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CAPTION: Cambridge's Ashton Grey (Yamaha YZ450FX), one of many possible top-10 contenders this weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan,

APRIL 2, 2019: It is a sport the brings out the best and the worst ... the best of dirt bike riding talent and the worst that nature can throw at them.

The 2019 Yamaha New Zealand Enduro Championships kicked off near Whangamata two weeks ago and the second round of seven in the series is set for the Kapiti Coast region, in forestry just north of Wellington, this weekend, the demanding terrain sure to be another stern test for the riders and their motorcycles.

The venue for Saturday's event, on steep forest land off Moonshine Road, will be signposted from State Highway 58 (Haywards Hill Road) and it's probably hard to believe that such rugged terrain can be found so close to New Zealand's Capital city.

Hosted by the Kapi-Mana Motorcycle Club, the course is mostly clay-based forestry tracks with the premier AA course riders expected to complete three loops, each of just under 50km in length and comprising five terrain tests. The lesser A course riders have been set two loops of just under 50km and comprising four terrain tests. The Intro Trail riders will be doing two shorter loops with two terrain tests (not timed).

Helensville's Tom Buxton dominated the day on the AA course at Whangamata, the 20-year-old finishing ahead of Cambridge's Dylan Yearbury, Thames rider Jason Davis, the former national enduro champion back from retirement, with another former champion, Glen Eden's Chris Birch, finishing fourth and Whanganui's Seth Reardon rounding out the top five.

Other riders to run among the leaders at Whangamata included Cambridge's Beau Taylor, Rotorua's Bradley Lauder, Tokoroa's Jake Wightman, Cambridge's Ashton Grey and Wainuiomata's eight-time national moto trials champion and now enduro expert Jake Whitaker.

Such is the nature of this most demanding of sports that any of these individuals could be expected to move up and challenge Buxton this weekend, with rider stamina, strength, skill, bike reliability, the weather and terrain, plus the unknown element of luck all sure to play a part.

Leading riders on the A course at Whangamata were Tokoroa's Jake Wightman, Thames rider Natasha Cairns, Te Hauautu's Elliot 'Superman' Kent, Masterton's Philip Bly and Putaruru's Phil Skinner.

"The track at Moonshine is in a really good condition," said Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson.

"We have put in a few interesting bits for the AA guys and it will be a challenge. It will be a little bit more moderate for the A course riders.

"I think a bit of moisture is expected leading into the event, but rain will be good to keep the dust down.

"It is shaping up to be a really good series. It's early days yet, but it's certainly close at the top and anyone's championship to win at this stage."

The Yamaha and Mitas tyres-sponsored series will next head to the South Waikato region for round three on Saturday, April 20.

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

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,


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