Sean Clarke Just like the cavalry in Wild West movies, enduro ace Sean Clarke has come galloping to the rescue in the nick of time.

Destined for yet another cancellation, New Zealand's big annual six-hour dirt bike marathons will now go ahead as before, albeit at a much different venue, half an island away from its traditional home.

Typically held each year in Hawke's Bay, the event was again not going to happen this year because of damage done by heavy rains in the region, perhaps tragically making it a third cancellation in succession.

The 2010 and 2011 editions of the big race were also cancelled, because of weather damage and the last-minute withdrawal of the landowner's consent.


But then the cavalry arrived in the form of Clarke and the popular annual stand-alone race will go ahead this year, on October 6, not in Hawke's Bay but at a fresh venue just south of Tokoroa.

Re-named simply the Suzuki Six-Hour, it will take place at a site well-known to off-road bike racers, a location called The Pylons, at Atiamuri, north of Taupo and south of Tokoroa.

Following the overwhelming success of the Clarke-run Dirt Guide Cross-country Championship series, the Suzuki Six-Hour is bound to attract the cream of New Zealand's dirt bike elite.

"It will be an honour to run this event," said Clarke, himself a past winner of the race and a recent Kiwi international with numerous titles to his credit.

"The course will be 35km, which will include both the junior and senior tracks used for the Dirt Guide series.

"I have run the bulldozer around about 90 per cent of the course since the Dirt Guide series finished in June so the track will be in good shape.

"The Pylons is a good area because the soil is the most free-draining around here and that means the weather doesn't affect it that badly."

The last time the Suzuki Six-Hour was staged in Hawke's Bay, in October 2009, it was won by Auckland cousins Karl and Chris Power. Some of the past stars of this event include motocross, enduro and cross-country exponents, men such as Daryl Hurley, Michael Phillips, Mark Penny, Darryll King, Steven Croad, Adam Youren, Kevin Archer, Mark Fuller, John McKee, Cam Mabey, Ben Thomasen, Cam Negus, Scott Columb and Cody Cooper.

It is a gruelling race that can test both man and machine to the limits, although, for the more social competitors, the option is still there to treat it merely as a glorified trail ride.

Various separate bike classes cater for all ages, abilities and bike capacities and, with several hundred riders signing up for the challenge, there are usually plenty of tall stories to tell afterwards.

On the serious side, some of New Zealand's present crop of international off-road stars, men such as Pahiatua's Paul Whibley, Wellington's Rory Mead and Auckland expatriate Chris Birch, now living in South Africa, all cut their teeth at this event in the past, using it to hone their skills before venturing off-shore and hitting the big time.