Whitaker wins Nutbuster Hard Enduro
Wainuiomata's Jake Whitaker was in sensational form at the weekend, securing his first win at the annual Nutbuster Hard Enduro near Christchurch.
The two-day, double-points Mike Pero-sponsored event was also recognised as the fourth and final round of the Alpinestars-sponsored NZ Xtreme Off-road Championship series and Whitaker's impressive win also propelled him from ninth to second overall in that multi-race competition.
Whitaker (KTM EXC 300 TPI) had contested only one of the series' three rounds in the North Island – missing round one at Whangamata in August and round three at Napier two weeks ago – but he had won round two at Porirua in September and so, with double points on offer in Canterbury at the weekend, it therefore allowed him to dramatically zoom up the standings.
Whitaker had skipped the Whangamata event to instead enjoy a belated honeymoon with his wife, Jane, and missed the Napier event because of a clash of dates with an event he was booked to race in Australia.
But there was no stopping KTM rider Whitaker at the weekend.
Whitaker edged out home-town hero Hamish Macdonald at Christchurch, the Kiwi international who had dominated at this same event last year.
Canterbury's Macdonald had just arrived back at home following a successful season of enduro racing in Europe and he was also in hot form, winning the preliminary enduro-cross prologue event within the Christchurch A&P Show on Friday.
Results here set the start order for the enduro proper the following day, with riders set off at 10-second intervals, Macdonald first away, followed by Whitaker and then Cambridge's Dylan Yearbury.
"I lost sight of Hamish (Macdonald) almost immediately after the start," said Whitaker.
"Then I fell back to about fifth place because I was taking too long to warm up and I was riding all over the show. But then I came right, found my pace and started picking off riders ahead of me.
"I caught and passed Macdonald on the second lap (of three).
"He was right behind me on the final lap and it was crazy stuff, with the two of us swapping the lead several times. But I was in front when it counted," he smiled.
Remarkably, after four-and-a-half-hours of cut-and-thrust racing, there were less than seven seconds between race winner Whitaker and runner-up Macdonald at the chequered flag.
Yearbury ended the weekend third overall and this was enough for him to claim the series win outright, although it was 27-year-old father-of-one Whitaker who stole the spotlight on Saturday.
Cambridge's Beau Taylor won the Silver Class at the weekend and for the series, while Whitianga's James Kerr topped the series' Bronze Class standings.