Enduro

Merriman races to support volcano-ravaged Japanese Island

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Yamaha Motor Australia's championship E1 contender, Stefan Merriman, traveled to Miyakejime island recently to compete in a very different kind of enduro.

Merriman, with the support of the Yamaha Motor Corporation and Yamaha Motor Australia, made the trek to the island (located off the coast of Tokyo) to take part in an event that the government is using to help rebuild an area devastated by volcanic eruptions and complete evacuations of its population.

The 38-year-old competed in the Miyakejime Enduro (which ran from October 22nd to 23rd) aboard a YZ250F.

"This was a really important race for us to be a part of," Merriman said. "The government there is using all means possible to help re-establish the population of the island and to attract tourism revenue.

"For them to include a motorcycle enduro is innovative and fantastic for our sport.

"It definitely was an interesting ride, as the course had to be changed the day before, which meant we couldn't use the good track that they had prepared up and around the island's main volcano, Mt. Oyama.

"They had received a lot of rain, so it was too wet and foggy up on the mountain to race there.

"The organisers then only had limited area for a track, which ended up being just four-minutes long.

"The race wasn't a traditional enduro. It was ran as a 2.5-hour cross-country, with all of the 100 riders - who ranged greatly in ability, with some on TTR-125's and bikes as small as 80cc's - all starting at once.

"This was pretty crazy - with 100 riders continually lapping around a four-minute track.

"The track was rocky and mostly single trail, so trying to overtake was a nightmare and you were constantly overtaking people.

"There were a couple of little hills - riders were everywhere, some stuck, others turning and coming back down.

"It was a race of survival, trying not to get tangled up."

Merriman finished third in the race, behind two Japanese competitors who had also finished in the top two podium spots in the same event last year.

"They were really good riders," Merriman said. "This was their type of race, they do these all the time, so they were used to overtaking.

"I wasn't ruthless enough with the overtaking... but I still enjoyed it, and was happy to be there to support the event."

The main volcano on Miyakejime island, Mt. Oyama, has erupted several times in recent history. A lava flow in 1940 killed 11 people, and other eruptions occurred in 1962 and 1983.

On July 2000, Mount Oyama began another series of eruptions, and by September, the island was completely evacuated.

After a four-year period of volcanic emissions, residents were allowed to return permanently on February 1, 2005. After the eruption, there has been a constant flow of sulfuric gas coming from Mount Oyama.

Programs and initiatives, including the enduro as well as 'Volcano Tourism', have reportedly helped to break the feelings of helplessness among the villagers, and are offering hope for a brighter future for the people of Miyakejime.

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