The main trophy may already be locked away, but that doesn’t mean the action will be any less intense or vital for the hundreds of competitors expected to show up for the final showdown on Sunday.
This year’s Yamaha-sponsored New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series started with a hiss and a roar at Moonshine Valley, near Porirua, back in early September and, three rounds later, it will now wrap up with round four this weekend at the same rugged venue, just a hop and a skip from the nation’s capital.
With three wins from three starts in the elite Gold Grade at the previous rounds, Jake Whitaker has bagged the main title with a round to spare and there is no denying that he can probably relax and ease back on the throttle this weekend.
But that’s not in his nature and, with this fourth and final round set for his own “back-yard” just a few kilometres’ drive from his home at Wainuiomata, it would be foolish to assume that Whitaker will be taking things easy.
South Islanders Ben Dando and Luke Corson gave Whitaker plenty to think about at the previous round in Canterbury just over a week ago and they are both now vying to claim a podium finish, Omihi’s Ethan McBreen and Taranaki pair Tony Parker and Luke Thompson will also be fired up to achieve a top-three finish to the series.
Whitaker won this series overall in 2019 and again last year and his credentials as a record eight-time New Zealand trial champion – a parallel motorcycling code where the emphasis is on balance and throttle control rather than pure speed – help add to the air of invincibility that surrounds him.
But riders the calibre of Corson, Dando, Parker, Thompson and McBreen, and a few others too, have shown themselves extremely capable of causing an upset.
It’s a similar story with the Silver Grade, where Auckland’s Ryan Hayward (pictured above) has already claimed the top prize with a round to spare.
Riders battling on Sunday for the series’ final podium spots in this grade will no doubt include New Plymouth’s Sam Parker, Amberley’s Archer Pascoe, Whitianga’s James Kerr and Whangaparoa’s Jacob Refoy.
Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson said he believes Sunday’s event “could be the best yet” of the 2022 series.
“The course is roughly 50 percent new and untried terrain and 50 percent of it will be tracks that have been used before, but this time running in the reverse direction,” said Stevenson.
“It will offer the same level of difficulty that riders must now be expecting, a real challenge for the Gold and Silver Grade competitors, but we’ll make it a little bit easier for the Bronze Grade riders.
“The course is looking good and it will be a great event, provided the weather plays its part and we don’t get too much heavy rain.”
Stevenson said the aim of the Extreme Off Road Championship Series was to provide events that are designed using the available terrain to be extremely challenging for the riders and an ultimate test for the riders’ ability and skills.
Although the main prizes in both the Gold and Giver Grades have been claimed already, there are still the rest of the podium positions to scrap over and there still need to be winners found in the various other categories.
The 2022 Yamaha NZ Extreme Off-Road Championships are supported by Mitas tyres, Macaulay Metals, Silver-bullet and Kiwi Rider magazine.
2022 Yamaha NZ Extreme Off-Road Championship calendar:
Round one: September 13, Moonshine Extreme, Bulls Run Rd, Porirua;
Round two: September 25, Taungatara Forest, Whangamata;
Round three: November 11-12, Enduro X & Nut Buster, Christchurch;
Round four: November 27, Moonshine Extreme, Bulls Run Rd, Porirua.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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