The hills around Huntly will echo with the sound of highly-tuned dirt bikes this coming Sunday as the 21st anniversary Bel-Ray Cross-country Championships kick off for another thrilling series.
Once again the entry list for the three-round competition reads like a virtual Who’s Who of New Zealand’s off-road motorcycling talent, with a handful of Kiwi internationals and current and former national champions all vying for honours.
In addition to the regulars, riders such as four-time and current national cross-country champion Adrian Smith, of Mokau, and Raglan’s Jason Dickey, other top riders expected to race the series this year include three-time former national cross-country champion Adam Reeves, from Palmerston North, Morrinsville’s Tesselaar brothers, Hayden and Nathan, Auckland’s Sam Greenslade, Rotorua’s Scott Birch, Morrinsville’s Simon Lansdaal, Hamilton’s Andrew Charleston and Taupo’s Greg De Lautour, to name a few.
Two-time former American cross-country champion Paul Whibley, from Pahiatua, is also a possible starter on Sunday, along with local hotshots Anthony Parker (pictured above), Andrew ‘Nugget’ Barr and brothers Luke and Joel Taylor.
Two international-calibre moto trials riders who have recently transferred their riding skills across from trials riding to enduro and cross-country racing – seven-time national moto trials champion Jake Whitaker, of Wellington, Napier’s multi-time former national moto trials champion Warren Laugesen and Auckland’s Liam Draper – are also fancied to be among the leading riders this weekend.
The Bel-Ray cross-country series has for long been a popular event with New Zealand riders, the course generally featuring safe and free-flowing trails.
A wide range of classes are catered for and this allows competitors to make their way through the grades with a good chance of collecting a prize or two. The experts class has always attracted New Zealand’s top talent with many Kiwi internationals competing while at home during their international off-season.
The venue for Sunday’s race is Vining’s Farm, Tiko Tiko Road, Glen Murray, west of Huntly.
The 90-minute junior race starts at 10am and the two-hour senior race blasts off at about midday. Mini bike riders will run a race on a separate, extended motocross track, starting at 10am.
Classic bike class will be first away and this will be the only class to start with the engines running.
The classics class introduced for the first time last year has been expanded this year to include all air-cooled bikes up to 2014.
Day licences are available and free for the first round. The remaining two rounds after this weekend’s opener are set for January 11 (Smith’s Farm, Naike) and February 8 (Sutton’s Farm, Bombay).
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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