The battle for bragging rights in the Yamaha Australian Off Road Championships (AORC) resumes again this weekend, with Murray Bridge in South Australia playing host to rounds 5 and 6.
The event will adopt a sprint format on both Saturday and Sunday, pitting riders against the stopwatch to decide positions and points.
Yamaha’s factory outfit, Ballard’s Wellard Yamaha will look to extend their advantage atop the outright standings, currently sitting 1-2 thanks to the efforts of Stefan Merriman and Jarrod Bewley.
The WR450F-powered pair have set the pace thus far, both featuring on the podium at 3 of the 4 rounds to date and sharing 3 of the 4 outright wins.
Merriman is set for a start this weekend despite still feeling the effects of a shoulder injury sustained almost two months ago.
He said he was looking forward to his first ever visit to Murray Bridge this weekend.
“I’ve never been to Murray Bridge before and I’m looking forward to the racing this weekend. I’ve heard the conditions are great, nice and loamy, so it should be good,” said Merriman.
“I’m still getting over my shoulder injury, to be honest I didn’t think it would take this long to fully recover and it’s really restricted my training which is frustrating.
“I’m confident I can push hard this weekend even with a bit of soreness, it would be good to keep an advantage and really come home strong in the final few weekends.”
He controls the outright championship and Pro E2 class after four rounds, and enters the weekend with a 3 point advantage over Bewley in second.
Bewley, the winner of round four at Blayney, said he hoped to keep in check with Merriman and hold off a rapidly-advancing AJ Roberts in third place.
“I’m looking forward to the weekend and getting stuck into the sprint format,” said Bewley. “Hopefully the weather is a bit kinder to us in South Australia.”
“It will be important to have a strong run here, its quite close between myself, Stefan and AJ in the top three and any mistake could be costly.”
Pro E1 frontrunner Kirk Hutton will be looking to end the run of class rival Ben Kearney this weekend.
Hutton won the opening stoush but has finished a close second to his title rival on the past three occasions.
This consistency has ensured he is just 6 points off the lead and ready to pounce should the opportunity arise at Murray Bridge.
Pro E3 campaigner, Josh Ballard narrowly missed his first podium finish of the season at Blayney’s fourth round.
He is placed equal fourth in the class and will look to gain the upper-hand on the competition with a solid run of results aboard the WR480F in South Australia.
Liam Robertson will look to continue his impressive run of results after taking his first podium of the year at the previous round.
He rode through the pain of broken fingers and is sure to be a strong contender at full fitness.
It will be business as usual for the team’s most senior and junior riders.
Principal Geoff Ballard has looked unstoppable so far and will certainly be the man to beat in the Masters class this weekend.
Ben Burrell is another Ballard’s Wellard Yamaha rider with 100 perfect points to his name.
His phenomenal speed has him easily in control of the Junior Lites 15 years class as well as the outright Junior championship.
Yamaha’s strangehold over Women’s competition looks set to continue at Murray Bridge.
To date its between a duel between defending champion, AWED’s Alison Parker and Yamaha Queensland’s Jemma Wilson.
Parker has three wins against Wilson’s one, resulting in a 6-point difference.
Jacqui Jones has been the picture of consistency, recording four straight fourth place finishes.
Dimity-Lee Duke and Jacqui Beattie wrap up the blue brigade’s solid charge.
Yamaha AORC Outright Standings (after round 4 of 10)
1. Stefan Merriman, 88 (Yamaha WR450F)
2. Jarrod Bewley, 85 (Yamaha WR450F)
3. AJ Roberts, 81
4. Toby Price, 70
5. Ben Grabham, 68
6. Chris Hollis, 63
7. Ben Kearney, 55
8. Kirk Hutton, 51 (Yamaha WR250F)
9. Josh Green, 42
10. Peter Boyle, 39