The action was on a knife-edge at the New Zealand Moto Trials Championships over Labour Weekend.
The three-day championship meeting was staged in the Kapiti Coast area, near Paraparaumu, with terrain that featured plenty to trip the unwary motorcyclist — steep climbs, huge boulders, slippery tree roots and creek beds.
Wainuiomata teenager Jake Whitaker successfully defended his Expert Grade title for another year but it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Kiwi international, with seven-time former national champion Warren Laugesen, of Levin, and Nelson’s Karl Clark keeping him on his toes.
“I was a bit worried about both Warren and Karl actually,” said the 18-year-old Whitaker, an apprentice furniture restorer.
“I won day one but Warren beat me fair and square on day two. I had a couple of disappointing ‘fives’, where I dropped points for falling off or failing to complete a section.
“The championship actually went down to the wire, coming down to the final two sections on the last day to decide the title. You could say I left it a bit late but, fortunately I made very few mistakes near the end and won the title.
“There was a lot of pressure on me and Warren was riding awesomely.”
The 34-year-old Laugesen finished the championship just five points behind Whitaker, while Clark finished runner-up on day one and was third on days two and three, giving him third overall.
“It’s the off-season for me now,” said Whitaker. “I’ve got a couple of demos to do in Auckland but, after that. I’ll take a break before I head across the Tasman to tackle a few events in Australia next year.”
In the A Grade class, the battle at the weekend was mainly between Nelson’s Peter Oliver and Wellington’s Stuart Lawton, with Oliver eventually showing his class to win the title by seven points.
Young Hamilton rider Jim Lowe-Pattie was the dominant force in the intermediate grade, winning the title by a handsome 12 points over Auckland’s Ian Braithwaite.
In junior class action it was a four-way battle between Nelson’s Callum Anderson, Rotorua’s John Haynes, Auckland’s Liam Draper and Katikati’s Cameron Ladyman, with Anderson eventually prevailing by 11 points over Haynes.
Napier’s Paul Simmonds won the clubmans’ grade from Dunedin’s Gavin Fox and, as expected, the vastly-experienced Stephen Oliver, of Nelson, ran away with the presidents’ grade, finishing comfortably ahead of Brendan Wadsworth, from Renwick, near Blenheim, and Tauranga’s Warrick Merriman.
Words and main photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
Additional photos below supplied by Simon Robson, Alan Bennett and Sharon O’Callaghan.