Matthias Walkner Wins Final Rally of 2017

Matthias Walkner Wins The 2017 OiLibya Morocco Rally

Topping the standings on the sixth and final day of competition in Morocco’s OiLibya Rally, it was steadfast KTM rider Matthias Walkner who came out on top of the last round of the 2017 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. Collecting valuable points, the Austrian rider moved up to third in the series’ final standings behind Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla and Honda’s Kevin Benavides.

“It’s been a long event and I’m really happy that I won it, the Austrian said from the finish line. “During the last few days we were faced with overflowing rivers, long stages with tricky navigation and a series of other things that could have completely changed the outcome of the event. This is my first victory in the championship and it feels good.”

“The new bike has given me a lot of confidence to push and take my riding into a new level. I’m happy with my performance here in Morocco and this is very important heading into the Dakar Rally now. It makes the next three months a lot easier for me. The team have done an awesome job and we are all looking forward to the Dakar Rally.”

Honda’s Kevin Benavides went in search of victory throughout the race, knowing that in doing so, he could also snatch the world title. However, a minor error was enough to cause him to miss out on the chance of winning the special. The second position in the OiLibya Morocco Rally however meant that the Argentinean rider sealed runner-up spot in the overall world championship standings.

Meanwhile, Paulo Gonçalves also returned to his home in Esposende ahead of schedule. The Portuguese, who had arrived in Fez as a potential contender just five points behind the leader of the overall championship, suffered a fall during the second stage injuring his right hand. The pain forced him to retire after finishing the third day of racing.

Ultimately however, the day was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Racing Team’s Pablo Quintanilla, who sealed the championship by just 3 points.

Successfully defending the title he won in 2016, the FR 450 Rally mounted rider wrapped up the 2017 OiLibya Morocco Rally with a top six result in the event’s final overall standings to steal the championship from Kevin Benavides.

“I’m over the moon with securing this title, Quintanilla said post race. “This year’s Morocco Rally has been a tough one and with all the incidents on day two I had to dig really deep to defend my championship. I did my best to remain focused until the end as my main goal was to be world champion again. Everything went well and I never lost my focus. Overall, I felt very strong racing here in Morocco. I felt strong with my navigation and the bike, and this is very important for the coming Dakar Rally. I just want to thank all the members of the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team for their hard work and dedication. We’ve all worked really hard during the season and this title is the best reward for all the sacrifices.”

The FIM XC Rallies Championship returns on January 6th next year with arguably the biggest event of the year, the 2018 Dakar Rally.

Final Standings – 2017 OiLibya Rally of Morocco

1. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 10:03:49
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 10:17:31 +13:42
3. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 10:20:47 +16:58
4. Antoine Meo (FRA), KTM, 10:22:16 +18:27
5. Joan Pedrero (ESP), Sherco, 10:26:17 +22:28

Final Standings – 2017 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship

1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 100pts
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 97pts
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 94pts
4. Paulo Goncalves (POR), Honda, 85pts
5. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 84pts

Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro Returns

AN EVENT TO PUSH RIDERS TO THE LIMIT

Only the brave need apply … or the extremely talented …. or the lucky.

Howick’s Liam Draper (Husqvarna), one of the favourites to win the Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro near Tokoroa at Labour Weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

The second annual Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro near Tokoroa next weekend is expected to be a “last man standing” affair again this year, with plenty lined up to trap, trick and wear down even the most experienced of dirt bike racers. 

The event, in forestry land between Putaruru and Taupo, will take place over two-and-a-half days over Labour Weekend – starting Friday, October 20, and winding up on Sunday, October 22 – and, when the bike engines are switched off, or the riders cry “enough”, late on Sunday afternoon, that “last man” will have earned every accolade that could be heaped.

The event is designed to be difficult. Using a similar format to the notorious Red Bull Romaniacs international hard enduro held each year in Romania, the New Zealand Husqvarna Hard Enduro event will be held in the forestry zone between Putaruru, Tokoroa and Taupo. 

Each day’s track will be different , will be up to 150-kilometres in length and will feature Gold, Silver and Bronze-graded sections.

“This event will not be a typical New Zealand hard enduro; it will be real Adventure Enduro, and each grade will be set to give riders a real sense of adventure, as well as testing rider’s ability to complete the grade that they have entered,” said organiser Sean Clarke, himself a Kiwi international with outstanding racing credentials. 

