Riders spoiled for choice with 3 championship events around NZ
Off-road motorcycle riders are spoiled for choice this weekend, with three national championship events around the country.
Round three of the Enduro Championships will be held near Wellington on Saturday, round two of the Cross-country Championships is set for Mosgiel on Sunday and the final round of the Motocross Championships is scheduled for Pukekohe on the same day.
The cross-country competition is expected to be a battle between two Kiwi internationals.
Paul Whibley wrapped up the international phase of his career and returned home to find the domestic scene just as tough as anything he’d encountered during his 12-year stint in Europe and the US.
The 36-year-old twice won the Grand National Cross-country Championships in the US — in 2009 and 2012. He was never planning to retire from the sport, just to ease back into some New Zealand competition, but being beaten to the chequered flag at the opening round in Central Hawke’s Bay last month came as something of a shock.
There was certainly no disgrace in finishing runner-up to Mokau’s Adrian Smith, a four-time former and current national champion, but it is certainly something Whibley would like to rectify at round two.
Smith knows he can expect a backlash from Whibley when the two friends line up alongside the rest of New Zealand’s cross-country elite in the three-hour race. Riders will count the points from just three of the series’ four rounds, discarding their worst score, and Whibley clearly hopes his second placing in Central Hawke’s Bay will be his worst.
Smith and Whibley should take nothing for granted with any number of riders capable of stealing their thunder.
Scott Birch, Andrew Charleston, Jason Dickey, Ethan Bruce, Daniel Christie and Charles Alabaster must all fancy their chances.
The junior riders will have their 90-minute race earlier in the day, with round one winner Reece Lister the favourite.
Other junior riders to shine included Jake Wightman, Luke Taylor, Andrew Barr, Jackson Walker, Josh Pilet, Seth Reardon and Jake Wyman, and any one of these individuals could easily be celebrating victory on Sunday morning.
In the parallel enduro competition, it’s time to see if anyone can challenge Auckland’s defending champion Chris Birch.
He won the series outright last year, beaten just once in six rounds, and he’s looking likely to repeat or even improve upon that in 2015.
Riders such as Whangamata’s Jason Davis, runner-up to Birch at round two near Whangamata last month, or Howick’s Liam Draper, who has so far finished third and fifth overall, are among those expected to keep Birch honest.
It’s too early for hopefuls to be waving the white flag, with four rounds after this weekend. Besides that, there are battles-within-battles for individual class honours.
Birch leads the way in the over-300cc four-stroke class; Davis leads in the over-200cc two-stroke and Draper heads the fight for under-200cc two-stroke honours.
Other class leaders after two rounds are Sam Greenslade (under-300cc four-stroke class) and Sean Clarke (veterans’ over-40 years).