Top-three outright finishes punctuated another solid weekend for Yamaha factory riders at rounds 7 and 8 of the Yamaha Australian Off Road Championship at Cherrabah in Warwick.
Warm daytime temperatures and dry, dusty trails set the scene for the event, which saw riders tackle two distinctly different challenges under the sprint format.
Saturday featured a number of fast, wide-open straights, mixed with rough, rocky terrain. Sunday provided a more technical challenge, with tight twists and turns between trees and various natural obstacles.
Pro E2 class frontrunner and A4DE victor Jarrod Bewley put in a consistent performance from start to finish aboard his Ballard’s Wellard Yamaha WR450F.
The 22-year-old finished third outright on Saturday and a close second in the class behind Toby Price.
He maintained the pressure on Price over the course of Sunday’s competition to eventually finish second outright.
The result saw him collect a good haul of points, but not enough to hold off Price who overtook him on the championship ladder. He is third on 158 points.
“It was a pretty good weekend, it was good to have a new track to race on and have a level playing-field,” said Bewley.
“Saturday’s course was fast but started to get really rough by the end of the day.
“Sunday was slower and a lot more technical, the WR450F worked well and I was able to climb to second.
“Toby (Price) had a good weekend and closed up the battle for the championship which probably won’t be decided until late on Sunday at the final round, I’m looking forward to giving it my best shot.”
Kirk Hutton showed speed and skill over the treacherous terrain to record solid outright finishes on Saturday and Sunday.
The WR250F rider finished fourth outright and second in-class for round 7 and improved to take a deserved podium finish (third outright) and class victory for round 8.
“Everything was clicking this weekend and I felt like I was riding really strong,” said Hutton.
“I was relaxed in my home state, I didn’t have to drive a long time. Things were working really good for me this weekend, so I was really stoked with my result.
“I basically just want to go into [the final rounds at Young] and get the best result I can.
“I’m seven-points behind Ben Kearney for the E1 class lead now so I’ll ride my hardest, try and be relaxed and have fun on the bike.”
Stefan Merriman kept his championship lead intact with a steady performance across the course of the weekend.
He was sixth outright after 7 laps of Saturday’s sprint course and improved to fifth on Sunday over 5 laps.
With two rounds remaining his advantage over second place is 5 points in outright terms.
Josh Ballard recorded back-to-back eighth placings across Saturday and Sunday and stays well in check with the Pro E3 top 5, sitting equal 5th.
Liam Robertson maintained third in the Expert E1 class, with eighth and fifth place finishes.
Yamaha riders continued their domination of the Masters, Women’s and Junior Outright championship.
Geoff Ballard added two more wins to move his tally to eight for the year, and needs just 4 points from an available 50 at the final dual-round weekend to wrap up another title.
Jemma Wilson carried the momentum in the Women’s class, extending her unbeaten run to four rounds.
The challenge once again came from Alison Parker, who recorded two second place finishes. The gap between Wilson and Parker increased to 6 points after Cherrabah and the battle for the title looks set to come down to the final round.
Ben Burrell overcame injury and the disappointment of a zero-points result at round 6 to bounce back and claim rounds 7 and 8 in dominating style.
He leads the Junior Outright standings on 175 points, 8 clear of Tom McCormack in second.
The final two rounds of the Yamaha Australian Off Road Championship will be held at Young in New South Wales from September 12-13.