The North Island Moto Trials Championships reach boiling point in Taranaki this weekend with new title contenders likely to emerge by Sunday afternoon.
Rounds seven and eight of the 10-round series hit the Taranaki region on Saturday and Sunday and, with a couple of elite riders away overseas and the competition rapidly heading towards a conclusion – with just two more rounds to follow, in Hawke’s Bay on July 16-17 – a solid performance is crucial for any of the various title hopefuls.
Kiwi international Jake Whitaker, of Wainuiomata, won’t be in Taranaki this weekend as he instead competes at the world championships in Europe, and fellow top gun rider Karl Clark is also away, travelling as Whitaker’s “minder”, but talent runs deep in this sport the action at Opunake on Saturday and near Inglewood on Sunday will lack in nothing.
Taranaki’s Matt Foster (pictured above) is ideally placed to score big this weekend, and not just because he’s on home turf but because he has produced some sensational results at the earlier rounds to set himself up for a blitz to the finish.
Foster leads the top category, the experts grade, although he will expect some very stiff opposition this weekend from seven-timer former national champion Warren Laugesen, of Hawke’s Bay.
Many times South Island Moto Trials Champion Jason Baker and young Dunedin rider Blake Fox, who has only recently moved up to the experts grade, are also expected to feature.
Balance, bravery and throttle control is the main emphasis for this unique motorcycle competition. Speed is not essential, with the prime aim instead being to conquer extreme terrain without touching feet on the ground or falling off. Points are lost for these “faults” and a rider with the lowest score wins.
The battle for the A grade crown is very close with Tauranga’s Phillip Shilton just 14 points ahead of Lower Hutt’s Carl Robson.
Wellington rider James Wade is also expected to challenge for A grade honours.
In the intermediate grade, Rotorua’s John Haynes his in command over Bay of Plenty rider Gary Samson, but he will be competing in the A grade this weekend, offering incentive for another rider to take over the lead in the intermediate grade.
Among the riders close enough to challenge for the lead are Taranaki’s Grant McEwen and experienced Ashhurst rider Kevin Pinfold.
Tauranga’s Warwick Merriman, father of multi-time world enduro champion Stefan Merriman, leads the presidents’ grade but he can expect a strong challenge from Auckland rider Ray Skinner and Te Puke’s Paul McLeod.
The junior grade competition is also fierce with Tauranga’s Jacob Gundry and Te Puke’s Ben McLeod locked in a tight battle. In the clubmans’ grade, Gundry’s sister Gabrielle is just one point ahead of Dunedin rider Gavin Fox.
Day one on Saturday will be held at Wiremu Road, Opunake, while day two is set for Upper Durham Road, Inglewood. Both venues will be signposted and spectator entry is free. The action starts at about 9.30am on both days.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com