It’s one of those rare events on the nation’s dirt bike racing calendar … and what a race it is.
The Yamaha Tarawera 100 endurance race near Whakatane typically attracts a Who’s Who of motorcycling talent, from all the various bike codes, men and women, young and old, first-timers and veterans, national champions and novices.
Former national superbike champion and local Yamaha bike shop dealer Tony Rees is the main sponsor again this year and this Saturday’s 33rd annual edition of the big race is sure to be keenly fought.
Defending Tarawera 100 champion Damien King will be back in an attempt to make it three outright wins in a row, although he knows it won’t be easy.
As well as likely prime challengers Cam Negus (Yamaha), of Rotorua, Whitby’s Rory Mead (Yamaha) and Aucklander Karl Power (Honda) each posing a threat to King’s dominance, expect cross-country aces Sam Greenslade (Suzuki), of Auckland, and Napier brothers John and Lance O’Dea (Suzuki) to also be on the pace.
National enduro champion Jason Davis (KTM) was overseas racing when this event was staged last year but he is another rider likely to be a contender to win the Tarawera 100 this time around. Motocross ace Cody Cooper (Suzuki), of Mount Maunganui, and cross-country and enduro ace Adrian Smith (Yamaha), of Mokau, could also throw the cat among the pigeons.
Cooper is a former Tarawera 100 winner and Smith has been a revelation in national championship competition this season, putting his 125cc Yamaha ahead of riders on much bigger and faster bikes.
But King remains quietly confident.
“I’m raring to go for the Tarawera 100,” said the 34-year-old King.
“I’d like to make it three in a row but it’s never an easy race to win. I am feeling pretty fit at the moment, although I haven’t been able to ride much with the weather being so shocking lately.
“I’m looking forward to riding the new 2010-model Yamaha YZ450F. It’s always a good, fun event and I’ll just have to see how it goes. I’m not putting any pressure on myself.”
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com