Round 3 of the 2020 Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship presented by MXstore kicked off over the weekend, with rain providing some challenges for competitors during Saturday’s Round 3, and eventually causing the cancellation of Round 4 on Sunday.
Daniel Milner topped the time sheets as fastest rider overall on Saturday, over a minute faster than second-placed Daniel Sanders, while Luke Styke was third overall. Michael Driscoll and Josh Green completed the top five.
Over eight laps stretching nearly 50 km in length per lap, competitors tackled tacky, grassy conditions before the rain rolled in, throwing one big curveball that added extra demands on each rider’s physical and mental perseverance.
Coming out victorious, albeit covered in classic AORC mud, was Yamaha Active8 Yamalube’s Luke Styke in E1, KTM Enduro Racing Team’s Daniel Milner in E2 and Husqvarna Enduro Racing Team’s Daniel “Chucky” Sanders in E3.
After seven laps in the Women’s, Veterans and Masters classes, were Jessica Gardiner (Yamaha Ballards MXstore Off-Road Racing Team), Lee Stephens (True Painting & Decorating, KTM Newcastle) and Kirk Hutton (Yamaha Motor Australia) in Masters. Geoff Braico took the 2T Cup victory.
Younger classes were presented with new tests that only got more demanding at midday once the rain rolled in, but Juniors pushed on for up to twelve laps of the Offroad Advantage and Holeshot Graphics test tracks.
Coming out victorious for Round 3 was Blake Hollis (bLU cRU Off-Road Racing Team) in EJ, Riley McGillivray (AJs Motorcycles Superstore, Tunetech Racing) in J4, William Dennett in J3, Levi Stephens in J2, Max Stevenson in J1 and Ariana Collins (Jeff Collins Plumbing) in JG.
After the jolting results from Rounds 1 & 2 back in Toowoomba, fans were none the wiser as to whether Luke Styke or Mason Semmens would dominate the test times in Dungog.
Round 3’s results proved two things – first, that Styke’s injured foot isn’t causing him nearly as much pain as it did in Rounds 1 & 2, and second, the Yamaha racer will fight tooth and nail to get that gold.
Clocking in an accumulated total time of 41:09, Styke took out first place ahead of Semmens, by just over 40 seconds. Rounding out the podium for Round 3 was 2019 EJ Champion, Kyron Bacon who finished a challenging day aboard his Yamaha with a total time of 43:28.
“Today was tough at round lunchtime when the rain rolled in. Overall though I’m really happy with how today went. The tracks were tight and technical to begin with and after the sun came out in the morning we got a couple great runs in. But once the rain started, the conditions were super slippery.”
A vision in KTM signature orange, Daniel Milner set the bar high early. Across the WR450F and Ballards MXstore test tracks, the 2019 E2 Champion finished Round 3 with a total time of 39:31, the fastest time of the day.
Behind Milner was Michael Driscoll, who continued his impressive streak in Toowoomba to finish in second place for Round 3. With a total time of 41:20, Driscoll beat coach and fellow Yamaha racer Josh Green by just over nine seconds.
Green rode into the third and final podium position, with a total time of 41:29.
MX Champion, Todd Waters tackled newfound challenges with his first ever Enduro racing format. With unfamiliar conditions that became more difficult as the day went on, especially due to rainfall, Waters finished Round 3 in sixth place.
“I am stoked with how today went. The conditions were great in the morning but got tough after midday, but I was able to push on and stick it to the big boys who train full time. It really drives home to me that I am doing something right.”
It looked like Daniel Sanders struggled early on with lengthened times during lap 2. But the knock didn’t shake the Husqvarna boarded racer, who comfortably carried on over eight laps to win first place. With a total time of 40:45, Chucky finished just over 50 seconds ahead of Jonte Reynders. Rounding out the podium in E3 today was fan favourite Fraser Higlett, with a total time of 42:19.
After remaining quiet during Toowoomba, Blake Hollis came out swinging in the Gog, clocking up a total time of 50:31 across his twelve laps. Very close on his heels and uninterested in losing that winning streak from Toowoomba, Korey McMahon pushed all day. In the end though, he conceded for second place, clocking in a total time of 50:52. Stealing away third was Matt Waters, with a total time of 51:31.
