MOTOPINION: A SOUTH ISLAND ENDURO DOESN’T MAKE SENSE
Motopinion: is an opinion piece written to provoke thought and discussion around particular topics.
52 and 39. That is how many riders attended the final two rounds of the 2019 New Zealand Enduro Champs, held in Hokitika on July 19th/20th.
Now if you’re a calendar geek you will realise that the 19th was actually a Friday - the first weekday (non-public holiday) that this guy has ever seen an Enduro held on. Now that might have contributed to the poor rider turn out, but considering Round 2 on Saturday had fewer riders...probably not. Was it the rain and terrible mud conditions that kept the punters away? Was it the location? Or was it the fact that ‘National’ level events are struggling right across the board to get riders to the start line? If you picked all of the above, you’d probably be right.
92 Riders showed up at Round 1 of the 2019 New Zealand Enduro Champs - that’s over twice as many? But why? 75 Riders attended Round 2 in Wellington and at Round 3 in Tokoroa, the entry list shot back up to 91.
But possibly the most surprising stats of the whole 2019 series was at Round 4 in Marlborough, where a season-best 112 riders left the start line at 1-minute intervals. 60 of those riders were entered into the B-Intro class, meaning they were either petty new-ish to Enduro, or it was maybe even their first time. As a standalone - that is really exciting for the discipline of Enduro. After all, Enduro is just a trail ride with fast bits in it. Having said that, of those 60 newbies, 45 riders scored a DNF. Hopefully, this isn’t the end of their Enduro careers.
And let's not forget Round 5 in Masterton, who collected 77 riders for the day.
National Enduro rounds in the South Island don’t make sense. Less than 5 South Islanders turned up to the first 5 Rounds, while the final 2 Rounds down in Hokitika, half the field was from the North Island. South Islanders aren’t doing anything for their cause to continue hosting National Enduro rounds if you go purely by attendance alone. Yet, we keep sending riders down there. And again, I ask why?
Firstly, however, I would like to pay kudos to riders like Josh Dando, Alix Bjerring and Tim Shaw. These guys are from the South Island and either attended all or the majority of the North Island Enduro events. At great cost too, I would imagine.
But if we’re being completely pragmatic about the situation, running a South Island National Enduro just doesn’t make sense. Not for the huge majority of the paying riders/racers who are keeping this branch of our beloved two-wheeled sport alive and wanting to race for a National Championship.
There will be those that say it’s not fair to the South Island Enduro riders. Take into account the guys mentioned above who have done their part and should have the chance to race a National Enduro on their own Island, right? Yeah, probably quite true. But take a look around sweethearts. - life’s not fair. So what to do?
Well for a series that is also lacking majorly in rider entry numbers, the National Motocross Championship made a decision to run all 4 Rounds of their 2019 championship in the North Island. I thought it was a great idea, as they also have the rider entry ratio skewed heavily in favour of the northerners. What they did was to provide a monetary subsidy to any S.I. riders who completed the 4-Round MX series. Effectively helping pay for them to travel and race.
Running along that same vein with Enduro, you could add $5 onto the entry price of each National Enduro which could go towards South Islanders coming up to race the series. This year that could have been $2235 towards Josh, Alix and Tim for their troubles. Heck, I personally would pay double that if it meant I didn’t have to travel to the South Island to race only a handful for people.
The other option, which might sit better, is only giving the South Island 1 National Round, and make the series a drop-round championship. That way the South gets its National Enduro event, while those in the North can drop that round from their championship. There is no reason why there couldn't be a stand-alone South Island Enduro Championship either?
One of the main deciding factors for myself not racing this year’s championship was that with 2 Rounds down South, that forced you to attend if you wanted any chance of scoring a championship. Now that might not be important to some, but then a South Island round wouldn't be important to those same riders either. And travelling all that way to race against everyone that already lives in the North Island seems counter-intuitive.
2020 is just around the corner and with the National Motocross Championship dates having been announced (which includes heading back to the South Island again?), it will be interesting to see what travel plans the current Enduro Commissioner has lined up for the bush-bashers next season.