto Events NZ.
2019 Yamaha NZ Enduro Champs calendar:
Round 1 – Saturday, March 16 – Thames
Round 2 – Saturday, April 6 – Kapiti
Round 3 – Saturday, April 20 – South Waikato
Round 4 – Sunday, June 9 – Martinborough
Round 5 – Saturday, June 29 – Bideford, Masterton
Round 6 – Friday, July 19 – Hokitika, Westland
Round 7 – Saturday, July 20 – Hokitika, Westland
Words and Photo by Andy McGechan