It’s Suzuki Six-Hour Challenge time again.
Yes, this Saturday is again kick-off for the biggest off-road endurance bike race on the nation’s calendar, set for the same venue as last year but with a different track layout.
It was a real David versus Goliath story at last year’s edition of the great race with big-name riders Darryll and Damien King, co-riding a 450cc Yamaha, ending up in a sandwich on the podium, squished between two 250cc Kawasaki teams.
Tauranga’s Ben Thomasen teamed with Whakatane’s Joel Byrne to win the race — making it two outright wins in a row for Byrne after he’d also won the previous year’s event, then teamed up with Rotorua’s Michael Phillips.
Kawasaki pair Thomasen and Byrne finished just 31 seconds ahead of the Waikato-based King brothers (who shared the riding duties on a Yamaha YZF450).
Fellow Kawasaki riders Michael Cotter (Cambridge) and Brad Groombridge (Taupo) finished third on another KX250F, making it a spectacular 1-3 finish for the mid-sized 250cc four-stroke campaigners.
Waikato Yamaha pair Kevin Archer and Sean Clarke finished in fourth place.
The teams are likely to be a little different this time around, with Thomasen still on the comeback from injury and not expected to ride and Groombridge now a Suzuki team rider.
Defending champion Byrne is also now sidelined with injury, after earlier being tipped to co-ride with national under-200cc cross-country champion Luke Ramsey (Pukekohe). That means Ramsey will now spearhead the Kawasaki assault with Kiwi international motocross star Mason Phillips, from Mount Maunganui, as his team-mate.
Cotter will line up with Taupo’s former national cross-country Nick Saunders to share the riding duties on another KX250F.
It is expected that Marton’s former national enduro and cross-country champion Cam Smith and Te Awamutu’s Mark Penny will head the Suzuki assault at this event on an RMZ-250, while 2009 national cross-country champion Adam Reeves (Yamaha) could also threaten for the win in Hawke’s Bay.
Hawke’s Bay brothers John and Lance O’Dea are also expected to show up on a Suzuki.
The race venue this year is again on the Taihape Road, Hawke’s Bay, about 15 minutes’ drive from Fernhill. Sign-on and scrutineering can be done on Friday (October 2) between 5-7pm at Fivestar Motorcycles, Napier or on race day Saturday, 7am at the race venue.
All bikes line up and start at 9am sharp, with the chequered flag due out at 3pm.
Spark arrestors must be fitted to all bikes and riders must also carry a fire extinguisher.
Puketapu School will be providing food and drink at the venue and prizegiving will again be at The Thirsty Whale in Napier.
There will also be a trail ride on the Sunday on the 6-hour track but with a special kids’ section.
For more event information, contact Dave & Lyn Youren, ph/fax 06 8441 241.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com