Being able to drop your worst score from a championship series can be a wonderful thing.
It makes for a tight contest right to the final round and rewards consistency too and that’s exactly what has happened in this year’s Yamaha New Zealand Enduro Championships.
The fifth round of six in this year’s series was staged in the Riverhead Forest at the weekend and, at the end of a muddy day’s racing, at least four riders found they were in a position to celebrate their seasons early.
When the calculations were done, it emerged that Auckland’s Karl Power (expert under-300cc four-stroke class), Hokianga’s Mitchell Nield (expert under-200cc two-stroke class), Auckland’s Michael Skinner (expert over-200cc two-stroke class) and Tokoroa’s Sean Clarke (Veterans’ over-40 years’ class) had all done enough in the first five rounds of the competition to wrap up their class titles with a round to spare.
Although most focus goes on the outright winner, the battle-within-a-battle for class honours is typically hard-fought and none more so that this year, although this fabulous foursome.
For 26-year-old Power, the weekend produced some mixed feelings.
“It was a truly terrible day on the course with heavy mud making it very tough going. It was just a matter of survival for me really. I could barely hang onto the bike,” he said, after finishing an unaccustomed sixth at Riverhead.
“It was great to end the day with the class title in the bag but I really wanted to win a round this year. There’s only one round left to go, so that’s my big focus now, to win the final round at Taupo (on July 23).”
As the riders drop the results of their worst round, Nield takes his class win because, even if sibling rival Damon Nield can get 25 points for winning this class at the sixth and final round at Taupo, it still won’t be enough to overhaul his brother who has 1-4-1-1-2 results thus far and, at this stage at least, would be dropping his fourth placing from round two.
Damon Nield has finished 2-1-4-2-3 and, assuming he can win the class at the final round and he drops his fourth placing from round three (giving him 2-1-2-3-1 when he counts his five best scores), it still won’t be enough to beat the 1-4-1-1-2 results that brother Mitchell has already pocketed. If this scenario plays out, Damon finishes one point behind Mitchell.
Of course, there is still plenty to ride for at Taupo with Damon aware that third-ranked rider Callan May, of Auckland, can challenge him for the No.2 spot. If May wins the class at Taupo, as he did in the Riverhead Forest on Sunday, and Damon Nield does not finish, then May would take the No.2 spot by just one point.
So, the pressure’s still on, and even a second or third ranking at this ultimate level of the sport in New Zealand is something to be very proud of.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com