The multi-talented Whitaker seemed untroubled as he won the day at the second of four rounds in this Yamaha-sponsored series near Whangamata on Sunday, the only rider to complete four laps in the tough, nearly-five-hour, event.
Whitaker (KTM 300 EXC) easily outshone the rest of the country’s elite dirt bikers, using the special balancing and traction-control skills he’d acquired over previous years when he rode his way to a record eight national trial championship titles.
Runner-up on Sunday was New Plymouth’s Tony Parker (Husqvarna TE300), with Aucklander Tausten Gibbs (Husqvarna TE300) claiming the third podium spot in the elite Gold Grade.
Best of the Silver Grade riders was Auckland’s Ryan Hayward (KTM250), with Amberley’s Archer Pascoe (GasGas EC300) and Whitianga’s James Kerr (KTM300EXC) rounding out the podium.
Best of the Bronze Grade riders was Colville’s Blake Evans (KTM150XC), followed by Dannevirke’s Anders Easton (Husqvarna TE150) and Te Awamutu’s Jesse Ramsey (Husqvarna TE150).
This gave the KTM bike brand a clean sweep of grade wins.
The Taungatara Forest venue provided a stern challenge for even the most-skilled of dirt bike racers, but that’s just what Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson had promised and most riders expected.
“It was a big day on a very demanding track,” said Whitaker afterwards.
“It featured some good, tough hill-climbs, sketchy down-hills and river and creek sections that tested us all day.
“I got a great start and headed into the first muddy section with a clear track ahead of me. Tony Parker caught up to me and pushed me pretty hard for the first couple of laps, until I managed to break away and pull a good lead to secure the win.
“I want to say a massive thanks to the Thames Valley Motorcycle Club for hosting this great event. It was run really well and the track was awesome.”
With two rounds remaining to decide where the crown sits this season, the competition has reached the halfway stage and Whitaker’s rivals must be scratching their heads for ideas to beat this man.
Parker was also runner-up to Whitaker at round one of the series and so he will be determined to put a stop to Whitaker’s winning ways at the two rounds that now follow.
Whitaker previously won this series in 2019, and again last year, and if that didn’t already make him one of the favourites to win it again, surely his back-to-back wins so far this season will have earned him that tag again.
Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury won the inaugural series in 2018 and again in 2020, but he was a no-show on Sunday and he also skipped the 2022 series opener near Porirua earlier this month because he was away on assignment overseas, racing at the International Six Days Enduro in France.
The 2022 Yamaha NZ Extreme Off-Road Championships are supported by Mitas tyres, Macaulay Metals, Best Build Construction, Silver-bullet and Kiwi Rider magazine.
© Words by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
Photo courtesy Jane Whitaker
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