AUGUST 15, 2011: Some of the country's leading motorcycle riders will go on trial this weekend, for crimes against the laws of gravity.


The Hawke’s Bay region will this weekend host the final two rounds – rounds nine and 10 – of the North Island Moto Trials Championships and, while there are a couple of prime suspects, the jury is still out on who will eventually lock up the titles this season.


The double-header weekend is expected to attract a bumper crop of riders with organiser Warren Laugesen also one of the favourites to dominate the elite Experts Grade section of the Nelson-Marlborough Trials Centre-sponsored competition.


Hawke’s Bay’s Laugesen is a seven-time former national champion but, because he hasn’t contested all the earlier rounds, he really has no chance of winning the North Island crown this season. Laugesen might just have to settle for winning his home event instead.


The man most likely to take away the main prize is Taranaki’s Matt Foster.


“I will just have to be content with trying to win one of the days,” said 38-year-old father-of-three Laugesen.


And even that is easier said than done, with Motueka’s Karl Clark, many times South Island Moto Trials Champion Jason Baker and young Dunedin rider Blake Fox also determined to feature in the Experts Grade.


Globetrotting Kiwi international Jake Whitaker, of Wainuiomata, could also make the trip north this weekend.


New Zealand No.1 Whitaker has just returned home from a stint racing the junior world championships in Italy and, with his top-five finishes achieved at this ultimate level of the sport, it is unlikely that anyone will be able to match him at home.


Day one is scheduled for the Kahuranaki Station on Kahuranaki Road, near Havelock North, while day two is set for Mackenzie’s property on Dartmoor Road, Puketapu, with both venues featuring large rocky outcrops.


The battle for the A grade crown is very close with Tauranga’s Phillip Shilton, Lower Hutt’s Carl Robson and Wellington rider James Wade hogging the top spots.


In the intermediate grade, Bay of Plenty rider Gary Samson enjoys a slender lead over Taranaki’s Grant McEwen, with Auckland engineering tutor Peter Boettcher, Rotorua’s John Haynes and Tauranga’s Peter Blaymires not far behind.


Tauranga’s Warwick Merriman, father of multi-time world enduro champion Stefan Merriman, leads the presidents’ grade but he can expect a strong challenge from Te Puke’s Paul McLeod, Auckland rider Ray Skinner and Paraparaumu’s John Lawton.


The junior grade competition is also fierce with Tauranga’s Jacob Gundry and Te Puke’s Ben McLeod locked in a tight battle. In the clubmans’ grade, Gundry’s sister Gabrielle is just three points ahead of Dunedin rider Gavin Fox.


Balance, bravery and throttle control is the main emphasis for this unique motorcycle competition. Speed is not essential, with the prime aim instead being to conquer extreme terrain without touching feet on the ground or falling off. Points are lost for these “faults” and a rider with the lowest score wins.


Access to both days’ riding will be signposted from the respective main roads. There is no charge for spectators. Riding starts at 10am on both days.


Words and photo by Andy McGechan,


Napier’s Warren Laugesen, a likely winner in the Experts Grade this weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan,


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