Tauranga's Ben Townley spent five hours of brutal off-road racing making his mark on the third round of the of the 2019 Yamaha New Zealand Enduro Champs.
He's no regular on the New Zealand Enduro Championships scene, but certainly made an impact at the event over Easter Weekend.
New Zealand's best dirt bike riders took part in the round near Tokoroa on Saturday, with 34-year-old former motocross world champion Townley among those keen to hit the steep and rocky, tree root-littered trails at as close to full-throttle as they dared.
The last rider away on the premier AA course, Townley soon had his Yamaha WR450F up to pace and carving a path towards the front.
In the end, Townley clawed his way up the leaderboard to finish the day a remarkable third overall, the event won by Thames-based enduro specialist and fellow Kiwi international Chris Birch, with Helensville's young riding star Tom Buxton claiming the runner-up spot.
Cambridge's Dylan Yearbury and Tokoroa's Jake Wightman rounded out the top five riders on the AA course on Saturday.
"I like race enduros every now and again. This is probably my one for the year. I just don't come out and ride these if it's muddy," Townley laughed.
"The bike was awesome, a real weapon. I just put some Pirelli tyres on it, some hand guards from Yamaha and off I went. I absolutely loved it.
"I mucked up a couple of special tests, and I wrecked my gear peg too, but no real moments other than that.
"Next thing for me is to do the last round of the cross-country nationals near Taupō, but I'm not a fan of racing in the winter now. I'm a fair weather rider."
In terms of the championship, Buxton leads by just four points from Yearbury, with Whanganui's Seth Reardon – who finished sixth on Saturday – third overall for the series thus far, 18 points behind Yearbury.
However, with Buxton and Yearbury both now heading away to events in Romania and Austria, it puts Yamaha hero Reardon in a good position to take over the series lead if he performs well again at round four, near Martinborough on June 9.
Reardon (Yamaha YZ250FX) has been performing well in two separate motorcycling codes this season.
Reardon and Raglan's Brandon Given share second spot overall in the parallel-but-separate New Zealand Cross-country Championships after three of four round and that battle will go down to the wire at the final round near Taupō on May 25.
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2019 Yamaha NZ Enduro Champs calendar:
Round 1: Saturday, March 16 – Thames.
Round 2: Saturday, April 6 - Kāpiti.
Round 3: Saturday, April 20 – South Waikato.
Round 4: Sunday, June 9 – Martinborough.
Round 5: Saturday, June 29 – Bideford, Masterton.
Round 6: Friday, July 19 – Hokitika, Westland.
Round 7: Saturday, July 20 – Hokitika, Westland.