Enduro

Zealand Enduro Championships ready to roll

Author: Andy McGechan

Posted:

When the going gets tough; the tough get going ‰Û_ to the King Country on Sunday. Six of the most difficult and demanding courses on the planet will greet the country‰Ûªs elite off-road motorcycle riders in the New Zealand Enduro Championships this season and that‰Ûªs just what the riders want and should expect, a true test of strength and character, man and machine against the elements. With five of the six rounds to count towards the final points tally, riders will be able to discard one poor result, and that also means the competition will remain tight to the end. The 2008 Yamaha-sponsored series kicks off at Waimiha on Sunday with last year‰Ûªs outright winner, Aucklander Chris Birch (KTM), again expected to lead the way. But the internationally-recognised hard man, a star of the Romaniacs Extreme Enduro in Romania and the Last Man Standing Enduro in Texas last year, will again need to be at his best if he‰Ûªs to succeed in beating such talented Kiwi riders as fellow Aucklander Karl Power (KTM), Wellington‰Ûªs Rory Mead (KTM) and Tokoroa former national champion Sean Clarke (Yamaha). Ngaruawahia‰Ûªs Heath Howlett (Yamaha), Tauranga‰Ûªs Reece Burgess (Yamaha), Awakino‰Ûªs Adrian Smith (Honda), Waipukurau‰Ûªs Sam Swanson (Suzuki), the Nield brothers from Hokianga, Mitchell and Damon (both on Husqvarna), and Palmerston North‰Ûªs former champion Steven Bird (Yamaha) are also likely to feature. The man most likely to threaten 27-year-old Birch this season is probably Power, last year‰Ûªs over-300cc four-stroke class winner now on one of the new 2008-model KTM250EXC-F bikes, but that clash of heads between the two Auckland rivals will have to wait until round two near Wellington in March. Power will miss this weekend‰Ûªs opener as he continues to recover from his broken ankle, an injury he suffered while racing at the Hawke‰Ûªs Bay Six-Hour marathon in October. But, even with Power sidelined, Birch and company will still have plenty to worry about on Sunday. The man who has set the course for this weekend‰Ûªs racing, Waimiha farmer and veteran racer Gary Powell, said the going would be ‰ÛÏvery hot indeed‰Û

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