The 2011 New Zealand Enduro Championships are virtually in the bag for Taupo’s Rory Mead.
The Yamaha ace, just back from a tour of duty racing cross-country events in the United States, was too slick for his rivals at the fifth round of six in the Yamaha-sponsored national series in the Riverhead Forest, near Auckland, on Sunday.
The 24-year-old builder took his Yamaha YZ450F to the front of the talent-packed field on Sunday, using his trials riding skills to great effect in the slippery conditions, traversing the greasy tree roots and bogs to win the day ahead of fellow Kiwi international Chris Birch (KTM EXC300).
Expatriate Birch, now living in South Africa and himself only back in New Zealand for short spell as he visits family and friends, finished just a shade over 90 seconds behind Mead at the end of a difficult day in treacherous conditions in the damp forest.
It was an even more remarkable performance from Birch considering the fact that he had stopped to assist a fallen rider in the forest – fellow Kiwi international and 2010 national enduro champion Jason Davis, of Whangamata – helping him some distance back to the pit area before rejoining the race.
Third overall was Taranaki rider Adrian Smith, the man from Mokau taking his 250cc four-stroke Yamaha YZ250F to finish just ahead of Auckland teenager Callan May (Yamaha YZ125) and Hokianga’s Mitchell Nield (Gas Gas EC125).
“It was an amazing display of sportsmanship on Birch’s part,” said Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Gary Powell, of Waimiha. “But that’s just the sort of guy that Chris is.
“This was one of the toughest enduro events I have ever ridden,” said Powell, who finished 16th overall, the second-last expert grade rider to finish.
So gruelling was the event that only 17 of the 25 expert grade riders who started the event survived to see the finish.
Tokoroa’s Sean Clarke (Yamaha WR250) was one of those ironmen who did finish, crossing the line in eighth place overall, and that was enough for him to wrap up the battle-within-a-battle for veterans’ (over-40) honours with a round to spare.
It was a similar story for Auckland’s Karl Power (expert under-300cc four-stroke class), Hokianga’s Mitchell Nield (expert under-200cc two-stroke class) and Auckland’s Michael Skinner (expert over-200cc two-stroke class), these riders wrapping up their respective class titles at Riverhead.
The other separate categories will be decided at the sixth and final round of the Yamaha-sponsored series, set for Taupo on July 23.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com