He explained that riders would follow a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) course that is re-set daily and uploaded to their handlebar-mounted GPS device.

It kicks off on Friday with riders signing in and then undergoing motorcycle and equipment scrutineering from 3pm.

Starting in the SATCO logging attachments yard in Tokoroa at 5pm will be the event “prologue”, with riders tackling a man-made course to determine qualification and starting positions for the following day. 

Riders will complete one lap of that obstacle course to determine their start order for the main race. From about 7pm, the Gold, Silver and Bronze races will be held, with the top 10 riders qualifying to compete in finals for each grade.

Any rider that does not complete one lap of the prologue course will receive a 30-minute penalty and, although he or she will still be able to start the race on Saturday, it will be from the rear of the field.

Two days of gruelling riding then lie ahead for the contestants and not all are expected to make it to the finish.

Riders will be set off, one at a time, every 30 seconds. The first day’s start order will be decided by the prologue results and day two’s start order will be determined by the results from day one.

“The riders can expect two days of hard riding that will push them to their limits,” said Clarke.

“Although not quite as hard as the Romaniacs, it will still be a good work-out, with a lot of trail riding between the hard bits. There will be between six and eight hard sections per day and total riding time for the fastest in the Gold grade is expected to be between five and six hours.”

He said the Silver and Bronze grade courses will be slightly easier, although still very challenging.

 An indication of just how challenging the racing might be is in a note to riders that they must also carry “survival equipment”, including a cell phone, first aid kit and survival blanket.

 Some of the leading riders listed among the entries include Howick’s Liam Draper, Manawatu’s Paul Whibley and Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury and these riders could be expected to be among the favourites to win, as long as the treacherous course doesn’t claim them first.

The event is sponsored by Forest Trail Events, Kiwi Rider magazine, SATCO logging attachments and Michelin tyres.

Watch KTM’s Full length Adventure Rallye Oz

KTM recently held their second annual Adventure Rallye in Australia, and going by the footage, it was the very definition of adventure!

The KTM Adventure Rallye format follows a similar track at each event, with riders of all road legal KTM machinery eligible to take on the multi-day adventure. With rental bikes on offer in some countries (such as NZ), and KTM ambassador’s such as our very own Chris Birch on hand to make sure both man and machine are challenged, these are events not to be missed.

The second KTM Adventure Rallye NZ is just a couple of months away and is heading to the Adventure Paradise that is Otago and the Southern Alps. And while we know you don’t really need motivation to dust off that old Team Tangerine jacket, and pull the ol’ 990 Adventure out of the back of shed, get yourself amped up and rearing to go by watching the full feature from our cousins over the ditch.

That appetite for adventure whetted? Now check out what’s in store for the KTM NZ Adventure Rallye!

For more info, or to get yourself in on the limited places available, head to the Ride KTM website.

We’ll see you there!

PLENTY STILL TO FIGHT FOR AT DIRT GUIDE FINAL ROUND

Cambridge rider Ashton Grey (Yamaha WR250F), is in the runner-up position after two of three rounds.

There is perhaps no looking past Yamaha’s Paul Whibley as the man most likely to win this season’s Dirt Guide Cross-country Series title.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t several other riders extremely capable of knocking the Kiwi legend off his perch at the third and final round of the popular dirt bike competition this weekend.

Manawatu man Whibley has won both rounds of the 2017 Dirt Guide Series thus far, although fellow Yamaha riders Ashton Grey and Callan May are not too far behind in the overall points analysis.

A small slip-up by Whibley at the forestry venue of Ohakuri, about halfway between Taupo and Tokoroa, on Sunday afternoon could see either of these young men swoop in and steal away the main trophy.

The two-hour senior grade race on Sunday also doubles as round three of the parallel-but-separate NZXC cross-country series and so that’s two reasons why winning this weekend will be so important to many of the riders. 

With points to be applied towards both contests, the outcome of the marathon dirt bike battle on Sunday could be pivotal on several counts.

A flat tyre, a crash or a small miscalculation with re-fuelling are just three ways that Whibley could come unstuck on Sunday, not to mention the fact that Cambridge’s Grey and Titirangi’s May, along with several other top riders such as Helensville’s Tom Buxton (KTM) and Te Awamutu pair Kevin Archer (KTM) and Daniel White (Kawasaki), are all capable of beating Whibley without any such “lottery ticket” being dealt out.

