Off Road

Massive entries for Honda Hattah Desert Enduro

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The 2007 Honda Hattah Desert Enduro has attracted its biggest field in ten years. Almost 300 riders will take to the track this weekend in what is now recognised as one of the top three desert races in Australia. It's attracted riders from the length and breadth of the nation including some of the quickest in Australia and overseas. GHR Honda rider Ben Grabham goes into the event as one of the favourites, hot on the heels of his recent Finke Desert Race win. United States-based Suzuki rider Glenn Kearney has taken time out from his gruelling GNCC race duties to compete in the event and is also one of the favourites, having won in 2004. The event has also attracted riders from other disciplines. Reigning Long Track and Dirt Track champion Luke Gough will compete this weekend, representing a major departure from the flat tracks he's used to riding. As usual, there's also a host of desert racing specialists from the Northern Territory who have made the long trek south to compete in the event, including two Finke Desert Race winners. Last year's Finke champion Honda-mounted Ryan Branford is back for his second attempt at Hattah after a race of ups and downs in 2006. He'll be joined by fellow Honda rider and former Finke champion Jason Hill, both of whom are expected to be near the front of the field. Last year's winner Brad Williscroft is an unfortunate omission in 2007. Williscroft, who dominated Hattah last year, suffered a knee injury last month while racing at Finke and is still recovering from a full knee reconstruction. Williscroft will still be at the race though, supporting his Motorex Shift KTM team mates. KTM will still be well represented with the likes of Jehi Willis and Ben Kearney waving the orange flag. Meanwhile Mildura Honda rider Nathan Hawkes is the man many locals are pinning their hopes on. Hawkes has been in scintillating form this year, posting a top-10 finish at Finke. He's expected to be even more competitive at Hattah against Australia's best, given he's more familiar with the terrain Hattah is based on. The Honda Hattah Desert Enduro is a gruelling four-hour race fought out over up to eight laps of a course which includes everything from sand dunes, whooped out straights, wide open blasts through open paddocks and technical sections through Mallee scrub. Senior riders will take part in a one-lap dash of a dedicated prologue circuit on Saturday to determine the following day's starting order. A new addition this year is a meet-and-greet on Friday night under lights on the banks of the Murray River, near the Mildura city centre. The initiative doubles as scrutineering and sign on for competitors and is a chance for the public to meet the riders and get an up-close-and-personal look at their immaculately prepared machines.

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