BIRCH MAKES IT SIX FROM SIX
Six wins from six starts, Chris Birch’s homecoming couldn’t have gone much better.
Now permanently back in the country after a two-year stint of racing and living in South Africa, Auckland’s Birch wasted no time in reasserting his authority on the Kiwi dirt bike scene, winning every round of the New Zealand Enduro Championships this season.
Riding conditions were tough for the sixth and final round of the series near Tokoroa on Saturday, but, as the old saying goes, ‘when the going gets tough; the tough get going’ and they don’t come much tougher than KTM rider Birch.
The man from Glen Eden already had already claimed the series ‘outright’ title in his grip after winning the previous round and his aim on Saturday was to see if he could make it a clean sweep of wins and also add a class win to his tally.
The 32-year-old Kiwi international took his KTM 350 XC-F to win five of the day’s six special tests, ending the brutal day of racing a comfortable one minute and 39 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger, fellow Aucklander Callan May.
It meant that Birch was also able to include the over-300cc four-stroke class title in his trophy haul this season.
“I was a bit disorganised today and that got me a bit stressed,” said Birch afterwards.
“The conditions got quite tough near the end and that suited me. I’m trying to get ready for the opening round of the KTM Extreme Enduro Series next weekend, the Nut Buster Hard Enduro near Christchurch, and then I’m off to contest the Roof of Africa extreme enduro in Lesotho in mid November, so this was a good work-out for me.”
The Tokoroa event was also an introduction to New Zealand enduro racing for Mexican visitor Didier Goirand.
The 18-year-old is in the country as a guest of Birch for the next month, here to polish his enduro riding skills, but he quickly showed his adaptability and that he is already a very talented rider when he won the over-200cc two-stroke class on Saturday.
He borrowed a KTM 300 EXC from Birch and, despite being unfamiliar with the sloppy conditions, he was able to match the Kiwi elite throughout the day, eventually finishing the event 23 seconds ahead of fellow KTM rider Reece Burgess, of Tauranga, in the overall analysis and more than two and a half minutes ahead of Ohaupo’s Robert Fisher (KTM) in the fight for class honours.
“It was a great result for Didier,” said Birch. “The conditions were tough but he managed to master them.”
In all, KTM riders won three of the five Expert Grade titles this season.
Birch won the expert over-300cc two-stroke class, Auckland’s Freddie Milford-Cottam won the expert under-200cc two-stroke class and Tokoroa’s Sean Clarke won the expert veterans’ (over-40 years) class.