Kiwi racers march on world

By Andy McGechan

We're riding high among elite, reports Andy McGechan

Pahiatua's Paul Whibley (Yamaha), rated among the world's elite off-road motorcycle racers. Picture / Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
Pahiatua's Paul Whibley (Yamaha), rated among the world's elite off-road motorcycle racers. Picture / Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

They could be called New Zealand's "secret army", a virtual platoon of motorcycle racers who, with very little fanfare, have left our shores to take on the world's elite.

When these riders headed overseas, they left with no trumpet blast and certainly they'll expect no tickertape parade when they return.

These are our modest sporting heroes, some of whom have become pin-up stars in European, Australian and American bike magazines and who are attracting the attention of high-profile race teams abroad.

They are each following the wheel-tracks of such pioneering Kiwis as Burt Munro (of The World's Fastest Indian fame), Hugh Anderson, Kim Newcombe, Graeme Crosby, Ginger Molloy, John Woodley, Stu Avant, Rod Coleman, Dennis Ireland, Keith Turner, Len Perry, Trevor Discombe, Geoff Perry, Aaron Slight, Andrew Stroud, Simon Crafar, John Hepburn, Jason McEwen, Rodger Freeth, Robert Holden, Shaun Harris, Tony Rees, Chris Haldane, Richard Scott, Wellington brothers Dave and Neville Hiscock, multi-time speedway world champion Ivan Mauger, Ronnie Moore and Barry Briggs, Taranaki brothers Shayne and Darryll King, Stefan Merriman, Katherine Prumm, Tony Cooksley, Josh Coppins, Darryl Hurley, and Taupo's Ben Townley, to name just a selection.

More world championships have been won by New Zealand motorcyclists than by competitors in any other sport in this country and the story of Kiwis boxing above their weight on the world stage continues today.

The list of Kiwi motorcycle racers who currently ply their respective trades overseas is actually surprisingly long and includes such individuals as Pahiatua's Paul Whibley and Wellington's Rory Mead (both racing cross-country in the US), Auckland's Chris Birch (enduro events), Wellington's Jake Whitaker (moto trials and enduro), Mount Maunganui's national MX1 motocross champion Cody Cooper, fellow Bay of Plenty man Rhys Carter, Mangakino's Kayne Lamont, Te Puke's Logan Blackburn, Elsthorpe's Kieran Scheele, Takaka's Hamish Harwood, Rotorua's John Phillips, Wellington's Josh Bartosh and Otago's Courtney Duncan (all racing motocross).

Tokoroa's Sean Clarke, Mokau's Adrian Smith and Auckland's Chris Power have also recently competed overseas.

In the tarmac world we have Rangiora's Jake Lewis, Paraparaumu's Sam Croft, Auckland's Blayes Heaven and Auckland's Connor London (all racing in the European Junior Cup) and Orewa's Avalon Biddle (racing in the Honda CBR600 Cup competition. Wellington's Sloan Frost will be in action across the Tasman to race in the Australian Superbike Championships.

Former Wellington man Bruce Anstey just over a week ago finished third in the blue riband Senior TT race at the Isle of Man, adding to a glittering array of prizes that Anstey has collected from that part of the world in recent years.

Wairarapa's Doug Fairbrother and Wellington's Chris Swallow head off to the Isle of Man classic meeting in August.

Pahiatua's Paul Whibley is one of many who now spend much of their time on foreign soil.

For 10 months of the year he is based in the US, where he has twice been national cross-country champion.

The 34-year-old former Manawatu forestry worker, affectionately dubbed "The Axeman" on the international motorbike scene, won two major cross-country titles in the US last season, clinching the Grand National Cross-country Championships for a second time - he also won it in 2009 - and the Off-Road Motorcycle and ATV crown as well, although his 2013 campaign to defend both titles has been fraught with problems, including a hand injury near the start of the season. He is currently sixth in the GNCC standings after seven of 13 rounds.

It is a similar story for Otago teenager Courtney Duncan. She demolished some of the best female motocross riders in the world when she scored back-to-back wins at the opening round of the Women's Motocross Championships in the US last month.

But then she broke her wrist and was forced to sit idly by and watch as her title rivals battled on without her at round two just over a week ago.

The true test for Whibley and Duncan now will be how quickly they can rebound.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 20 Aug 2014 23:07:11 Processing Time: 415ms