It’s time to step up and be counted for the nation’s elite off-road endurance riders.
This weekend is the third round of six in the Yamaha New Zealand Enduro Championships – set for typically gruelling terrain at Whangamata on Saturday – and it could be make or break time for title hopefuls.
Taupo’s Rory Mead holds a slight advantage in the overall standings but the Yamaha ace can take nothing for granted with arch rival Karl Power (Honda), of Auckland, Mokau’s Adrian Smith (Yamaha) and Tauranga’s Reece Burgess (Husaberg) not too far behind.
The battle-within-a-battle for individual class honours also heats up this weekend and it is perhaps none more fiery than in the expert veterans’ class where Tokoroa’s Sean Clarke (Yamaha) shares the lead with New Plymouth’s Dougy Herbert (KTM).
Sibling rivalry takes hold in the expert under-200cc two-stroke class with Hokianga brothers Mitchell and Damon Nield locking horns in a bid to take the top spot there. Younger brother Damon leads by just four points from Mitchell.
It’s also the battle of the European bike brands with Damon Nield on a 125cc Husqvarna (a Swedish bike brand now owned by BMW and manufactured in Italy) and Mitchell Nield riding a 200cc Gas Gas (a popular Spanish bike brand).
Auckland’s Michael Skinner leads the expert over-201cc two-stroke class by just seven points from fellow KTM rider Jonathan Hill, also from Auckland.
Power leads the expert under-300cc four-stroke class by just seven points from Smith, while Burgess leads the over-300cc four-stroke class by nine points from former national champion Cam Smith (Suzuki), of Marton.
Meanwhile, having raced two different bikes at each of the two rounds thus far, Mead finds himself in the curious position of being fifth overall in the expert under-300cc class (thanks to finishing first in the class at round one and then being categorised as a non starter in the class at round two) and he is fourth overall in the over-300cc four-stroke class (a non-starter in the class at round one and winner of it at round two).
The venue for Saturday is at Taungatara, about 10 minutes’ drive north of Whangamata on SH25. There is no charge for spectators.
Round four of the Yamaha-sponsored series is set for Northland on March 12.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com