Enduro champs will be a bumper eight-round affair, writes Andy McGechan
Off-road motorcycle racing typically combines strength with endurance, balance and co-ordination, resourcefulness and tenacity in equal measures - but this year's national enduro series is going to be bigger and tougher than ever before.
Boosted from five to seven rounds this season, news has just come in that an additional event will now be added, making the 2013 Yamaha New Zealand Enduro Championships a bumper eight-round affair.
It flies in the face of current trends - other sports are scaling back in light of tough economic times - and shows just how healthy the Kiwi enduro scene is.
"I'm very excited about this development," said Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Shaun Prescott, of Hikuai.
"We decided that as long as the rounds are spread out, we could expand it easily and so now we have eight rounds.
"All rounds count for the 'outright' winner but riders can discard their one worst result, so only seven of the eight rounds are counted towards individual class titles," said Prescott. "A lot of interest is being shown in the series this year by riders who have never before tried enduro racing, so I guess we must be starting to tap into the trail bike riding scene.
"Basically, if you can ride a trail ride, you can ride an enduro championship round ... it's just a fraction more intense."
The series will also incorporate the Kiwi Rider Junior Cup competition this year, catering for younger riders who will be in separate age groups, 12-14 years and 15-16 years.
"This is a huge growth area for the sport," said Prescott. "This is where our future national and world champions will come from."
As well as the championship series being boosted this season, there will also be an additional three-day North Island Enduro Championships event, to be held at Maramarua, near Thames, over the Queen's Birthday weekend.
The nation's elite riders are all expected to embrace the new series with Kiwi international Chris Birch returning home from South Africa, Whangamata's former national champion Jason Davis back from injury, BikesportNZ.com's national cross-country and last year's outright national enduro champion Adrian Smith, of Mokau, back from a stint in the United States, and Wellington's six-time national moto trials champion Jake Whitaker crossing over from trials to enduro riding.
These champions, and others, will go head-to-head when the nationals kick off in a little more than a week, at Oparau, near Kawhia, on Saturday, February 2.
Round 1Feb 2, Oparau
Round 2Feb 23, Whangamata
Round 3March 24, Riverhead
Round 4April 27, Wellington
Round 5May 11, Waimiha
Round 6June 1, Maramarua
Round 7July 20, Taupo
Round 8Sept 21, Tokoroa