Rotorua’s Bradley Lauder (Husqvarna, pictured here) claimed the top spot on the demanding farmland course near Masterton on Saturday, the fifth round of seven in the Yamaha and Mitas Tyres-sponsored series, and with that he has elevated himself from ninth to third equal overall in the title chase.
Helensville’s Tom Buxton (KTM) won round one of the series near Whangamata in March, Cambridge rider Dylan Yearbury (Husqvarna) clinched the win at round two near Porirua in April, Thames rider Chris Birch (KTM) topped the podium at round three near Tokoroa two weeks later and Whanganui’s Seth Reardon (Yamaha) won round four near Martinborough three weeks ago.
Reardon finished runner-up to Lauder at Masterton on Saturday, with Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker (KTM) finishing third, while Cambridge’s Beau Taylor (Husqvarna) and Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman (KTM) rounded out the top five.
Lauder won four of the day’s five high-speed “special tests” on Saturday, and ended the full day’s racing one minute and 14 seconds ahead of Reardon, with Whitaker ending his day 53 seconds further back.
Whitaker is level with Lauder at third overall in the series standings, representing a great improvement for Whitaker, who had been ranked seventh overall after round four.
The 33-year-old Lauder, who owns his own white-water kayaking business, obviously lives for thrills, but he took a cautious approach to his racing on Saturday.
“The course was a mix of open farmland, with some pine tree sections too, and I was on minute one and among the first riders to be sent onto the track. I thought I’d be cunning and let the other two riders with me go ahead, so that I’d have wheel tracks to follow and it worked out for me.
“I was playing it smart but it’s hard to go fast and play it cool at the same time. I knew I had to keep my speed up, but there was also the danger of throwing it all away.
“The one ‘terrain test’ I didn’t win was when I crashed.”
Reardon currently holds the ace cards in terms of overall championship glory – he is leading the standings after five rounds and the rider immediately behind him, Waikato’s Taylor, is a massive 23 points adrift.
Reardon will be hoping he can hang on to the lead when the competitors next race, at the double-header final weekend, rounds six and seven, in Hokitika in three weeks’ time, on July 19 and 20.
With the scores from only six of the seven rounds to be counted – riders to discard their one worst result – the race for the championship win outright, and for the various class titles too, could still go down to the wire at Hokitika.
The 2019 Yamaha NZ Enduro Championships are supported by Mitas tyres, Macaulay Metals, Best Build Construction, Silver-bullet, Kiwi Rider magazine, Dirt Rider Downunder magazine and Moto Events NZ.
2019 Yamaha NZ Enduro Champs calendar:
Round 1 – Saturday, March 16 – Thames
Round 2 – Saturday, April 6 – Kapiti
Round 3 – Saturday, April 20 – South Waikato
Round 4 – Sunday, June 9 – Martinborough
Round 5 – Saturday, June 29 – Bideford, Masterton
Round 6 – Friday, July 19 – Hokitika, Westland
Round 7 – Saturday, July 20 – Hokitika, Westland
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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