The 31-year-old father-of-two already had the main trophy safely tucked away after acing the previous three rounds of the Yamaha-sponsored 2022 New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series, but he rubber-stamped that by also winning the fourth and final round on steep forestland at Moonshine Valley, near Porirua, on Sunday.
With three wins from three starts in the elite Gold Grade at the series’ previous rounds, the KTM 300 EXC rider had already bagged the main title with a round to spare two weeks earlier and he could afford to relax and ease back on the throttle on Sunday.
But that was simply not in his nature and he incredibly won Sunday’s race by nearly 49 minutes from the eventual runner-up rider, New Plymouth’s Tony Parker (Husqvarna TE300).
In the end, only two riders, Whitaker and Parker, were able to complete three laps of the demanding slippery and technically challenging circuit on Sunday, with the third-placed rider, South Islander Luke Corson (Beta RR300), from Whitecliffs, finishing one lap behind this leading pair.
That was also the final finishing order for the series, Whitaker winning the title ahead of Parker and Corson.
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 possibly surrounds him in this most difficult of off-road bike racing disciplines.
But the depth of talent in this sporting code runs deep in New Zealand and, although he seemed to win comfortably, Whitaker would be the first to tell you that nothing can be taken for granted in extreme enduro racing.
It was a similar story with the Silver Grade, where Auckland’s Ryan Hayward (KTM 250) had already claimed the top prize with a round to spare, and he also won the day in the Silver Grade to further cement his position at the top.
Hayward finished the day ahead of New Plymouth’s Sam Parker (the young son of Gold Grade runner-up Tony Parker, riding a Husqvarna TX150) and Whangaparoa’s Jacob Refoy (KTM 250EXC) finished third on Sunday.
However, Amberley’s Archer Pascoe (GasGas EC300) crossed the line in fourth place in the Silver Grade on Sunday and that was enough for him to claim overall runner-up spot for the series, with Sam Parker forced to settle for third step on the final podium in this grade.
Te Awamutu’s Graham Ramsey (Husqvarna TE250) wrapped up the Bronze Grade title with a solid win over Tauranga’s Leo Van Lierop (KTM 250XC) and Te Awamutu’s Sam Sherrard (Beta RR300) on Sunday.
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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