An exciting line-up of talented Kiwis will try to tame some of the most rugged terrain in the Southern Hemisphere in the first round of the 2013 New Zealand Motorcycle Cross-country Championships this weekend. Racing will take place on rugged hill-country farmland near Te Anau on Sunday.
Four rounds of intense action are on the calendar for the KTM-sponsored series, with the first round sure to challenge even the most ambitious and skilled of the country's elite dirt-bike riders.
"The Te Anau community has come to the party and it's great to be able to run an event down there. It's not just a North Island championships afterall, it's a national event," said Motorcycling New Zealand cross-country commissioner Chris Smyth, of Dannevirke.
Round two in Taranaki on March 16 will also break in previously untried terrain.
Palmerston North's Adam Reeves will be keen to win back the title he held for three seasons between 2009 and 2011, although he'll have to find a way past reigning champion Adrian Smith, of Mokau.
Te Awamutu's Mark Penny, Tauranga's Reece Burgess, Pukekohe's Matthew Vining, brothers Lance and John O'Dea, and New Plymouth's Renny Johnston will threaten for the senior title. Wellington's Hugh Lintott, Hamilton's Sam Brown, Onewhero's Jim Orton, Stratford's Karl Roberts, Dannevirke's Stacey Smyth and Raglan's Jason Dickey could also feature among the leaders.
One to watch will be Raglan youngster Matthew Quirke, the KTM rider having stepped up from the junior ranks this season. He has given impressive performances in several lead-up events.
Another rider from Raglan, Jason Dickey (Kawasaki), is also a title candidate, with other fast-rising youngsters Ethan Bruce (Yamaha), of Maruia, Pukekawa's Anthony Parker (KTM) and Pahiatua's Daniel Christie (Yamaha). Mokau's Aaron Jones (Yamaha) is another young rider who is stepping up the ranks and could also spring a surprise.
After this weekend's event and the round in Taranaki, the series heads back down to the South Island, to Christchurch on April 21, and wraps up in Hawkes Bay on May 18.
The venue for this weekend is signposted from Lagoon Creek Rd off the Te Anau-Mossburn Highway (SH 94).
KTM NZ CROSS-COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Round 1 February 17, Southland
Round 2 March 16, Taranaki
Round 3 April 21, Christchurch
Round 4 May 18, Hawkes Bay