Motorsport: Saddle up for dirty six-hour marathon

By Andy McGechan

Saviour rides to aid of gritty bike race.

Mark Penny. Photo / APN
Mark Penny. Photo / APN

The resurrection this season of the famous six-hour dirt bike marathon seems to have recaptured the hearts and imagination of New Zealand's elite off-road motorcycle riders.

This weekend will tell if the Suzuki Six-Hour can again be as big and popular as it has been in past years. Early indications are that it will.

Saturday's big annual event had seemed to be sliding towards yet another cancellation this year because of difficulties arising over track conditions and consent for land use.

But then up stepped Tokoroa dirt bike legend Sean Clarke with an offer to organise and run the Suzuki Six-Hour on free-draining forestry land called The Pylons, midway between Tokoroa and Taupo.

News that the race had been reborn met a swift response from the nation's dirt bike community.

Entries flowed in quickly and steadily for the October 6 race, with many Kiwi internationals from other motorcycling codes also signing up to accept the challenge.

Key entries to arrive for the reinvigorated Suzuki Six-Hour race include Queenstown's Scotty Columb (Suzuki), Te Awamutu's Mark Penny (Suzuki), Whangamata's former national enduro champion Jason Davis (KTM), Auckland cousins Karl Power (Honda) and Chris Power (Yamaha), Te Awamutu's Kevin Archer (KTM) and Palmerston North's three-time national cross-country champion Adam Reeves (Yamaha), to name just a few.

Kiwi international Columb is among the favourites to win the race, the former national supercross champion having raced the gruelling six-hour event with some success in the past.

He is to co-ride a Suzuki RM-X450 bike with 38-year-old father-of-three Penny, a four-time former winner of the Suzuki Six-Hour when it was staged previously in Hawke's Bay.

Penny and Columb teamed up previously in 2005, but a flat tyre meant they had to settle for runner-up spot on that occasion.

The big race offers many interesting match-ups and, in addition, Clarke has added a new dimension to it, creating a veterans' (over-50 years) ironman class.

"I thought to myself, if you are aged over 50 and you want to do the race on your own, well, why not give them a class?" Clarke explains.

"The start for the six-hour will be in a different place from where I usually start events (such as the Dirt Guide Cross-country series) at The Pylons. It will have more room and the first one kilometre of the race course will be very open and flowing.

"I have added a couple of 'rest areas', where riders will be able to relax a bit and cruise down a forestry road instead of in the trees the whole way around."

As an innovation this year, Clarke says he is hoping to organise for a "radio check" to be done at the point furthest from the pit area.

Numbers will be loaded onto Facebook so that support crew and spectators back in the pits will be able to follow the progress of the race as it unfolds in the forest.

- NZ Herald

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