Wainuiomata rider Jake Whitaker will take some beating after he dominated the opening round of this year’s New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championships at Moonshine, just north of Wellington, at the weekend.
The Yamaha-sponsored event was certainly a brutal test and Whitaker was the only rider to finish a lap in less than two hours, while only the top six finishers managed to complete two laps on Sunday.
Whitaker (KTM 300 EXC) finished a staggering 21 minutes ahead of runner-up rider Tony Parker (New Plymouth, Husqvarna TE300) on Sunday, while the third best individual, Inglewood’s Luke Thompson (Husqvarna TE300), crossed the finish line a further 18 minutes later.
“The course was quite intense, but I managed to pull a big gap over my rivals on the first major uphill section,” said Whitaker.
“I just slowly increased my lead after that. I like these hard events. It’s good to get stuck into technical riding like this,” said Whitaker, who is also a record eight-time former New Zealand trials champion.
“It was awesome to see the young guns stepping up and starting to push some of us who have been around a while. It’s great for the sport,” said the 31-year-old father-of-two.
“The Kapi-Mana club really stepped up the level of the track this year and put on an amazing race that really tested us.”
It has been a remarkable season so far for Whitaker after he recently won the three-round Forestland Cross-country Series and also last month celebrated victory at the first of four rounds in the NZ GNCC series near Tokoroa.
The New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series skipped a beat in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was last won in 2020 by Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury, although he was a non-starter at Moonshine on Sunday.
Yearbury, who also won the inaugural New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series in 2018, is currently making his way back home after a successful International Six Days Enduro campaign in France, and he will have to play catch-up to Whitaker throughout the remaining rounds is he is to retain his title.
But for now at least, Whitaker has the advantage. He is a rider who not only showed such dominance at the weekend, but who is also a previous outright winner of this series, when he took the top prize in 2019.
With only three of the four rounds of the championship to be counted and riders to discard their one worst score from the three North Island rounds, it is destined to be a tight affair right up until the must-do final event, near Christchurch in November.
Riders were asked to nominate themselves as either Gold, Silver or Bronze Grade competitors, depending upon their skill and fitness levels, with each of the grades being scored separately.
In the Silver Grade, Auckland’s Ryan Hayward (KTM250) dominated, winning Sunday’s race by six minutes from New Plymouth’s Sam Parker (Husqvarna TX125), with Whitianga’s James Kerr (KTM 300EXC) claiming the third podium spot.
Three riders from Te Awamutu, Jesse Ramsey (Husqvarna TE150), Graham Ramsey (KTM 250EXC) and Phil Gibson (Husqvarna TE300), respectively took the top three spots in the Bronze Grade.
The 2022 Yamaha NZ Extreme Off-Road Championships are supported by Mitas tyres, Macaulay Metals, Best Build Construction, Silver-bullet and Kiwi Rider magazine.
The 2022 NZ Extreme Off-Road Championships calendar:
Round one: September 11, Moonshine Extreme, Bulls Run Rd, Porirua.
Round two: September 25, Taungatara Forest, Whangamata.
Round three: November 11-12, Over The Top, Hawke’s Bay.
Round four: November 26-27, Nut Buster, Oxford, Christchurch.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
Find BikesportNZ.com on FACEBOOK here