Auckland’s Chris Birch got his 2010 national enduro championships campaign off to a brilliant start at Oparau, near Kawhia, on Saturday.
Birch took his KTM motorcycle to the top step of the podium at this first round of five in this year’s Yamaha-sponsored series, a far cry from last season, when the seven-time former national champion had a shock result at the same venue when he failed to finish the day and was forced to play catch-up for the remainder of his campaign.
But there were no unexpected dramas for the Kiwi international at Kawhia this time around, Birch looking “comfortable, very fast … almost unbelievable”, according to Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Gary Powell.
“It was a physically tough event,” said Powell. “It was steep and uncompromising terrain but there were really no surprises in the outcome, with the established stars all looking good. But Chris Birch has again shown he’s the man to beat.”
Overall runner-up was Whangamata’s Jason Davis (KTM), with Auckland’s Karl Power (Honda) third, Marton’s 2008 champion Cam Smith (Suzuki) fourth and Napier’s Lance O’Dea (Suzuki) rounding out the top five.
Despoite Birch’s victory, it was not a one-sided contest with just 22 seconds to separate Birch from Davis at the end of 140 kilometres of brutal riding.
“We had 140 riders at round one and that’s very positive,” said Powell. “It’s a big turnout and I’m pleased with that. The sport is looking good.”
Round two is set for Whangamata on February 20.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com