Teams preview Bulahdelah AORC season opener
With the frenzied, cut and thrust of Enduro–X behind them, KTM Enduro Racing Team riders Toby Price and Peter Boyle return to their core business of off-road racing this weekend at the AORC opener at Bulahdelah.
The Australian Off-Road Championships is a seven-month, 12-round, test of man and machine stretching across four states, and contested by the cream of Australia’s enduro and off-road racing talent to determine the best all-round racers in three categories.
Toby Price holds a legitimate place in Aussie bike racing folklore, both for his domination of all forms of off-road racing and more recently for his determined recovery from a major spinal injury suffered early last year.
Early-season racing, including a win in the Transmoto 12-Hour alongside team manager Brad Williscroft last weekend, has shown the irrepressible Maitlander is well back on the pace. The KTM 450 EXC rider expects nothing less than to be in contention for the AORC Overall crown at the back end of the season.
Enigmatic Victorian Peter Boyle can beat anyone in his moment, and he has worked hard to improve consistency after an up-and-down showing in the KTM Enduro-X Nationals.
Boyle will take a KTM 250 EXC-F into E1 championship, and a smart punter would not overlook him.
The team’s third rider Matthew Phillips will not be available for the opening of AORC rounds due to international racing commitments.
KTM Enduro Racing Team Manager Brad Williscroft: “Toby and I raced together at the 12 hour last weekend and tested some suspension options, which was positive. Then yesterday and today we had Boyley out testing and he’s really happy with his bike as well.
Pete’s riding a lot smoother and he was going real well today so it will be interesting to see how he goes in E1. The way Toby was riding on the weekend and the way his bike is performing I’d expect Toby to be an outright contender for sure, but that first day of 20 min sprints will give us a better idea of where we’re at with the other guys.
Both boys know they need to go out there and be consistent even if they don’t win. It’s always important to start the series with good points.”
Toby Price KTM 450 EXC: “It’s been a good week leading up for us, we did the 12 hour last weekend, a little testing and some photos and I’m coming in feeling pretty good with the body and the fitness, so we’ll wait and see how it all pans out. The sprint format should be fun so we’ll just go out there and try to lay down fast laps and see where that puts us at the end of the day. I’ll be riding the KTM 450 EXC in the AORC series and the last time I rode the 450 back in 2010 was one of my best years, so I hope to kick that off again. It won’t be as easy this time, but I’ll just try to be smooth and consistent for the series and see what results that brings us.”
Peter Boyle KTM 250 EXC-F: “I’m feeling pretty good, we’ve got the bike sorted with the switch from enduro-X to cross-country racing mode and I can’t wait to get back out there in the bush where we’ve got a bit more time and space to get away with that small mistake. I’ve never raced at Bulahdelah, I know it’s going to be tough and all the boys will be on it, so let the best guy win. I want to come back and try and beat these boys again, to see if I can still do it. The KTM 250 EXC-F is going to help; I’ve got the power a lot better down low, and handling through corners is just amazing. I’m hitting things quicker and smoother than ever.”
2014 YAMAHA AUSTRALIAN OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP
- Rd 1&2: 22/23 March, Buladelah, NSW
- Rd 3&4: 19/20 April, Boyland, QLD
- Rd 5&6: 3/4 May, Hedley, VIC
- Rd 7&8: 21/22 June, Coonawarra, SA
- Rd 9&10: 19/20 July, Kyogle, NSW
- Rd 11&12: 6/7 September, Heathcote, VIC
Husaberg Enduro Racing Team riders Jarrod Bewley and Geoff Braico are all set to begin the marque’s final year as a distributor-backed entity in Australian off-road racing, as this weekend’s Australian Off Road Championship opener takes place at Bulahdelah.
The two champion enduro racers are proud Husaberg pilots and both would love nothing more than to hoist a ‘berg onto the box in 2014, which is Husaberg’s 25th anniversary year.
Just to make things even more fresh and interesting however, both riders will compete in different classes to the ones in which they started AORC season 2013.
After stacking AORC class wins onto E3 class wins at both Finke and Hattah in 2013, Bewley will saddle up aboard a Husaberg FE501 for a shot at the E3 crown, while Braico, who won last year’s AORC E3 title and has spent almost a whole senior career on big bore machines, will switch to the lighter, more nimble Husaberg FE350 for this year’s series.
In the E2 class he’ll encounter some of the biggest names in Aussie off-road racing, but Braico is unperturbed and embracing the chance to enjoy Husaberg’s final AORC challenge with his long-time mate Bewley.
JARROD BEWLEY (FE501) – “I’m feeling pretty comfortable on the bike after a fair bit of testing and looking forward to Round One. The FE501 just works so well, it can handle whatever I throw at it and ride it easy, I can’t wait to start racing.
“I’ve given myself a lot more time coming into this season to concentrate on training. I’ve been riding with some of the younger guys which is always good, they are keen and they push me along.
“Being a part of Husaberg’s final year is pretty cool, it’s kind of nice to be racing the last ones ever made and I want to prove they’re competitive right up to the last day and send them off with a good result.
“Bulahdelah will be a pretty level playing field, we’ve all raced there over many years, and fortunately this time it’s been pretty hot at home so I’ve got some good conditioning for the humidity and heat that probably shocked me a little bit last year.”
