Wainuiomata’s defending champion Jake Whitaker (KTM), a record eight-time New Zealand champion in the quite similar dirt bike code of trial riding, won the Yamaha-sponsored extreme series opener near Porirua in early September and then finished runner-up to Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury (Husqvarna) at round two near Whangamata two weeks later.
Yearbury was again the best-performed individual at round three – a two-day affair in Hawke’s Bay, day one on Saturday being a “prologue”, stadium-style event on the outskirts of Taradale and day two on Sunday a traditional extreme enduro at Tutira, about 50-minutes’ drive north of Napier.
Helensville’s Tom Buxton (KTM) won Saturday’s prologue with Yearbury runner-up, New Plymouth’s Tony Parker (KTM) third and Whitaker settling for fourth. Sunday’s four-hour race was won by Yearbury, finishing just over two minutes ahead of Buxton, with Whitaker third and Parker fourth.
With those scores added together, Yearbury and Buxton finished the weekend equal first in points, although Yearbury got the nod as overall winner thanks to the count-back rule, he having won the second day.
So, with two outright wins to his credit in the series thus far, the momentum has now swung in favour of Waikato man Yearbury.
Riders will discard their worst result from the three North Island rounds of the series, therefore making the South Island finale – the Nut Buster hard enduro at Oxford, near Christchurch, on November 14-15 – a must-do event, and so the title chase is on a knife-edge.
“It was a really good, tight race on Sunday, with the leading guys all swapping the lead,” said Yearbury.
“When we came into lapped riders, I managed to break away and get a two-minute lead, which I held until the end.
“It will be an interesting end to the series in Christchurch.”
It’s more than just a two-horse race, but if Whitaker wins the final round, he’ll successfully defend the title he won in 2019 and, if Yearbury wins at Oxford (Christchurch), then he will re-take the title that he won during the inaugural running of this series in 2018.
In addition to Whitaker and Yearbury, riders such as Buxton, Parker and New Plymouth’s Mark Horwell (KTM), are also well-positioned to nip in and steal the limelight in the elite Gold Grade.
It will go down to the wire in Christchurch in a fortnight’s time.
Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson said rider entry numbers were lower than he’d hoped for, but “that’s probably to be expected with the way 2020 has panned out. It’s a tough year we’re having”.
“Perhaps the course in the South Island may be more suited to Jake (Whitaker) with his trial riding skills, but it really could go either way.
“Tom Buxton is in the hunt to win the series overall too and Tony Parker deserves a pat on the back too because he’s actually old enough to qualify as a veteran rider.”
Winner of the Silver Grade overall at the weekend was Taupo’s Wil Yeoman (Yamaha), finishing ahead of two brothers from Canterbury, Luke and Cody Corson (both on KTM), with New Plymouth’s Sam Parker (KTM) winning the Bronze Grade ahead of Thames rider Regan Smith (KTM) and now Auckland-based former Taradale man Tony Walch (KTM).
The 2020 Yamaha NZ Extreme Off-Road Championships are supported by Mitas tyres, Macaulay Metals, Best Build Construction, Silver-bullet and Kiwi Rider magazine.
The 2020 NZ Extreme Off-Road Championship calendar:
Round one: September 13, Moonshine Extreme, Bulls Run Rd, Porirua.
Round two: September 26, Taungatara Forest, Whangamata.
Round three: October 31-November 1, Over The Top, Hawke’s Bay.
Round four: November 14-15, Nut Buster, Oxford, Christchurch.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
Find BikesportNZ.com on FACEBOOK here