Motocross: Trials riders sweep podium

By Colin Smith

Within the multiple challenges of the Te Puke Endurocross is also an unofficial "Clash of the Codes" between dirt bike disciplines.

In the first three years enduro riders claimed the endurocross honours under pressure from riders with motocross and trials backgrounds.

But on Saturday - watched by a big Te Puke A&P; Show Day crowd - the trails exponents broke through to sweep the podium at endurocross mark IV.

Seven times New Zealand trials champ (and also twice Australian champ) Warren Laugesen (Napier) started fast and rode smart on his 300cc Beta trials machine, using the energy he'd strategically conserved in earlier races for the demanding 10 minute plus one lap final.

Closing on Laugesen in the closing minutes was NZ trials champ Jake Whittaker (Wellington) while teenage Auckland trials rider Liam Draper finished in third spot.

The best of the enduro regulars was Auckland's Chris Power, who had to muscle a big Yamaha 450 around the tight arena course.

While Laugesen rode his regular trials machine, Whittaker was on a 250cc four-stroke Husaberg enduro machine and Draper had a 125cc two-stroke Yamaha motocrosser.

Laugesen's approach to the endurocross was based on his experience at the similar Red Bull City Scramble event in Auckland last year.

"I made it into the final but I burnt out," said Laugesen.

So at Te Puke, Laugesen made fast starts and then only rode fast enough to make sure he progressed to the next phase of the event while saving his energy for the longer final.

"The final is an extra four minutes and that's where it's make or break," said 40-year-old Laugesen, who now rides only occasionally and mainly helps to train young trials riders.

"This is probably the first bigger sort of event I've won since Jake started beating me in all the trials about five years ago," said Laugesen.

"The track was tight and the obstacles were quite big, so I think it suited the trials riders.

"Once I'd made a good start I just tried not to make mistakes. I kept it simple and made sure I didn't fall off."

Whittaker had been unbeaten in his heat race, quarter-final and semi-final as the contest whittled the 56-rider field down to a top-10.

But he was sixth at the first obstacle and then had to work his way through the pack with Laugesen building a clear lead.

"I got a really bad start and I stalled it twice and also lost the front end a couple of times. I was panic-riding a little bit," said Whittaker, 21. "But even if I'd had a good start I think it would have been a tough race with Warren."

The endurocross was round three of the KTM Extreme Series, a new four-round series which sees Whittaker (a six-time NZ champ and three-time Australian champ) switching the focus of his motorcycling.

"I will finish off the Extreme Series with the No Way in Hell [at Oparau in late-March] and then do all of the national enduros," he said.

"I did a little bit last year but this will be my first full year as well as still doing the major trials events. It's a change of focus for me," said Whittaker.

Seven of the 10 starters completed the final with Auckland's Freddie Milford-Cottam riding to fifth spot ahead of Mike Skinner (Auckland) and Extreme series organiser Sean Clarke (Tokoroa), all on KTM machines.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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