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Enduro championships kick-off near Tokoroa

Rotorua's Ethan Harris (Yamaha), one of the riders to watch out for at round one of the 2021 New Zealand Enduro Championships near Tokoroa on Sunday. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

The 2021 New Zealand Enduro Championships kick off near Tokoroa this weekend and one thing is for certain, there will be a different champion crowned this season.

The national champion last year, Christchurch's Hamish Macdonald, is currently back in Europe and racing at world championships level, which means he can't defend his domestic title, but there's any number of equally-talented riders who could step up and claim the crown at the end of this year's Yamaha-sponsored competition.

The series ran for only four rounds last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it has been boosted back to five rounds this year and, with riders able to discard their one worst result in terms of capturing an individual class win, it will ensure the chase for class titles will be tight until the end. All rounds are counted towards the championship overall.

Whatever transpires, it's again going to take a special individual to claim the top prize at the Tar Hill forestry venue, off State Highway 1, about 11km south of Tokoroa, on Sunday.

Former national dirt bike champions Jake Whitaker, from Wainuiomata, and Seth Reardon, from Whanganui, are a couple of riders who fit the bill – Whitaker won the New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championships last year and Reardon was national enduro champion in 2019.

However, they can take nothing for granted, with Cambridge's Dylan Yearbury always a threat and he is definitely on form, an impressive overall winner of the elite gold section of the Schist Enduro-X near Wanaka over the Easter Weekend.

Palmerston North's former United States cross-country champion Paul Whibley, Helensville's Tom Buxton and Rotorua's Ethan Harris could also be title contenders.

Harris finished overall runner-up in the MX1 class at the New Zealand MX TT Nationals near Huntly over the Easter Weekend.

Others to watch out for include Oparau's national MX2 motocross No.2 James Scott, Thames rider Natasha Cairns, Drury's Richard Sutton, Tokoroa's Jake Wightman, Stratford's Josh Hunger, Rotorua's Bradley Lauder and New Plymouth veteran Tony Parker, to name just a few.

"It's great to be virtually COVID-free here in New Zealand and to start off this series with an event run by Sean Clarke. Sean always puts on great events and riding conditions should be ideal," says Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson.

Event organiser Clarke said the forestry tracks at Tar Hill had not been used in about five years and so "the trails will be quite fresh ... although also quite slippery".

"There will be about 120 kilometres of riding, including five special tests," says Clarke.

"There will be good spectator viewing for the special tests, set up close to the pit area."

The 2021 Yamaha NZ Enduro Championships are supported by Mitas tyres Macaulay Metals, Best Build Construction, Silver-bullet and Kiwi Rider magazine.

2021 NZ Enduro Champs calendar:

Round 1 – Saturday, April 11 – Tokoroa;

Round 2 – Saturday and Sunday, April 24-25 – Marlborough;

Round 3 – Saturday and Sunday June 5-6 – Moonshine, Kapi-Mana;

Round 4 – Saturday, June 12 – Masterton;

Round 5 – Sunday, June 13 – Martinborough.

By Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com

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