Birch nudges out Smith for victory

ANDY MCGECHAN
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2013

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It was a tough day at the office for Mokau's defending champion Adrian Smith on Saturday, but he still ended the day with a smile on his face.

The 27-year-old national enduro and cross-country rider was shaded for the outright win at Saturday's opening round one of the Yamaha New Zealand Enduro Championships at Oparau, near Kawhia, with former champion Chris Birch (KTM 350XCF) emerging on top.

But Smith (Yamaha YZ250) still came second overall at the end of the day, and with solid points on the board in the battle for outright honours. He also leads the separate battle within a battle for under-300cc two-stroke class glory as well.

"It was a tough day at the office," Smith said.

"I missed one of the orange marker arrows in the heavy dust and took a wrong turn. That cost me considerably in one of the timed special tests."

With a format similar to rally car racing, the riders set off in groups of three, a minute apart, and they are racing against the clock as much as they are against any of the few rivals they might actually bash handlebars with on the course.

When the times were tallied at the end of a long and brutal day's racing, Smith had finished just two minutes behind Auckland's Birch after the six special stages, the unforgiving course traversing steep and rocky terrain in the remote western Waikato region.

"I don't feel any extra pressure being the reigning champion. You don't see your rivals much on the track, so it's really all about conquering the terrain and beating the clock.

"I cost myself a lot of time with that navigational error, but second overall after round one is OK and it is solid points in the bag anyway.

"It is good having Chris Birch back from overseas. He's a top-quality rider and lifts the competition around him.

"I just need to stay consistent and finish top three each round and I'll be in the mix at the end of the season."

Fellow Taranaki man Tony Parker (KTM 350EXCF) finished the day eighth overall, and this places him fourth overall in the over-300cc four-stroke class.

New Plymouth's Dougy Herbert (Husaberg TE300) finished the day 12th overall and he is in second spot in the veterans' (over-40 years) category.

There are seven rounds to follow, with the next round set for Whangamata on February 23. The series wraps up near Tokoroa on September 21.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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