Yamaha is in the box seat to collect another outright Australian Off Road Championship title as the hotly-contested multi-class battle comes to a close at Young in NSW this weekend.
Ballard’s Wellard Yamaha rider Stefan Merriman heads to the event with a 5-point advantage over his closest championship rival.
The WR450F-mounted, multiple world enduro champion has set the pace in 2009, winning 4 of 8 rounds to date.
An uncharacteristic weekend for the 36-year-old brought him back to the field at the previous event held in Warwick a fortnight ago and he acknowledged that it will be no easy ask to hold off some of the category’s young guns as he vies for the title this weekend.
“I didn’t have the best run in Queensland and it closed things up for the title, it will be pretty close this weekend and will probably be decided late on Sunday,” said Merriman.
“I’m feeling confident aboard the WR450F and have had a steady preparation leading up to the event.”
Fellow Yamaha factory racer and Pro E2 class compatriot, Jarrod Bewley is still in the frame ahead of rounds 9 and 10.
Bewley is just 6 points shy of Toby Price in second and only 11 points in total off Merriman’s outright lead with 50 points in total still up for grabs this weekend.
“My preparation for the weekend has been going really well, I actually got married a few days ago so have had a few days off the training but am back into it in the leadup,” said Bewley.
“I don’t feel there’s any pressure on me, I am just aiming to get out there and do the best I can at the time.
“The format choice won’t really make much of a difference to me, I’m at the stage where I’m riding pretty well across both.”
Also well-placed within the outright top 10 standings and looking to wrestle back the Pro E1 class lead, Kirk Hutton is hoping to continue his round-winning form at Young.
The WR250F rider has relished a season-long battle with points leader Ben Kearney and made back crucial points at his home event in Queensland.
Pro E3 WR480F rider Josh Ballard is locked in a battle for fifth in the class and hoping to make the move forward in more favourable conditions after struggling at the dusty Warwick weekend.
Liam Robertson will look to get his Expert E1 and Outright campaigns back on track after battling the flu at the previous event.
The team’s oldest and youngest riders will be aiming to keep their winning run of results going.
Team Principal Geoff Ballard has steamrolled the Masters class in 2009 and needs to score just 4 points from a possible 50 this weekend to wrap up another title.
Ben Burrell has impressed many this year with his efforts in the Junior ranks and is on track to take Outright championship honours after winning 7 of 8 rounds to date.
A Yamaha 1-2-3 finish in the Women’s class is assured regardless of this weekend’s results. 2008 champion Alison Parker will need to dig deep to challenge the in-form Jemma Wilson, who currently leads by 6 points.
Jacqui Jones’ super-consistent season – 8 third place finishes in a row – sees her well on track to wrap up third but still in the hunt should the top two strike trouble.
Event organisers were yet to confirm the format of this weekend’s final two rounds of the Yamaha Australian Off Road Championship, but early conditions suggest that Saturday may be run as a cross-country.
Yamaha AORC Outright standings
1. Stefan Merriman, 169 (Yamaha WR450F)
2. Toby Price, 164
3. Jarrod Bewley, 158 (Yamaha WR450F)
4. Chris Hollis, 127
5. Ben Kearney, 119
6. AJ Roberts, 117
7. Ben Grabham, 112
8. Kirk Hutton, 105 (Yamaha WR250F)
9. Peter Boyle, 101
10. Geoff Braico, 84