It is anybody’s series to win now after the weekend’s third round of four in this year’s inaugural NZ Xtreme Off-road Championship series in Hawke’s Bay.
The series continues to grow momentum after the Motorcycling New Zealand-sanctioned series registered its third different winner in as many events, with Glen Eden’s Chris Birch (KTM 300 EXC) prevailing on this occasion, and this means it’s anybody’s guess as to who might eventually win the main trophy.
Hamilton’s Phil Singleton (Husqvarna FE350) had won the series opener at Whangamata, in August, while round two, in the Akatarawa Forest, near Wellington, in September was won by Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker (KTM EXC300). Whitaker ended the day at round two in the Akatarawa Forest finishing more than two minutes ahead of runner-up rider Dylan Yearbury (Husqvarna FX350), from Cambridge, while Singleton had to settle for third overall and Birch was a no-show.
Singleton and Whitaker were certainly expected to come out swinging at the two-day Hawke’s Bay event, billed as the “Over The Top” enduro and organised by multi-time New Zealand moto trials champion Warren Laugesen, but there would have been no raised eyebrows when it was Birch who instead posted the winning result, despite this being his first appearance in the series.
Kiwi international Birch is a multi-time New Zealand enduro champion and certainly no stranger to winning at the top level.
It was Yearbury who was again overall runner-up in the weekend’s two-day event – a prologue near Taradale on Saturday, followed by the enduro at Tutira on Sunday.
Napier’s Mackenzie Wiig (KTM 300 EXC) won the prologue, ahead of Birch and then Helensville’s Tom Buxton (KTM 350 EXC-F), but it was Sunday’s main race that earned all the glory.
Yearbury finished more than 12 minutes behind Birch after four-and-a-half hours of grueling riding on Sunday, but, because he had skipped round one, Yearbury has to settle for third overall in the series standings after three rounds.
Singleton continues to lead the series standings in the Gold Grade, ahead of Auckland’s Mitchell Gallagher (KTM 250 EXC) and then Yearbury.
Cambridge’s Beau Taylor leads the Silver Grade points standings, ahead of Auckland’s David Steen and Whangarei’s Wayne Cox, while Tauranga’s Matt Reece tops the Bronze Grade standings, ahead of Whitianga’s James Kerr and Hastings rider Brett Gunson.
The series will wrap up with round four at Oxford, near Christchurch, on November 16-17.
Only three of the four rounds of the NZ Xtreme Off-road Championship are to be counted, with riders to discard their one worst score from the three North Island rounds, while double points are offered for the final round in the South Island, making it still possible for any one of half a dozen riders to win the series outright.
The 2018 NZ Xtreme Off-Road Championship calendar:
Round one: August 25, Taungatara Forest, Whangamata.
Round two: September 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.
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan