The 21-year-old from Christchurch had come close on many occasions, but this year it was finally his turn to win the New Zealand Enduro Championships, the domestic title victory coming a year after he’d won the 2019 125cc Youth Enduro GP World Championships.
The four-round Yamaha-sponsored 2020 New Zealand series, abbreviated because of havoc caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, went right down to the wire at back-to-back rounds three and four in the Santoft Forest, near Bulls, at the weekend.
The first two back-to-back days of racing had been staged at Masterton and Martinborough in June and the weekend’s double-header finale at Santoft, 15 kilometres west of Bulls, was always destined to be a cracker.
Macdonald (Sherco SE-F 300i) started the weekend third in the championship standings after the previous month’s racing in the Wairarapa region, but when he won round three on the sandy Santoft Forest course on Saturday, he was suddenly propelled into the series lead.
His nearest rivals, Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury (Husqvarna TE300) and Whanganui’s defending champion from 2019, Seth Reardon (Yamaha YZ250FX), finished fourth and seventh respectively on Saturday and, within the blink of an eye, Macdonald was in the series lead, two points clear of Yearbury and eight ahead of Reardon.
When Macdonald backed that up by also winning the day overall on Sunday, the title was his, Yearbury forced to settle for second and Reardon third overall.
Macdonald was only back in the country because of international chaos caused by the pandemic, but it meant he was able to race the full Kiwi series for the first time since 2017, the same season that his elder brother Angus Macdonald (Sherco) won the title and Hamish Macdonald had been forced to accept third overall that year, just behind 2016’s national champion Brad Groombridge (Suzuki).
“It was good to get the national crown and match my brother, Angus … and to match my father, Mark, too. Dad was a multi-time New Zealand enduro champion in the 1980s.
“Normally I would still have been overseas,” explained Hamish Macdonald, who spends his time between Milan, in Italy, or Birmingham in England as part of the Sherco Factory Race Team effort.
“But I was in New Zealand this time around and it would have been rude not to (race the nationals). I think it is good for the sport here to have so many of our top overseas riders, guys like Dylan Yearbury and (Helensville’s) Tom Buxton (the KTM 350 EXC-F rider who finished the 2020 series fourth overall), at home this year … it certainly made it a tough championship.”
There is little rest for Macdonald, who heads back to Milan and his team on Tuesday.
Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ) enduro commissioner, Central Enduro Series co-ordinator and Kapi-Mana Motorcycle Club enduro co-ordinator Justin Stevenson said “everyone was really happy with the two-day format” and he said MNZ would consider doing it again next season too.
“The only reason why the season was short this year was because of COVID-19. Next year we will use this series as a build-up for Kiwi riders wanting to race the International Six Days Enduro (set for Italy from August 30 to September 4, 2021).”
The various class winners this season (after riders had discarded their one worst result) were: Reardon (E1 class, up to 200cc 2-stroke, up to 300cc 4-stroke); Yearbury (E2 class, 201cc+ 2-stroke); Buxton (E3 class, 301cc + 4-stroke); Feilding’s Hugh Lintott (KTM, Vet 1 class, 40yrs +); Thames’ Natasha Cairns (KTM, women’s class); Blenheim’s Don Munro (KTM, Vet 2 class, 50-54yrs); Tokoroa’s Mark Newton (Beta, Vet 3 class, 55yrs +); Upper Hutt’s Kevin Birdsall (Honda, Vet 4 class, 40-49yrs); West Melton’s Henry Pearce (Sherco, Intermediate grade, up to 200cc 2-stroke, up to 300cc 4-stroke class); Amberley’s Archer Pascoe (Husqvarna, Intermediate grade, 201cc+ 2-stroke, 301cc + 4-stroke class).
The 2020 Yamaha NZ Enduro Championships were supported by Yamaha New Zealand, Mitas tyres Macaulay Metals, Best Build Construction, Silver-bullet and Kiwi Rider magazine.
2020 NZ Enduro Champs calendar:
Round 1 – Saturday, June 13 – 366 Mangarei Road, Masterton
Round 2 – Sunday, June 14 – Ruakokoputuna Hall, Martinborough
Round 3 – Saturday, July 11 – Raumai Road, Santoft Forest
Round 4 – Sunday, July 12 – Raumai Road, Santoft Forest
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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