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The New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series has so far lived up to its name.

Only the best of New Zealand's off-road bike riders have been able to cope with the demands set before them in the opening two rounds of the Yamaha-sponsored series and this weekend's "Over the Top Hard Enduro" in Hawke's Bay, the double-header third round of four in the series, will surely prove just as daunting.

The courses are set with gold, silver and bronze ratings, with riders able to nominate their own level to register for in this gruelling competition.

Thames rider Chris Birch won the day in the premier Gold Class at Whangamata's opening round of the series in early September, finishing nearly six minutes ahead of Wainuiomata's Jake Whitaker, but Birch was also classified as a non-championship rider because he does not currently have a national licence.

So therefore it was Whitaker who officially claimed the top spot, finishing the day ahead of New Plymouth's Tony Parker and Helensville's Tom Buxton.

Round two of the Yamaha NZ Extreme Off-Road Championships at Moonshine, near Porirua, in September was won by Buxton, with Whitaker and Parker completing the Gold Class podium that day.

Whitaker leads the Gold Class overall after two rounds, just two points ahead of Buxton and a further three points clear of Parker, but anything can happen in this most arduous of sports and talented riders such as Rotorua's Bradley Lauder or local Napier rider Mackenzie Wiig could also be expected to feature this weekend.

This weekend's two-dayer in Hawke's Bay (at 435 Puketapu Road, in Taradale, for day one and then at Tutira, 45 kilometres north of Napier, for day two, November 2-3) could be pivotal in determining where the silverware ends up this season.

Saturday is the event prologue, a preliminary phase, set over a man-made course and on Sunday the riders head off-road.

There will be diversions in place for the Bronze Class riders to avoid some of the worst obstacles and a natural terrain motocross section is also included, providing a high speed element into the equation.

"The series is really storming along," said Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson.

"We are getting good rider numbers at these events and we typically expect more at the two-day events, so there should be a great turn-out this weekend.

"There is a big enduro-cross section, the largest in New Zealand, that will be the feature from 1pm on Saturday and there's good spectator viewing for that. We are looking forward to a splendid weekend of entertainment."

Just as it did for last year’s inaugural extreme series, the competition will again wrap up with another double-header weekend, at the two-day Nut Buster hard enduro at Oxford, near Christchurch, on November 15-16.

Only three of the four rounds of the Yamaha NZ Extreme Off-road Championship are to be counted, with riders to discard their one worst score from the three North Island rounds.

The 2019 Yamaha NZ Extreme Off-Road Championships are supported by Mitas tyres, Macaulay Metals, Best Build Construction, Silver-bullet, Kiwi Rider magazine, Dirt Rider Downunder magazine, Moto Events NZ and NZ Car Parts (Auckland).

The 2019 NZ Extreme Off-Road Championship calendar:

Round one: September 7, Taungatara Forest, Whangamata.

Round two: September 22, Moonshine Extreme, Bulls Run Rd, Porirua.

Round three: November 2-3, Over The Top, Hawke's Bay.

Round four: November 15-16, Nut Buster, Oxford, Christchurch.


Credit: Words by Andy McGechan,


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