Cambridge teenager Grey is in the best position to challenge Whibley’s dominance, having finished third at round one in May and then fourth at round two last month. These results have Grey second in the series standings, just 12 points behind Whibley, and so anything is still possible.

“I have looked up to Paul (Whibley) for a long time,” said the 17-year-old Grey. “But I’m sure he can be beaten.

“He’s a hero of mine and helped to train me this year. I truthfully don’t think I’d be able to stay with him in a close battle though. I think he’s a lot fitter than me,” said the 17-year-old, who works at Blackwood Yamaha in Cambridge.

Grey was only aged about eight or nine when Whibley was winning major titles internationally, but he has developed over recent years and is now himself a regular front-runner on the national scene.

Meanwhile, the Dirt Guide Series has wide appeal and also caters for the sport’s junior and mini riders.

Many eyes will focus on the exploits of Whibley, Grey, May and company in the senior action on Sunday afternoon, but perhaps just as many will be interested in witnessing the outcome of the 90-minute junior race that is to be staged earlier in the day.

Cambridge’s Beau Taylor leads the junior competition after two rounds thus far, with fellow Cambridge rider Callum Paterson and Tokoroa’s Nick Wightman chasing him hard.

The junior race begins at 9.30am, with the senior race to follow at 12.30pm. 

The Dirt Guide Series is sponsored by Michelin, Bel Ray, Renthal, O’Neal, DRC, Zeta, Kiwi Rider magazine, Oakley, TCX boots, Yoshimura, Forest Trail Events and SatCo Logging Equipment.

 

Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com

SECOND ROUND OF THREE IS THIS WEEKEND

Luke Mobberley (Yamaha YZ250), runner-up rider at the opening round of the popular Dirt Guide Cross-country Series last month.

You could be forgiven for thinking the going will be tough when you hear that the venue is a placed called Tar Hill.

But Sunday’s off-road motorcycling event south of Tokoroa should be neither sticky nor too steep.

Besides this, dirt bike riders are a tough breed anyway and they also know that the man who organises the Dirt Guide Cross-country Series, Tokoroa’s Sean Clarke, is not a cruel man.

It is the second round of three for the popular Dirt Guide Series on Sunday, the course at Tar Hill on forestry land about 12 kilometres south of Tokoroa, and Clarke has promised tracks that will be both fun and flowing.

“We have not been at Tar Hill for about a year now, so all the tracks will be nice and fresh,” he said.

The 2017 edition of the Dirt Guide Series kicked off at Ohakuri – about halfway between Tokoroa and Taupo – last month (May 14) and such was the course that day that riders on all capacities of bike were competitive with one another, the eventual winner of the two-hour senior race actually riding one of the smallest bikes in the field.

Former Kiwi international and former national cross-country champion Paul Whibley, of Taikorea, took a 2013-model Yamaha YZ125 to win that day, while runner-up was Muriwai’s Luke Mobberley (Yamaha YZ250), with Cambridge’s Ashton Grey (Yamaha WR250F), Titirangi’s Callan May (Yamaha YZ250F) and Hamilton’s Chris Power (Honda CRF450) rounding out the top five.

Last season’s Dirt Guide Series winner, Coatesville’s Sam Greenslade (KTM EXC-F 250), had been in the runner-up position, but he ran out of fuel just one kilometre from the end of lap four.

With the series running over three rounds this year, there are no ‘discard’ results and all rounds are counted towards the final tally, meaning it will be imperative for trophy hopefuls to overcome the likes of Whibley, Mobberley and Grey this weekend if they hope to push on and claim victory at the final round.

Talent runs deep at the sharp end of competition, with Rotorua’s Bradley Lauder (KTM), Wellington’s Jake Whitaker (KTM), Te Awamutu’s Kevin Archer (KTM), Waimauku’s Jake Wightman (KTM), Masterton’s Allan Gannon (Yamaha), Eketahuna’s Charlie Richardson (Husqvarna), Helensville’s Tom Buxton (KTM) and Cambridge’s Ashton Grey (Yamaha), to name just a few, among those worth watching.

In addition to the senior riders, the series caters also for junior riders and for intermediates, veterans and women as well.

Thames rider Natasha Cairns will be firm favourite to win the women’s section, although Te Awamutu’s Rachael Archer will also be a stand-out for the women.
Sunday’s 90-minute junior race starts at about 9.30am, with the two-hour senior race to start at about midday.

The third and final round of the Dirt Guide Series is due back at Ohakuri again, on July 9.

 

Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com