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Kiwis Win “Battle of Balance” Bledisloe Style

Kiwis Win “Battle of Balance” Bledisloe Style


Wellington's Jake
Whitaker, who led the New Zealand team to victory at the
weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan,
BikesportNZ.com
Wellington's Jake Whitaker, who led the New Zealand team to victory at the weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

Kiwis Win “Battle of Balance” Bledisloe Style

APRIL 9, 2007: It’s official: New Zealanders are more balanced individuals than their Australian counterparts.

New Zealand’s three-man team whitewashed the Oceania Motorcycle Trials Championships in the Bay of Plenty at the weekend, unbeaten in all three classes to comfortably win this Bledisloe Cup of trials riding.

The Kiwi trio -- Wellington's Jake Whitaker (Expert, Gas Gas), Ashhurst's Kevin Pinfold (Master, Gas Gas) and New Plymouth's Matt Foster (Junior, Beta) – were simply masterful in the difficult conditions, eclipsing their opposite numbers on both days of the two-day event.

Whitaker overwhelmed Newcastle’s Kyle Middleton (Expert, Gas Gas) 2-0, Pinfold crushed Canberra’s Kerrin Phillips (Master, Sherco) 2-0 and Foster hammered Sydney’s Jason Byrne (Junior, Gas Gas) 2-0.

“I actually didn’t ride that well,” said Whitaker afterwards. “It was very slippery and it cost me a few silly ‘fives’ (five penalty points accrued for falling off or failing to complete a section).

“But, overall, I think I coped better than the Aussies, who probably don’t get to ride in such slippery conditions very often.”


Australian Master class rider Phillips crashed heavily and was taken to hospital for a check-up. He damaged his knee and tore a ligament and failed to finish day two.

His opposite number, Manawatu’s Pinfold (51), said tree roots had also tripped up the Australian visitors.

“We beat the Australians the last time we contested the Oceania event too, in 2003. We don’t face them every year but I understand the Oceania Trials Championship is to become an annual fixture now,” said Pinfold.

Whitaker’s naming in the New Zealand team had raised a few eyebrows with the 15-year-old being named to take the Experts role ahead of national champion Warren Laugesen, but Levin nursery manager Laugesen was thrilled to see the teenager cope with the pressure and lead his team-mates to the Oceania win.

The trans-Tasman “battle of balance”' shared the two-day programme with rounds three and four of the North Island Trials Championships, round three at Te Puke on Saturday and round four at Tauranga on Sunday.

Laugesen (33) actually beat Whitaker over the two days, the mentor and protégé competing side-by-side over the Experts course but only Whitaker’s performance counting towards the trans-Tasman tally.

Laugesen won the Experts class both days and now has a 2-1-1-1 record in the North Island Championships after four rounds. His only defeat was to Whitaker at the series opener near Wellington in March.

“I really wanted to beat Warren at Tauranga,” said Whitaker. “But, again, he was just too good for me.”

Hawke’s Bay’s Luke March finished third, behind Laugesen and Whitaker, in the North Island Championships Expert class standings.

Nelson’s Nick Oliver won the North Island Championships A-grade class, ahead of Pinfold and Wellington’s Carl Robson.


ENDS

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