It’s feels like only yesterday we were all hyped up about the concentration of talent in the E1 class back in 2019, so it’s an even sweeter feeling looking back at Rounds 1 & 2 of the 2020 Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship presented by MXstore (AORC) and see that level of skill now also in the E2 class.
Alongside the pedigree of talent demonstrated by our cemented regulars, 2019 AORC E2 Champion Daniel Milner (KTM Enduro Racing Team) and home-grown hero Josh Green (Yamaha Active8 Yamahalube) who typically hold hostage to first and second place, E2 also includes new and familiar faces including 2019 MX Nationals Champion Todd Waters (Berry Sweet, Husqvarna), Jeremy Carpentier (Yamaha Ballards MXstore Off-Road Team), Stefan Granquist (Yamaha), Beau Ralston (Hunter Valley Motorsports, Kawasaki) and bLU cRU Off-Road Racing Team’s Michael Driscoll.
After the equally perfect and challenging conditions of Toowoomba for Rounds 1 & 2 for back-to-back Sprints, the AORC field move south to Dungog, New South Wales (NSW) for a two-day Enduro and based on the jolting results from February, this weekend has got nothing but action and exhilaration in-store! With an E2 line-up stacked up like pancakes and the concentration of skill so high, we’ve learnt to expect the unexpected on who will claim a podium position.
Coming off a high in Toowoomba where he quietly slid into second place for both opening rounds, Waters reflected that, in fact, “Toowoomba was especially hard because I only got the bike a few weeks prior, so that side of things meant I wasn’t really within my comfort zone but we snagged a good result which was great!”
“Literally, for those first two rounds I parked next to the Husqvarna truck and just had a crack,” explained Waters.
Regardless of the fan fare induced by the announcement that another Motocross (MX) star, like Yamaha Active8 Yamalube’s Luke Styke, was jumping across for a chance at the Off-Road scene, Waters arrived humble, honest and open to any challenge. Really, in the end, that’s what he got.
“I am originally from Cairns, where it was quite rocky and sandy where I grew up but these new Off-Road landscapes are a new, big challenge. With MX, the tracks are controlled and watered, so even when we say it’s dusty, it’s really not that dusty.
“So the dust is really my biggest challenge. I have to think more with my tyres that I’ve ever had to with MX. What I found at Toowoomba was the grass tracks were very hard compared to grassy Motocross tracks, so I changed my tyres halfway through and that made a massive difference.”
So how does the virgin Enduro racer feel about Dungog for a two-day Enduro test?
In his own words, “One thing I know how to do is ride a bike, so I’m just going to go out there and give it hell. Hopefully I can get up there with the big boys and make another podium.”
Over on the other side of the pits and a vision in trademark Yamaha Blue, Driscoll is subtly brewing up a storm aboard his new bike and amongst a new class of riders. If Rounds 1 & 2 results are anything to go by, the former EJ champion and 2019 E1 podium regular has a fire in his belly to continue on his success over in Portugal for the 2019 International Six Days’ Enduro (ISDE).
“I feel really comfortable on the bike now, especially since the ISDE where I only had a couple of weeks on the 450 beforehand. I went really well over in Portugal, and I’ve been spending more time on it ever since, so I’m happy with where I’m at,” explains Driscoll.
“The experience and time at the ISDE was great. You never really forget those moments and although I know I did well over there, I know I can do better. So it has carried over a good vibe into this new season and has pushed me to continue learning on how I can improve.”
A born and bred Dungog local, the bLU cRU Off-Road Racing Team’s Driscoll is on familiar turf and tackling a racing format he is utterly comfortable with. This isn’t his first rodeo, nor his last and regardless of the weather (of which we all know NSW has been thrown a lot confronting curve balls), he’s ready.
“It’s a home feeling heading into the weekend. There’s not a lot I need to change therefore leading into Rounds 3 & 4.
“The conditions right now are muddy as all hell, so it looks like it’s going to be wet for racing. Hopefully the sun comes out before next weekend but whatever the conditions, I’ll ride to it. Everyone likes a grippy fresh track but I don’t mind any condition.”
And his thoughts as he dives headfirst into a super condensed E2 fields that includes former ISDE World Champions, his coach and an MX Champion?
“I seem to follow the stacked classes by the looks of it but I’m happy for the challenge.
“Considering I’m working three days a week and training on top of that, it makes the results that bit sweeter because you know you’re doing well compared to riders who do this every day.
“You have put those thoughts about being better to the side, because you need to work to keep this going. But again, the results drive home that I’m doing well considering my situation and that makes it even sweeter.”
So, there you have it. You thought you were looking at the same comfortable, familiar, consistent talent of both Milner and Green but what you didn’t see coming was the indisputable fire lit underneath both Waters and Driscoll.
As we head into Rounds 3 & 4 this weekend for a two-day Enduro, we’re calling that all bets are off as to who will claim those coveted podium positions because as we saw in Toowoomba, experience can be key but raw power, speed and a hunger for gold has the tenacity to trump that nearly every day of the week.
Stay tuned this week for our Inside Line On Dungog with Dungog Motorcycle Club’s President, Trent Lean, as well as our Rounds 3 & 4 Entry List and your bible to the weekend, What You Need To Know. All will be released on our website and TeamApp, so ensure you have your eyes locked on both to immediate updates.
Images courtesy of Troy
Words by Caitlin Hynes.