Bay of Plenty’s Ben Townley is no regular on the New Zealand Enduro Championships scene, but he certainly made an impact at the third round of seven in the Yamaha-sponsored series over the Easter Weekend.
New Zealand’s best dirt bike riders were enticed to forestry land near Tokoroa on Saturday, with 34-year-old former motocross world champion Townley among those keen to hit the steep and rocky, tree root-littered trails at as close to full-throttle as they dared.
Sent on his way at minute 15, the last rider away on the premier AA course, Townley soon had his Yamaha WR450F up to pace and carving a path towards the front.
In the end, after roughly five hours of brutal off-road racing, Townley had clawed his way up the leader board to finish the day a remarkable third overall, the event won overall by Thames-based enduro specialist and fellow Kiwi international Chris Birch (KTM 300 EXC), with Helensville’s young riding star Tom Buxton (KTM 350EXC-F) claiming the runner-up spot.
Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury (Husqvarna FE250) and Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman (KTM 250 EXC-F) rounded out the top five riders on the AA course on Saturday.
“I like race enduros every now and again. This is probably my one for the year. I just don’t come out and ride these if it’s muddy,” Townley laughed.
“The bike was awesome, a real weapon. I just put some Pirelli tyres on it, some hand guards from Yamaha and off I went. I absolutely loved it.
“I mucked up a couple of special tests, and I wrecked my gear peg too, but no real moments other than that.
“Next thing for me is to do the last round of the cross-country nationals near Taupo, but I’m not a fan of racing in the winter now. I’m a fair weather rider.”
In terms of the enduro championship, Buxton leads by just four points from Yearbury, with Whanganui’s Seth Reardon – who finished sixth on Saturday – third overall for the series thus far, 18 points behind Yearbury.
However, with Buxton and Yearbury both now heading away to events in Romania and Austria, it puts Yamaha hero Reardon in a good position to take over the series lead if he performs well again at round four, near Martinborough on June 9.
Reardon (Yamaha YZ250FX) has been performing well in two separate motorcycling codes this season.
Reardon and Raglan’s Brandon Given (Honda CRF450) currently share second spot overall in the parallel-but-separate New Zealand Cross-country Championships after three of four rounds and that battle will go down to the wire at the final round near Taupo on May 25.
Meanwhile, round three of the Yamaha New Zealand Enduro Championships is set for Martinborough on June 9.
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 photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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