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Submitted by Andy McGechan
Thursday, 7th July 2016
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The 2016 New Zealand Enduro Championships


CAPTION: Josh Dando (Beta RR300), from Loburn, near Rangiora, who leads the intermediate grade overall. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

MAY 30, 2016: Brace yourselves for a mad couple of days of racing as the New Zealand Enduro Championships wind up with a 'double whammy' weekend in the Central North Island.

The 2016 series will wrap up with back-to-back rounds this weekend and, after the five-round series has offered up three different winners at the previous three rounds, it's probably anyone's guess as to which individual will emerge on top when the engine noise dies away at round five near Tokoroa on Sunday afternoon.

But first there's round four to contemplate, set for rugged terrain at Waimiha, near Benneydale, on Saturday.

A win here could spell all the difference for the leading title contenders.

Christchurch's Hamish Macdonald (Sherco SE-R300i) won the series opener in the Greta Valley, near Christchurch, in March, while Taupo's Brad Groombridge (Suzuki RM-Z250) won round two near Mosgiel two days later.

A third first-time winner popped up at round three near Wellington in April, with Howick's Liam Draper (Husqvarna FE250) celebrating the win, and that means there is virtually nothing to separate these three riders as they head into the Central North Island for the final two showdowns, at Waimiha on Saturday and Tokoroa on Sunday.

If the saying is true that "you're only as good as your last race", then 19-year-old Draper could be the man to watch this weekend.

It was a real breakthrough moment for Draper in April when he won as an individual at the ultimate level of the sport of enduro racing.

Draper won all of the five tightly-timed "special stages" at the steep and rocky venue near Upper Hutt and he ended the day by finishing 37 seconds ahead of Macdonald.

Groombridge finished third overall on that occasion, just three seconds further back, and just four points separate these three riders at the top of the championship standings in the expert grade.

"This was the first time I've won a national enduro championship event," said Draper afterwards.

"I'm glad I was on a four-stroke bike that day and not a two-stroke like the last time I rode there. It was so important to get the power to the ground, to find traction on the loose rocks, and I certainly felt better on this course.

"I had to be patient too and not just throw lots of throttle at every obstacle. I actually rode slower to go faster, if that makes any sense at all. I was smooth all day and didn't crash once. I didn't even stall the bike.

"I'll be hoping I can carry on this winning momentum."

Groombridge leads Draper in the battle-within-a-battle for domination in the expert under-300cc four-stroke class and, once again, there is really nothing between the two riders.

Macdonald leads Titirangi's Callan May (Yamaha YZ250) in the battle-within-a-battle for over-200cc two-stroke class honours.

Meanwhile, Helensville's Tom Buxton leads the expert under-200cc two-stroke class; Hamilton's Chris Power is on top in the expert over-300cc four-stroke class and Tokoroa's Sean Clarke rules the roost in the expert veterans' (over-40 years) class.

Loburn's Josh Dando leads the intermediate grade overall, eight points clear of Thames rider Natasha Cairns, who is also the leading female in the series.

Te Awamutu's Rachael Archer leads Amberley's Hamish Foster in the junior grade.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com

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