It will be full throttle action near Kuratau this weekend.
With no jumps to slow them down and a combination of icy grass, deep ruts and high speed, the dirt bike action should be very close and exciting at the New Zealand TT Championships near the lakeside tourist town of Turangi this weekend.
TT racing is like superbike racing on soil instead of tarmac – the racing is off-road and the competitors use dirt bikes but, unlike motocross, there are no steep hills or skyward launch jumps to slow things down.
The entry list includes the stars of motocross, cross-country, enduro and even road-racing, All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) and super motard and they will hit eye-watering speeds as they chase glory at this 16th annual Bike Torque Yamaha New Zealand TT championships.
The racing in the premier motorcycle category, the open class bikes, went right down to the wire last season before Taupo racer Brad Groombridge (Suzuki) finally tipped the balance of power his way, winning the open class ahead of Waitakere’s Ethan Martens (Yamaha).
Groombridge celebrated a double win by also taking the enduro class trophy last year.
Motocross ace Groombridge is no stranger to winning in the flat track environment, after he had previously won the MX1 and MX2 titles at the TT nationals in 2010, but, for many of the other competitors, it was the first time they’d stood on the top step of the podium.
Auckland’s Hamish Dobbyn (MX2 class), Napier’s Wade Taylor (ATV veterans), Auckland’s Levi Nairn (Junior ATV 12-16 years), Massey’s Kyle Chandler (Production 450cc ATV), Whakatane’s Darren Capill (Veterans’ over-45), Te Kuiti’s Mark Fuller (Veterans’ over-50), Hawera’s Nick Hornby (12-16 years’ 125cc/250cc) and Oparau’s James Scott (junior 8-12 years’ 85cc/150cc) were crowned national TT champions for the first time last season and they may each be hoping to defend their respective crowns this weekend.
While there was a flurry of fresh winners last year, there were also a handful of repeat winners at Kuratau in 2014.
Christchurch’s Dylan Walsh won the senior 125cc title to add to the Junior 13-16 years’ TT title he won in 2011, while Otorohanga’s Aaron King was another two-time winner, collecting the Junior 13-16 years’ 85cc/150cc TT title for a second time after he had previously won the class in 2012.
New Plymouth’s Mitch Rowe again won the Veterans’ over-35 years and the Classic Bikes titles, while Stratford’s Camo Keegan successfully defended his ATV Open class crown after hearted battles with his brother Scott Keegan and Papakura’s Andrew Vincent. Taihape’s Sarah Elwin again won the women’s motocross class.
Other riders to watch for this weekend include Masterton’s Bjarne Fredricksen, Taupo’s Cam Dillon, Rotorua’s Scotty Canham, Atiamuri’s Hadleigh Knight, New Plymouth’s Anthony Parker, Tauranga’s Aaron Wiltshier, Te Kuiti’s Sean Kelly and Auckland pair Kurtis Lilly and Liam Draper.
Alrtherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team manager Josh Coppins and rider Kayne Lamont are also entered this weekend.
Organised by the Taumarunui Motorcycle Club, the venue is on State Highway 41, and will be signposted from the Kuratau Junction at S.H. 41 and 32. It is just 7 kilometres away from the Kuratau School.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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