Cooler than ‘Cool Hand Luke’, Stephens tangoed with Richard Chibnall across his eight laps, reigniting that thrilling competition we’ve seen from these two time and time again. Stephens finished Round 3 with a total time of 44:53, ahead of Chibnall by just over 13 seconds. Rounding out the Veterans podium was Damian Smith, with a total time of 46:53.
Unstoppable would be an apt word to describe Kirk Hutton and his humble campaign to claim every Masters win he can. With a total time of 46:38, Hutton finished ahead of Peter Rudd by just over three minutes. Claiming the third and final podium position for Round 3 was Andrew Gillam, with a total time of 51.27.
“It was good. I thought the first lap was going to be prime because the conditions are this good thanks to the rain! But things deteriorated up in the forest with torrential rain, making it hard to see where you’re going. I felt good in the first lap but after the rain I found grass tracks, which I find I’m really good at, where tough because I couldn’t find a grip. It was good though overall and it’s been really nice to see the rain! It was a real Enduro round and I enjoyed it.”
Early into Round 3, the results threw us all sideways with reigning Champion, Jessica Gardiner clocking up out of character test times and both Emelie Karlsson and Emi Ruprecht smashing out speedy times. As the day progressed though and the rain rolled in, Gardiner seemed to find her feet and pushed through to first place.
Hot on her heels, Karlsson slid into second place with a total time of 50:24, ahead of Penrite Honda’s Emma Milesevic, who claimed third ahead of Ruprecht with a total time of 52:47. Like Gardiner, Milesevic appeared to struggle with the conditions early but as we have seen before, she fought tooth and nail to maintain her position on the podium.
“I had a pretty good day, it was a lot of fun this morning, we were spoilt with no dust and perfect conditions and being a timecard format it was really good out there. We had a lot of fun on the trail too but when the rain came though it made things very interesting. It came down to who could stay upright and keep those wheels spinning. Overall it was tough, so I’m really happy to take the win considering the challenging conditions.”
Regardless of the added challenges and changes in weather, Riley McGillivray was cool, calm and collected as he rode straight into first place in J4. With a total time of 24:57, McGillivray finished ahead of Kodi Stephens by just over one minute. Completing the J4 Round 3 podium was Kobi Wolff, with a total time of 26:36.
With a total time of 26:34, William Dennett has shifted the power away from Billy Hargy, claiming the fastest total time for J3. Hargy, whose winning streak was dashed, resolved himself to second place with a total time of 27:47. The third and final podium position was won by Max Phillips with a total time of 27:50.
The winners crown has been handed over from Jett Yarnold to Levi Stephens, who clocked an impressive total time of 30:39 over six laps. Second place was scored by Tate Young with a total time of 31:31. Stealing away third place ahead of Yarnold was Jet Brien with a total time of 39:13.
Max Stevenson was totally unfased by the weather and tricky conditions as he rode across the Offroad Advantage and Holeshot Graphics test tracks, sliding effortlessly into first place with a total time of 17:31 over three laps. Mason Boucher claimed second place from Cooper Boyd, who conceded for the third and final podium with a total time of 18:49.
Regardless of the challenges that stood in their way, the JG class smashed Round 4 out of the park with Ariana Collins claiming first place. Clocking in at 34:53 over six laps, Collins beat Chelsea Muir and Danielle McDonald to the gold. Muir and McDonald finished Round 3 with total times of 44:10 and 26:23 (+1 lap), respectively.
Casual as anything, Geoff Braico lead the charge hot off the start line right from lap 1. With a total time of 42:54 after eight laps, Braico finished in first ahead of Dalton Johnson. Johnson finished Round 3 with a total time of 44:50, but got through by the skin of his nails ahead of Brad Hardaker, who clocked in just shy of three seconds behind Johnson. Round 1 winner, Harry Teed had a challenging day, conceding for fourth place with a total time of 45:28.
“My day was pretty fun and without much dramas. I didn’t crash until the last lap but my YZ125 was having a ball in these conditions! I just thought I would come along and give this a go and Yamaha were kind enough to help me out. It’s great to have this class where it’s not necessarily as serious. I’ve seen the AORC pits change and evolve over the years, so the 2T class opens up that opportunity for people to compete without it being too serious.”
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