If the old saying is true “there’s no rest for the wicked”, then New Zealand’s elite off-road motorcycle racers must be very bad boys indeed.
The 2023 New Zealand Enduro Championships series kicked off at Omihi, just north of Christchurch, last weekend and the competition continues on with round two near Nelson this coming Saturday and Sunday.
Each of the four rounds for this season’s Yamaha-sponsored series offers twice the value because the first two rounds of the nationals in the South Island also register as rounds one and two respectively of the parallel-but-separate South Island Enduro Championships.
The riders coped remarkably well with the gruelling back-to-back two days of racing last weekend and the early pecking order has been sorted, but there’s no room for complacency now as another two days of brutal dirt bike racing is in store.
Organised by the Kapi-Mana Motorcycle Club, this weekend’s racing will be held on challenging terrain in forestry just off the Moutere Highway. The venue is on the corner of Don and Stanley Brooke Roads and will be signposted from Moutere Highway, west of Appleby and Richmond.
The format will be identical to what transpired at Omihi – the first day on Saturday will be run in a sprint format, with day two on Sunday a traditional timecard enduro race.
“The format we have set seems to be popular with the riders,” said Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson.
“It was mostly open farmland last weekend but will be an entirely different proposition this weekend. Quite a few of New Zealand’s elite riders are currently racing overseas, so that potentially opens the championship up for a new or first-time champion to emerge this season.”
Omihi’s Ethan McBreen leads the overall standings after round one last weekend and he knows there will be a target on his back at Moutere.
Finishing behind McBreen at Omihi was multi-time former national enduro and cross-country champion Brad Groombridge, of Taupo, with Wairoa’s former national cross-country champion Tommy Watts claiming third overall for the weekend.
Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman, Nelson’s Bailey Basalaj and Christchurch’s Josh Dando rounded out the top half dozen riders at the opening stanza and they’ll be keen to improve their positions on the mostly-forestry course.
Each of the two North Island rounds that are set to follow next month, in Wellington and Martinborough respectively, will be recognised also as rounds one and two of the parallel-but-separate North Island Enduro Championships and again they will be held on consecutive weekends.
2023 NZ Enduro Champs calendar:
Round 1: May 6-7, Omihi, North Canterbury.
Round 2: May 13-14, Pigeon Valley Road, south of Nelson.
Round 3: June 4-5, Moonshine Valley Road, near Porirua, Wellington.
Round 4: June 10-11, Martinborough.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
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