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PICTURED: Thames rider Natasha Cairns (KTM), a female making history as the leading rider in the A Grade (intermediate competition) this year. Photo by Andy McGechan,

JUNE 11, 2018: History was made when the 2018 Alpinestars New Zealand Enduro Championships season wrapped up with double-header rounds four and five in the lower North Island at the weekend.

The Alpinestars-sponsored series came to a thrilling conclusion with racing in the Santoft Forest, near Bulls, on Saturday, followed by the final round on farmland near Martinborough on Sunday.

Taupo's Brad Groombridge, the series leader in the premier AA Grade (formerly called Expert Grade) after the first three rounds, did just what everyone perhaps expected at the weekend, easily sealing up the title win for 2018.

He won both days of racing and actually nailed overall victory this season with a round to spare, his win at Santoft on Saturday enough for him to collect the crown early after his nearest challengers, Wellington's Jake Whitaker and Paeroa's Chris Power, encountered difficulties in the pine forest.

Whitaker finished the day an unaccustomed seventh overall at Santoft and Power placed ninth overall on Saturday. This gave Groombridge a 26-point championship lead and, with a maximum of only 25 points available for a win at Martinborough, the Taupo man could therefore not be beaten.

Groombridge won the day at Martinborough anyway, the 27-year-old completing a glorious season in which he had earlier in the year finished overall runner-up in the MX2 (250cc) class at the motocross nationals and also won the cross-country nationals for a third consecutive season.

It is believed to be the first time ever that one individual has finished on the podium in three separate motorcycling codes in the same season.

Whitaker finished runner-up to Groombridge in the AA Grade, with Power settling for third overall, Taumarunui's Cody Davey fourth and Tokoroa's Jake Wightman fifth.

Meanwhile, it was all eyes on Thames rider Natasha Cairns in the A Grade (formerly called intermediate) classification.

She led the A Grade at the start of the day at Santoft and, by finishing runner-up on Saturday and then third in the grade on Sunday, she easily wrapped up that title overall, becoming the first female in New Zealand history to win an enduro title in a grade that is not gender-specific.

She finished the A Grade ahead of Masterton's Sam Callaghan and Putaruru's Phil Skinner.

She also won the separate battle-within-the battle for women's class honours.

In terms of class honours, Groombridge won the combined under-200cc two-stroke class and under-300cc four-stroke class; Whitaker won the over-200cc two-stroke class; Power won the over-300cc four-stroke class and Hamilton's Phil Singleton won the veterans' (over 40 years') class.

In the class battles within the A Grade, Callaghan won the under-300cc and under-200cc two-stroke class; Havelock North's Tom Hislop won the over-300cc and over-200cc two-stroke class; Skinner won the Veterans 2 (50-54 years') class; Auckland's Jeff Van Hout won the Veterans 3 (over-55 years') class and Masterton's George Callaghan won the Veterans 4 (40-49 years') class. 


Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,


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