Waitakare’s Ethan Martens hopes it will be third time lucky as he tackles the big annual Tarawera 100 dirt bike marathon near Kawerau on Saturday.
The 23-year-old motocross specialist has twice before raced the iconic off-road endurance race, but on both occasions luck was not on his side.
On the Yamaha rider’s debut ride at the event in 2013 he failed to finish when he ran out of fuel. His campaign last year also fell short when he tried to manage everything on his own and he was forced to settle for fifth place overall at the Honda-sponsored event.
“I didn’t have a mechanic and didn’t have a fast re-fuel system either last year. It was a bit ridiculous,” he said.
Martens hopes everything falls into place for him on Saturday.
He will be taking his Altherm JCR Yamaha YZ450F to challenge some of the best off-road riders in the business with this gruelling 160-kilometre race – or 100 miles, which gives the race its name – again attracting the elite racers from all motorcycling codes.
He expects to line up alongside Tauranga’s two-time former winner and defending champion Ben Townley, Taupo’s national MX1 No.5 Brad Groombridge, Pahiatua’s national and former American cross-country champion Paul Whibley, Mokau’s four-time former national cross-country champion Adrian Smith and moto trials and enduro experts Jake Whitaker, from Wellington, and Liam Draper, from Howick, among many others.
A shotgun blast will signal the start at about 10am.
“I had a small fuel tank in 2013, but the bike comes standard now with a much bigger tank, plus I’ll have a two-man crew this time around,” said Martens.
“Hopefully I’ll be about to keep up with BT (Townley) and Brad (Groombridge), and all the other fast riders too, and end up with a podium finish.
“I’ve changed the gearing on the bike from motocross settings and altered the suspension to make it softer too. I’ve been practicing a bit by riding among the trees at Woodhill Forest, so that should help prepare me.”
Martens said a crash at the Battle of the Clubs motocross in Taupo last weekend “really rang my bell”, but medical tests this week, in addition to visits to a physiotherapist and chiropractor, have given him the thumbs-up to race.
“My fitness is good. Cross-country racing is less intense than motocross but you do get very fatigued near the end of the race.”
If he can last the roughly three-hour race duration, multi-time former national motocross champion Martens should be one of the favourites to earn a podium position, maybe even the outright win.”
Martens and his Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing team is supported by Altherm Window Systems, Yamaha, JCR, CRC, Ados, GYTR, Yamalube, Fox Racing, Hollands Collision Centre, Star Moving, Ward Demolition, Fulton Hogan, Pirelli, FMF, DID, NGK, Matrix, Renthal, Motomuck, Workshop Graphics, Motoseat, Hammerhead, SKF, Vertex Pistons, Rtech Plastics, Etnies, Biketranz and Fulton Hogan.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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