Extreme Enduro

2022 W.A. Hard Enduro Series: The Final Hot Lap

Author: Mitch Ladyman

Posted:

Photo of WHES President Craig Shaw
WHES President Craig Shaw looks a little shell-shocked. It hasn’t been 84 years but he looks like it feels like it has.

Less than six months ago I thought Campbell Town was in NSW, Toodyay Terror was the name of locally produced ‘B’ grade chop movie, Mildwood was a type of cheese and that MounTurner was spelled wrong.

I thought that Mousse was making a comeback as the preferred hair care product and a Chubby was something that a pubescent male wakes up with almost every morning.

Six events and about 11 articles later, I reckon I’ve finally got a handle on this Hard Enduro thing!

It’d be fair to say that 2022 has been a pretty wild ride on the WHES roller coaster. So, if you’re still floundering around on the wrong side of the starting gate, strap on the body armour, boots and neck brace and come with me for one final hot lap. Campbell Town is a private track, located out near Williams, that was built for Enduro, Pony Express, and Hard Enduro by a very dedicated chap called Curtis and a few of his besties.

Toodyay Terror is the most mentally challenging and physically draining natural terrain hard enduro track that any psychopath could imagine setting, and the psychopaths that set Toodyay have no sympathy for the riders that ride it. None!

Mildwood is a man-made Hard Enduro / Enduro X track located just out of Roelands, near Bunbury. It’s manic. You have to check out this article to really get a feel for it – Mental Peace Through Physical Torture (https://mitchladymanink.com/f/mental-peace-through-physical-torture).

And MounTurner? Well, that is a classic shit mixer of a track that rolls together the best and the worst of Hard Endruro. It comprises ‘rough as guts’ natural terrain with all the ‘lose your nuts’ Enduro X sections of Mildwood. It was named after the two HE pioneers that cut the original circuit with their bare hands – Peter Mountain and Tyrone Turner. And THAT, punters, is the animal house that is the WHES season circuit.

So who was who in the zoo in 2022 you ask?
Well I can’t go through all the categories because you, like me, have the attention span of a Spanish Gnat. Suffice is to say that there are literally dozens of riders that have competed in virtually every single round in all three classes. That, my friends, takes some commitment.

What I can say though, as a spectator, is that it has been as much fun watching the Bronze class riders flapping around all over the show as it has been to watch the Gold Class riders cut lines through the insane terrain. I cannot, honestly, think of another sport where watching the ‘also rans’ is as much of a buzz as watching the ‘front runners’. But that is WHES: it is as much about the characters as it is about the riding.

Take Peter Mountain for instance. Never have I seen a rider more name appropriate than Mountain. This guy ain’t tall and he does not look particularly fit. But there ain’t nothing that can stop the Mountain from moving forward!!!

Mark my words. Watching Mountain is like watching a D9 dozer do its thing. At Toodyay Terror 2, I saw Mountain flip his bike, come crashing down on a cascade of boulders, get up, spit a few cuss words, and keep right on going!

A moving Mountain

But where did the dust settle on the pointy end of the pack?

Third on the podium overall was Mark Atherton. Mark is 100% commitment to the bike and the riding, but suffers the Achilles heel of living and working down south near Donnybrook. Despite the hundreds of kilometres and hours of travel separating him from most of the WHES circuits, he managed to ride five of the six events in 2022; missing only one to compete in the Grassroots Hard Enduro series over east.

Be warned; next year Mark is going to be a real threat!

He has shuffled his work schedule to enable him more time on the bike and more time to work on his fitness. He has set himself goals to get back to the performance levels he achieved in 2020 when he dominated the W.A. trial scene. If he rides as well in WHES as he does in Trials, all that the other riders will see of him is his tread pattern.

More time on the bike in 2023 and Mark will be mental.

Second step from the top – Ben Walling. What can I say other than – 14 years old! Yes, 14!
In 2022, this young fella didn’t just nip at the heels of the more experienced riders; he tore their tendons out every chance he got. Coming into the final round, Ben was only two points behind the champion. Two points!

But showing maturity beyond his years, he made the decision to sacrifice his shot at the title to preserve himself for the 2022 Gas Gas Australian Trial Championships, held right here in W.A in October.
Sadly, his epic performance at Mildwood 2 was the last the WHES crowd will see of Ben for a few years as he gives a typical “Walling 110%” to the international Trials circuit.

Ben Walling
The sun sets on Ben Walling’s HE riding……for now!!

And that brings us to the the season victor – Darren Rudling.

Imagine the WHES season as the last 24 hours of Jurrassic Park – when the tornado hit, and things went full south at speed. What was the most dangerous beast in the park? It wasn’t the stampeding heard of Gallimimous (who behaved not unlike the Bronze Class all year). It wasn’t the Ankylosaurus.
It wasn’t even the T-Rex.

It was the predator that lulled you into a false sense of security. The quiet one. The one that you took your eye off, that never took his eye off you. The one that looks quiet and unassuming. The one that, when you least expected it, tore the paddock apart…….. one rider at a time.

Darren “the Raptor” Rudling is quite possibly the nicest rider you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting. But out on the track the grit and determination this racer demonstrates is relentless. Even missing one of the six rounds to compete in the Ironstone Extreme in Queensland, the Raptor still went into the final round points up on the competition. At the end of Toodyay Terror 2 he had achieved the premier WHES season victory.

Darren Rudling
All go is this total pro!

So where do the challenges lie for the Raptor in 2023.

If Mark can get more bike time his trials pedigree will make him a threat in the technical stuff. Having said that, Darren has the fast enduro experience to pick up any lost time on the open trails. So, there’ll be some tit for tat out on the track between these to, that is for sure.
The “spider in the ointment” must be Neil Price. Pricey only competed in three events this season and won two of them convincingly, crashing out in the third. Neil Price is the cat that WHES is keen to see thrown at the pigeons more frequently in 2023.

Who knows who else may crawl out of the primordial soup that is Hard Enduro?
I can’t even begin to imagine. Next year most of the riders will have all done it once before. And those that were a little tender in 2022 will be cooking with gas in 2023.

Bring it! Oh….and if you are still curious? A mousse goes in your tyre as a substitute for an air-filled tube and a Chubby is what you get the morning before Race Weekend!

Neil Price
Neil Price knows where the top step of the podium is!

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