New Zealand is home to some of the world’s best off-road motorcycle racers and, in the enduro branch of the sport, there is one man who stands head and shoulders above the rest.
It is now three impressive wins from three starts for Auckland’s Chris Birch in this season’s New Zealand Enduro Championships and, in just a couple of days, he could possibly make that five from five.
The 35-year-old Kiwi dirt-bike international and defending national champion won the opening round of seven in this year’s KTM-sponsored national enduro series in the Riverhead Forest, west of Auckland, in February, then just a couple of weeks later repeated the lesson at round two near Whangamata.
Birch then made it three in a row when he took his KTM 350 XC-F bike to win the third round near Wellington midway through last month, finishing the day on the steep forest course near Porirua just ahead of Jake Whitaker (Husqvarna), Liam Draper (Husqvarna), Chris Power (Yamaha) and Jason Davis (KTM).
With rounds four and five set to follow in quick succession this weekend — round four near Mosgiel on Saturday and round five near Christchurch on Easter Monday — it will be the perfect time for Birch’s rivals to strike back.
None of Birch’s rivals can be described as an Easter Bunny — all of them are of international calibre — but Birch really is someone special.
He has already won seven Enduro Championships outright and it’s looking likely that No8 will be soon tucked away.
Whitaker, riding a Husqvarna FE250, came close to doing that at round three when he crossed the finish line just 75sec behind Birch after a brutal day of racing in the Akatarawa Forest, up the Moonshine Valley Rd, with Draper again producing a surprise performance to take his little 125cc Husqvarna TE125 to third overall. “It was quite tough in places today, but I like it when it’s like that,” Birch said.
“The series has definitely been going well for me and so I have no complaints. It’s a shame other dirt-bike series have date clashes with this one because there should be more competition for me here than there is.
“But I still have to ride very well to beat these guys.”
It was Whitaker’s best result of the series thus far.
“I may have had a slight home turf advantage but I was still surprised to find myself close behind Birch on the results sheet,” Whitaker said.
“I’m pleased with how I did at Wellington.” Birch leads the series overall from Draper and Davis and, in the battle for the separate class honours, Birch leads the way in the over-300cc four-stroke class; Whitaker leads the under-300cc four-stroke class; Davis leads the over-200cc two-stroke class; Draper heads the fight for under-200cc two-stroke class honours, while Tokoroa’s Sean Clarke is on top of the veterans’ over-40 years class.
Following racing in the South Island this coming weekend, the series continues with round six at Waimiha on Saturday, May 9, and then wraps up at the seventh and final round near Tokoroa on Sunday, May 10.