The five-round national series kicked off near Christchurch over the Easter Weekend, with round two following just two days later, on Easter Monday, and, when the dust had settled, there were two men on top of the pile who many observers had probably not expected to be there – Christchurch’s Hamish Macdonald and Taupo’s Brad Groombridge.
Neither riders had previously won a national enduro championship event and yet these two riders shared the wins over the hectic Easter break, leaving nobody in doubt that they’d be the riders everybody should now fully expect to feature at the top.
But, similarly, there was a third rider who produced a couple of stunning performances that Easter weekend, Howick’s Liam Draper, and he too should be respected, admired and perhaps feared in equal doses at round three at Moonshine, near Wellington, this Saturday.
The venue for Saturday’s event is in the Akatarawa Forest – on Bulls Run Road, off Moonshine Road, Pauatahanui, Porirua – and that will be a stern test for all three men, not to mention the dozens of other title candidates, extremely capable and experienced off-road riders in their own right, who may find the steep terrain there tougher than anything they’ve ever faced.
Draper (pictured above) is one of a rare breed of riders who has successfully made the transition from a different motorcycling code – moto trials riding – and that also means the extreme terrain the riders will encounter this weekend should be no problem for the likes of Draper, or for fellow moto trials convert Jake Whitaker, of Wainuiomata.
Whitaker, a record eight-time national moto trials champion, finished tenth at round one of the national enduro series and eighth at round two, while Draper has fared significantly better, finishing third overall – behind Macdonald and Groombridge – at both events.
“To be honest, I have not gone too well at Moonshine in the past. Previously I have been riding a two-stroke, but now I’m on a Husqvarna FE250 four-stroke and that will give me more traction,” said the 19-year-old Draper.
The young apprentice plumber also commented that he receives massive support from his employer, Sparrow Plumbing, to enable him freedom to train and compete most weekends.
Others to watch out for this weekend include former national enduro and cross-country champion Adrian Smith, from Mokau, Titirangi’s Callan May, who has just returned from a season of cross-country racing in the United States, and expert over-300cc four-stroke class leader Chris Power, from Hamilton. Helensville’s Tom Buxton has been untouchable in the expert under-200cc two-stroke class, although rival Jake Wightman, from Auckland, will keep him honest.
Saturday’s event kicks off at about 10am, with classes to cater for expert and intermediate riders, as well as separate categories for veterans and women too.
Following racing this weekend, the national series continues with round four at Waimiha on June 4 and, finally, it all wraps up near Tokoroa on June 5.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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