Wainuiomata 21-year-old Jake Whitaker has for the third year in a row revved up the Aussies by grabbing their national trials title.
Motorcycle trials is about negotiating a circuit of jumps, rock and trunk obstacles and slippery slopes, racing the clock. It is not so much about speed as courage, balance and superb throttle control.
Whitaker's defence of the Aussie crown was helped by the fact rain swept in on the afternoon of the first day of competition in Perth. The top home riders, notably Kyle Middleton from New South Wales, had been closing the points gap. But they like the "dry grippy stuff", so when rain soaked the course and made everything even more slippery, the Kiwi throttled home.
Whitaker says he "gets a bit of banter" as an interloper from the other side of the Tasman but it's nothing like the rivalry of rugby and league. "I get on well with the Australian riders, so it's all pretty cool."
On that same September 1 and 2 weekend, the Oceania teams event was also held. Whitaker won the expert class, Karl Clark from Nelson won the masters, Blake Fox from Invercargill won the youth grade, Liam Draper from Auckland won the junior title, and Steph Downs from Christchurch took second in the women's grade.
Whitaker says New Zealand has won the teams title before but on their home turf and "usually not so utterly convincingly".
The Wainuiomata rider is still on a high from his top-five placing on the second day of a World Championship round last month - his best yet.
At the end of October, he will head to Alexandra in Central Otago to try to claim his sixth New Zealand expert trials crown.
- Hutt News