Enduro championships too close to call
JUNE 3, 2019: This season's New Zealand Enduro Championships will nudge past the halfway stage next weekend, with the fourth round of seven set for rugged terrain in the Wairarapa.
This 2019 Yamaha and Mitas Tyres-sponsored series has featured three different winners so far, so it's virtually impossible to tell yet which individual might deserve the tag of outright title favourite.
However, the fog of uncertainty may lift a little this Sunday afternoon (June 9).
Round four on Sunday takes riders to remote Ruakokoputuna Road, south of Martinborough, and results there could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the 2019 championship.
Points from only six of the seven rounds are to be counted, with riders to discard their one worst result, so the race for the outright win, and the various class titles too, could remain wide open right until the final showdown in July.
"The course is steep farmland, but nothing too extreme," said Motorcycling New Zealand (MNZ) enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson.
"It is very similar to tracks we have used in the past and one of my favourites," he said.
"It has been a bit wet there lately, so sharp, fresh tyres might well be recommended."
Helensville’s Tom Buxton won round one near Whangamata in March, Cambridge rider Dylan Yearbury clinched the win at round two near Porirua in April and Thames rider Chris Birch topped the podium at round three near Tokoroa two weeks later.
And nipping at their heels throughout have been a gaggle of very fast individuals, any of whom are capable and well-positioned to move up and take the series lead – riders such as Whanganui's Seth Reardon, Whangamata's Jason Davis, Wainuiomata's Jake Whitaker, Tokoroa's Jake Wightman or Cambridge's Beau Taylor.
Even Stratford's Josh Hunger, Rotorua's Bradley Lauder, Cambridge's Ashton Grey and Christchurch's Josh Dando, who also feature among the leading dozen or so riders, could possibly count themselves outside chances of winning the series overall, while entries have come in for Sunday's event from Tauranga's former motocross world champion Ben Townley and Manawatu's Paul Whibley, a two-time former cross-country champion in the United States.
It's highly unlikely that any of the event winners so far will go onto be crowned national champion this year, with Buxton and Yearbury currently overseas and Birch also committed off-shore, leaving a vacuum that will almost certainly be filled by the likes of Reardon, Davis, Whitaker, Wightman or Taylor.
This weekend's event at Martinborough and the round five event that follows at Masterton on June 29 could be pivotal in the championship chase, which will wrap up with a double header, rounds six and seven, on consecutive days in Hokitika in July.
The 2019 Yamaha NZ Enduro Championships are supported by Mitas tyres, Macaulay Metals, Best Build Construction, Silver-bullet, Kiwi Rider magazine, Dirt Rider Downunder magazine and Moto Events NZ.
2019 Yamaha NZ Enduro Champs calendar:
Round 1 – Saturday, March 16 – Thames
Round 2 – Saturday, April 6 - Kapiti
Round 3 – Saturday, April 20 – South Waikato
Round 4 – Sunday, June 9 – Martinborough
Round 5 – Saturday, June 29 – Bideford, Masterton
Round 6 – Friday, July 19 – Hokitika, Westland
Round 7 – Saturday, July 20 – Hokitika, Westland