All eyes will be on former Kiwi internationals Paul Whibley and Callan May when the second round of four in this season’s Dirt Guide Cross-Country Series blasts off at Ohakuri, near Atiamuri, on Sunday.
There will be two very good reasons for everybody to be watching the battle between the two Yamaha riders.
One reason is that Titirangi’s May will be looking to knock his friend and rival back a peg or two after Manawatu’s Whibley so convincingly won the big three-hour cross-country race at a separate event in the Woodhill Forest, near Muriwai, on Sunday.
May’s bid to beat Whibley at Woodhill at the weekend fell flat when he suffered tyre problems, but, with fresh rubber applied, he could be expected to pick up where left off at round one of The Dirt Guide Series.
The popularity of The Dirt Guide Series continues to grow rapidly and, with separate trails and several different grades incorporated into the day’s racing, catering for all levels of confidence and ability, Sunday’s event is also an ideal opportunity for the lesser or novice riders to learn from masters such as Whibley and May.
“We want all dirt bike owners to come and have a go at bush riding,” said Sunday’s event organiser Sean Clarke, of Tokoroa.
“With riders getting older every year, we are really keen to provide an experience to entice the younger riders to come along and ride. There are classes for mini bike riders as young as seven,” he said.
“Only a few people ever win races like this, so it’s not about the winners but about participation.”
The talent runs deep at the sharp end of the serious part of the competition, with Taupo’s current national cross-country and enduro champion Brad Groombridge (Suzuki), Howick’s Liam Draper (Husqvarna), Coatesville’s Sam Greenslade (KTM), and Palmerston North’s three-time former national cross-country champion Adam Reeves (Suzuki), to name just a few, among those worth watching and learning from over the course of the two-hour senior race.
It is expected that leading riders such as Atiamuri’s Hadleigh Knight, Morrinsville’s Nathan Tesselaar, Waimauku’s Jake Wightman and Cambridge’s Ashton Grey will also be contenders to win the expert grade on Sunday. Thames rider Natasha Cairns will be firm favourite to win the women’s grade.
In addition to the expert grade riders, the series caters also for mini and junior riders, aged from as young as seven, and intermediates, veterans and women as well.
The forest venue is midway between Tokoroa and Taupo, with the 90-minute junior race set to kick off at 9.30am, while the two-hour senior race will start at about 12.30pm.
Racing will be on similar terrain to that used for part of the big International Six Days Enduro in the South Waikato region in November 2006.
Inducted into the Motorcycling New Zealand Hall of Fame in May this year, Clarke was the race director of the ISDE in 2006 and is himself no stranger to winning at this ultimate level of the sport.
Clarke won ISDE gold medals in 1992 and 1998 and that takes quite some doing. To win a silver medal at the ISDE, a rider must be within 50 percent of the winner’s time in their bike class and, to win a bronze, all a rider has to do is finish, something that is often easier said than done.
The Dirt Guide series is sponsored by Michelin, Bel Ray, Renthal, O’Neal, DRC, Zeta, Kiwi Rider magazine, Oakley, TCX boots and Yoshimura.
2016 DIRT GUIDE SERIES CALENDAR:
Round one, Tar Hill, Tokoroa, June 19.
Round two, Ohakuri, August 7.
Round three, Ohakuri, September 4.
Round four, Tar Hill, October 2.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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