STORY: Andy McGechan/ bikesportnz.com 2018 NZ Xtreme Off-Road Championship MOTO TRIALS ACE SHOWS HOW IT’S DONE ike riders were pushed to the brink in the Akatarawa Forest, halfway between Lower Hutt and Porirua, on Sunday, and it was local man Jake Whitaker who emerged on top. Motorcycling New Zealand's latest competition initiative – the inaugural NZ Xtreme Off-road Championship series – hit the halfway stage on the Moonshine Valley course on Sunday September 30, the competition again living up to its name and delivering more of the same stresses, strains and physical hardship that it had at round one near Whangamata last month. The 27-year-old Whitaker, already a Kiwi legend in another motorcycling code – a record eight-time national moto trials champion – used some of those same precise throttle control and bike balancing skills needed for trials riding to conquer the brutal Moonshine enduro course. Wainuiomata man Whitaker (KTM EXC300) finished the day more than two minutes ahead of runner-up rider Dylan Yearbury (Husqvarna FX350) from Cambridge. "It was a pretty demanding course today, with only a few short stages where a rider could rest a bit," said Whitaker. "It was an extremely physical day of riding, with hill climbs and creek crossings to keep everyone on their toes. “The weather was great and the courser surprisingly dry, although there were a few spots in the forest that probably never really dry out, so we did strike a bit of mud too.” Hamilton’s Phil Singleton (Husqvarna FE350) had won the day at the series opener at Whangamata, but he was forced to settle for third overall at Moonshine. This was, however, enough for Singleton to keep his series lead as the riders now prepare for round three, in Hawke’s Bay on November 3-4. MNZ enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson had said before the start of the series that the racing would be “a little tougher than a normal national enduro, but not impossible” and this was true, with just a handful of riders unable to complete the nine-lap race. “It was supposed to be a brutal event. We don’t want to scare people off, but it was meant to be tough,” he said. “In saying that, though, there is quite a big step up from the Bronze Grade course to what the Gold Grade riders faced and individuals could choose for themselves how much of a challenge they wanted.” The top three finishers in the Silver Grade were Lower Hutt’s Ryan Scullion, followed by Cambridge’s Beau Taylor and Whangarei’s Wayne Cox. Best of the Bronze Grade riders was Whitianga’s James Kerr, with Tauranga’s Matt Reece and Whitecliffs’ Cody Corson not too far behind. The series continues now with round three in Hawke’s Bay and then round four at Oxford, near Christchurch. Only two of the four rounds of the NZ Xtreme Off-road Championship are to be counted, with riders to discard their two worst scores, while double points are offered for the final round in the South Island.