Who will win round two of the New Zealand Enduro Championships this weekend is anyone’s guess.
Results from round one in Waimiha in December give only a few clues because several of the expected front-runners that day will be absent when the series sparks back into life again for round two at Oparau, near Kawhia, on Saturday.
Pahiatua’s Paul Whibley (Yamaha) won the opening round of the Yamaha-sponsored series but he is packing his bags and heading overseas very shortly and won’t be at Oparau this weekend.
Round one runner-up was Taupo’s Rory Mead (Yamaha YZ250F), the world-class rider making a comeback from injury that day. Perhaps this should make him favourite to win outright or at least dominate his class on Saturday.
Third outright at round one was perennial frontrunner Karl Power (Honda CRF250) and he will also be a strong contender.
Several top riders struck problems at round one, including multi-time national champion Chris Birch, of Auckland, and Power’s cousin Chris Power, of Paeroa – both men crashing out of the race.
While KTM’s Birch will make the starting line-up at Oparau, it’s also his last race in New Zealand for a while as he heads away to South Africa soon after the event.
“It will be nice to sign off with a win but, to be honest, Operau hasn’t been too kind to me in the past,” said many-times national champion Birch.
A friend of Birch’s, from Cape Town in South Africa, top KTM rider Altus de Wet, will also line up to race at Oparau on Saturday.
As for Honda’s Chris Power, he shortly undergoes an operation on his injured shoulder and he’s not expected to be back in action until the final round of the series.
However, there are plenty of others to watch for this weekend, including Hokianga’s Mitchell Nield (Gas Gas, under-200cc two-stroke class), Auckland’s Michael Skinner (KTM, over-201cc two-stroke class) and New Plymouth’s Dougy Herbert (KTM, veterans).
Round three of the Yamaha-sponsored series is set for Whangamata on February 26.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com