GEOFF BRAICO (FE350) – “It’s nearly AORC time and I’m pretty excited to be on the FE350. My mechanic Drew and my suspension guy Charlie have built me an awesome package and I’m loving this set up and really looking forward to giving the E2 class a go.
“I’ve been riding big bikes pretty much ever since I turned senior so this is a new challenge and I’m really excited about it. Obviously there are some big hitters in the class and, working full time I’m behind the eight ball a little bit, but I’ll just ride my own race and see how we go. The most important thing is having fun and I’m having so much fun on the Husaberg FE350.
“I did pretty well at Bulahdelah last year in the XC but we need some rain for sure. It’s a bit of a snotty, rocky place that can bite you if you’re not careful, but I’ve also had some pretty good fun there, so we’ll get there Friday and have a walk and see for ourselves.”
Two wins and a second from the Husqvarna Enduro Racing Team’s first three races have been a great start, but Team Manager Glenn Kearney is confident the brand-new squad will only continue to improve into the Australian Off-Road Championship, which begins at Bulahdelah this weekend.
Kearney believes that while the youngest team on the block has been running to catch up with its more established rivals so far, the Husqvarna men will be at their highest level of readiness yet when they take to the well-known venue north of Newcastle.
Queensland Enduro Champion Lachlan Stanford, who last month gave the team its first win in the Husqvarna Queensland Sprint Series opener near Gympie, will take on the big guns in the E2 category on his Husqvarna FE 450, and is not shying away from the challenge.
Scott Keegan is back healthy and raring to go. His target is the E1 category and his weapon of choice the Husqvarna FE 250, while the boss (Kearney) will ride his FE501 in the E3 class after a momentary return to quarter-litre hardware for the final round of the KTM Enduro-X Nationals.
Husqvarna Enduro Racing Team Manager Glenn Kearney (FE501): “We are all pretty excited, we’ve been working with Christian Horwood, our new full-time race mechanic on getting all the bikes set up after our recent suspension testing. I think everybody’s pretty comfortable and ready to roll. We have made good progress with the limited time that we’ve had, but everything is happening so quick and we’re only going to get better.
“We’re looking for some real solid results out of this weekend. I’m real confident on the new bike and with the times I’ve been doing on the test track I’m looking for big things. Lachy is going to be out to impress – he’s a big kid and the 450 really suits him. He’s also another year older, fitter than he’s ever been and real committed. Scotty’s done the most testing of all of us so he could really come out swinging. With the first race it’s always interesting to see where everyone is at, but I’m more than confident the Husqvarna team will be at the pointy end.”
“Lachlan Stanford (FE450): “Everything’s been working to plan, my training with Tim Cole has got me feeling really good. This year I picked E2 because I like the big bores – I know it’s the premier class but I think the Husqvarna FE 450 is the bike I can go fastest on.
“This feels like the year for me to make something happen, I have a good team behind me and good sponsors so I think we are going to have a good year. I like the tracks at Bulahdelah and it’s just exciting to be going racing again.
Scott Keegan (FE250): “I’ve really knuckled down a lot since the enduro cross and worked a lot on bikes set up because I really want to come out swinging. I’ve got the back problem sorted animal fit and healthy. I know Bulahdelah pretty well, it’s only a couple of hours away, and I think I’ve got a setting that going to suit – in fact is not much different from stock. I expect a lot out of myself this year now that I’ve been with Jeff for a while and I really want to get good results for the new team on debut. I want to win an Aussie championship – I’ve wanted that since I started racing and it’s probably about time.”
Yamaha Racing Heads For The Bush
Yamaha’s factory supported teams are locked, loaded and headed for Bulahdelah, NSW, for the opening round of the 2014 Yamaha Australian Off Road Championship this weekend.
Yamaha not only have the naming rights of the high profile national off road championship but will have a huge presence on the trail with a host of riders and teams competing under the blue banner.
CDR Yamaha Off Road
CDR Yamaha off road will head the Yamaha charge featuring the 1-2 punch of Chris Hollis and reigning 2013 AORC champ, Daniel Milner. Milner steps up from the E1 class (under 250cc) up to the premier E2 (450cc bikes) category after a hugely successful 2013 season. Testing has gone extremely well for Milner and he is no stranger to the bigger capacity bike having shocked the world at the ISDE last year with a stunning second place finish on the YZ450F.
Hollis enters the AORC full of confidence after winning the season opening Australian Enduro-X championships recently. Since his early season success, Hollis has gelled well with his new team and has spent plenty of time refining the WR450F to his tastes. Hollis will also compete in the E2 class and will go head to head with his team mate, and good friend, for Outright honours at each and every round.
The Active8 Yamaha team return bigger and better than ever for 2014 with a three pronged rider attack featuring Josh Green, Stefan Granquist and Tom McCormack. Green is fresh off an arm injury sustained during pre- season testing but has been working hard to be 100% fit by the opening round. Green will be YZ450F mounted and looking forward to getting the season under way.
Stefan Granquist is new to the team for 2014 and will fly the WR450 flag in the E3 class. Granquist is an experienced and consistent campaigner who is capable on all surfaces, in all conditions. The E1 rider in the team will be Tom McCormack. McCormack impressed during the 2013 season with his speed and is looking to take another step forward in his racing this year.
Beau Ralston will also race with support from the Active8 team as he makes his move from motocross to off road
More Yamaha representation will come in the form of Kirk Hutton in the veteran’s class as well as Jemma Wilson and Emilie Karlsson in the Women’s category.