Wrapping up the Yamaha cross-country series

Eventual 2024 champion Callum Dudson (Honda No.731), from Rotorua, leads the way in this high-speed traffic jam soon after the start of the senior grade race at Flemington on Saturday. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com.

The 2024 Yamaha New Zealand Cross-country Championships wrap up with back-to-back races at different venues in the south-east of the North Island over the Easter Weekend.

Round three of four in this series was held at Flemington, in Central Hawke’s Bay, on Saturday, with the fourth and final round at Tinui, near Masterton, on Easter Monday.

A three-hour senior race and a 90-minute junior race was staged on a hilly farmland course at Flemington on Saturday and it was the same all over again on similar terrain at Tinui on Monday.

Remarkably, there were four different winners in those four races over the two days.

Both venues tested riders to the extreme with wet, wild and chilly conditions to greet riders at Flemington and baking sun and dust in the Wairarapa on Monday.

Defending senior champion Wil Yeoman won Saturday’s senior race ahead of nearest rival Callum Dudson, from Rotorua, and New Plymouth’s Sam Parker claimed the third podium position.

This gave Yeoman a small three-point advantage at the top of the standings with just Monday’s race still to come.

Winner of the 90-minute Junior race on Saturday was Te Awamutu’s Nixon Parkes, with Blake Affleck, from Owaka, about two hours’ drive south of Dunedin, in second and Rotorua’s James Bates third.

Affleck continued to lead the Junior grade, but Parkes had now moved up to replace Eketahuna’s Sheldon Brown as his main title threat after Brown had crashed out of Saturday’s race.

Affleck’s points advantage over Parkes was now a meagre six points, with just Monday’s race at Tinui left to complete the series.

And so, as forecast, the title chase would go right down to the wire at the final round on Easter Monday and that’s when things really got interesting.

With virtually nothing in terms of points to separate Yeoman from Dudson at the start of the day on Monday, it meant it was a winner-takes-all situation and whoever won at Tinui would snatch away the title.

Dudson won the senior race on Monday, crossing the finish line just over two minutes ahead of Yeoman, and so, with both riders having scored two wins and two runner-up finishes over the four rounds, their points tallies were identical.

However, with Dudson having won the crucial final race of the series, he therefore won the title on countback, his first major success at New Zealand championship level.

Auckland’s Charlotte Russ was best of the senior women on both days over the Easter Weekend, finishing 33rd overall among the men on Saturday and 29th overall on Monday, and so she successfully defended her title.

An argument with nature during Monday’s final junior race ruined Affleck’s title bid – the 16-year-old smacked into a tree on lap two – and, although he bravely remounted and still managed to finish the race, his eventual sixth placing saw his title hopes evaporate.

Parkes meanwhile secured a runner-up finish, behind Masterton’s race winner Max Williams, and that was enough for Parkes to clinch the junior crown for this season.

The leading junior woman this season was Rotorua’s Grace Fowler, her 19th overall among the boys on Saturday and 19th overall again on Monday enough for her to seal the title for 2024.

The various bike class winners in the senior grade this season are Dudson (XC1), Yeoman (XC2), Huntly’s Brandon Hoskins (XC3), Hamilton’s Phillip Goodwright (veterans 35-44 years) and Auckland’s Bryce Williams (veterans over-45 years).

Class winners in the junior grade this season are Williams (two-stroke 125cc and above), Parkes (two-stroke 250cc and above) and Cromwell’s Lochie Cornish (85cc class).

In addition to Yamaha Motor New Zealand, the series was supported by Forbes and Davies (motorcycle accessories business), Motomuck (distributors of bike, motorcycle, car and marine cleaning products) and Stux NZ Gloves.

2024 NZ Cross-country Championships calendar:

Round one, Friday, February 9, St Arnaud, near Nelson;

Round two, Sunday, February 11, St Arnaud, near Nelson;

Round three, Saturday, March 30, Flemington, Central Hawke’s Bay;

Round four, Monday, April 1 (Easter Monday), Bush Riders Club, at Tinui, near Masterton.

- Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com

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