The competition will get a shake-up at rounds five and six of the North Island Moto Trials Championships in the Manawatu region this weekend.
With Kiwi international Jake Whitaker now riding overseas, it could be a case of ‘while the cat’s away, the mice play’.
Whitaker dominated the opening four rounds of this series but his absence this weekend will in no way diminish the quality of the competition, perhaps even enhancing it as other riders are motivated to step up and take advantage.
Seven-time New Zealand champion Warren Laugesen will this weekend mark his return to the sport after time away to re-locate in Hawke’s Bay and to settle into a new job.
New Plymouth’s Matthew Foster will surely keep him honest in the experts’ grade, although Laugesen’s many years of top level riding will perhaps give him the edge.
In the A grade, a battle is expected to flare up again between Tauranga’s Phillip Shilton, Dunedin’s Blake Fox and Lower Hutt’s Carl Robson. Fox is a young man on the rise in the sport and, as his confidence grows, he’s increasingly been able to push the more experienced riders.
Fox will ride a 125cc Gas Gas bike against the bigger capacity bikes of his rivals and, although the steep hill sections may cause him a few problems in the horsepower department, he has the talent to overcome them.
Ashhurst’s Kevin Pinfold has promoted himself up from the intermediate ranks to the A grade and, with one of the new Spanish Ossa 280 bikes, he could also threaten the top riders.
Hosted by the Manawatu-Orion Motorcycle Club, day one on Saturday is scheduled for Coppermine Road, near Woodville. It will be signposted from Pinfold Road, off SH2, on the northern outskirts of Woodville.
Day two on Sunday is at the Infracon Quarry, Kohinui Road, not far from the iconic brewery at Mangatainoka.
Top riders to look for in the intermediate grade include Wellington’s Robert Howard, Tauranga’s John Haynes, Auckland’s James Snowdon and Auckland’s Peter Boettcher.
Tauranga’s Warwick Merriman heads the presidents’ grade but he will have his hands full battling riders such as Paraparaumu’s Kevin Tither, Auckland’s Raymond Skinner, Tauranga’s Paul McLeod and Paraparaumu’s John Lawton.
Junior riders Benjamin McLeod, of Te Puke, and Tauranga’s Jacob Gundry should also be worth watching.
Access to both days’ riding will be signposted from the respective main roads. There is no charge for spectators. Riding starts at about 10am on both days.
Rounds seven and eight are set for the Taranaki region on June 18-19. The 10-round series wraps up in Hawke’s Bay on July 16-17.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com