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Eketahuna logger out to cut down opposition


Luke Brown with his Yamaha 250cc. He will race a similar bike in the US Grand National Cross-Country series. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

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An Eketahuna cross-country motorcycle racer will head to the United States next month to compete in one of off-road racing’s most gruelling events.

Eighteen-year-old Luke Brown will compete in four rounds of the Grand National Cross-Country [GNCC] Series, with the races taking up to three hours to complete.

Unlike standard motocross races, cross-country riders start their bikes after the flag drops and race over three 30km circuits, with most of the racing through forests. One or two fuel stops are needed to complete the races.

Brown, a logger, knows plenty about forests, and he reckons the US courses are going “to be super rough and gnarly”.

“They get about 2000 riders over the whole weekend, and we’re like the last 300-400 bikes to go out there,” Brown said.

“It’s a massive series. They have quad bikes on Saturday, then on Sunday morning, they have the women and the youth riders, and on Sunday afternoon, they have the big boys.

“In New Zealand, the national cross-country champs are just on a farm — there’s pretty much no trees. But over in the US, you have so many other bikes on there before, and there are so many exposed tree roots and rocks and that sort of stuff.”

Brown, and Tommy Watts from Napier, will leave on August 20 and compete in races in Ohio, West Virginia [two events], and Indiana before returning in November.

Much of the planning for the trip was done with help from Pahiatua’s double GNCC champion Paul Whibley.

“Paul raced the series for nine years professionally, and I’ve been getting a lot of guidance off him.

“He said if you want to do it, go over there and experience it first because you will have seen nothing like it, and then go back next year and give it a good crack.”

Brown first raced in motocross as a nine-year-old before giving the sport away when he was 12. He still rode bikes around on the farm until the opportunity came to race in his first cross-country race when he was 15.

“I did a Bush Riders event in the Pahiatua-Eketahuna area in 2019. I really enjoyed it, and now I travel the country doing it.

“I like the endurance and the fitness side of things and that sort of riding.”

Mechanical problems hindered Brown’s national championship run, and he finished 11th overall and third in the 250cc class.

Since completing the national champs, Brown has been competing in Tokoroa and Auckland to prepare for the US trip.

In the GNCC, Brown will ride a Yamaha 250cc, which he will pick up soon after arriving.

Brown said the chance to compete in the US would not be possible without the support of Whibley, Sargent Motorcycles, Yamaha NZ, Branderson Homes Cambridge, and his boss at Keenan Forestry for giving him the time off.

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