Off-Road Observer: 24
The Yamaha WR450F features a five valve fuel injected engine housed in a YZ250F chassis. The current model WR450F heralds the biggest change since the introduction of that first WR400F. Yamaha designers, testers and engineers have revisited the drawing board and re-invented the new WR450F from the ground up.
Alex Gobert focuses on the world of off-road, presented by Yamaha's 2012 WR450F.
It’s an interesting time during the mid-season of the Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship, with the majority of contenders in ‘desert mode’ as they take on iconic races such as the Finke and Hattah Desert Races.
With AORC series leader Toby Price absolutely dominating the Finke event last week for KTM, he’s on target to repeat what he achieved in 2010 – wins in the AORC, A4DE, Finke and Hattah.
He’s not even halfway there just yet, but considering his lead in the AORC and dominance of Hattah and the A4DE last year, his chances are right up there at their highest.
But Motorex KTM Off-Road Racing rider Price’s form is only a small part of the story so far, with many professional riders and teams in line to pick up the pieces should Toby falter at any step along the way.
So, in today’s edition of the Off-Road Observer we’ve decided to take a look at the guys who have what it takes to challenge for wins during the second half of this year in 2012.
First up, the guy who we all expected to do battle with Price this year is Matthew Phillips. He finished last year in fine form, but so far on the 2012 WR450F, he’s yet to win any rounds Outright in the AORC.
An ex-motocrosser who still has what it takes to mix it with many of the best in MX or SX (as does Price, by the way), he and the Ballard’s Yamaha team will be desperate to make inroads during the final four rounds.
That said, Phillips is leading the E2 title chase and Yamaha will be well happy with that so far, considering that’s the place where they’re going head to head with every other 450cc manufacturer (plus Chris Hollis on KTM’s 350). Phillips is currently second in the Outright title chase, mostly through consistency with many third places of late.
One guy who has been stepping up and making people take notice is Daniel Milner, Phillips’ teammate who is aboard a YZ250F. He’s dominating the E1 division, but sits third Outright with a handful of second places Outright recently.
His speed has been incredible and results impressive, apart from the last round when he unfortunately ran out of fuel. Either way, don’t be surprised if we see Milner go ahead and win a round or two Outright before all’s said and done.
Third Ballard’s Yamaha man Stefan Merriman has also been gaining momentum recently, riding a big-bore version of the WR450F in E3. He’s second in that series behind Price, who’s on KTM’s 500 EXC, and also fourth Outright. Like his teammates, you can only expect him to gain strength as the rounds roll on.
Josh Green makes it two YZ250Fs in the top five Outright so far, as part of AJ Roberts’ new-look Active8 Yamaha Yamalube Racing team. He won round eight at Broadford in E1 and sits second in the standings, basically trailing in the footsteps of Milner as a rising star for Yamaha.
One of our old favourites is Glenn Kearney, who is again on the ultra professional Husqvarna factory team, and he’s currently sixth Outright. With multiple E2 podiums under his belt, Kearney has had a promising season to date. Add in his performances in America earlier this year and there’s no doubting that he’s still got it.
The most surprising performance, or lack of in some respects, this year has been Hollis. After winning the title last year for Yamaha, albeit with no round wins, he started 2012 with a massive win at round two ahead of Price. At that stage, Hollis’ move looked to be the right now.
But since then it’s been a challenge beyond what anybody would have dared to predict. He’s on the 350 EXC-F and has said that he loves the bike, but it has been an up and down year for him. He opted out of Finke to focus on the AORC, plus we know that the A4DE is a favourite of his, so fingers crossed he can rebound when the series resumes.
Funnily enough, Hollis is one position behind Kearney in the Outright ranks, but is actually ahead of him in E2. What that does is set up a pretty interesting battle during these final rounds between those two – especially considering both are on bikes within the 300-400cc bracket!
KTM’s E1 rider Ben Burrell is third in the E1 title chase, but he’s in a position where he’ll really be hoping to challenge the Yamahas of Milner and Green. No doubt he has the talent and the team to guide him, however a round win continues to elude him at this stage.
Alongside all of those guys, we can’t forget the likes of Mitch Harper, Jarrod Bewley, Tom McCormack, Luka Bussa, Scott Keagan and so many more – all three divisions are stacked with talent!
As you can see, there are so many great identities and talents in this field, many of whom have what it takes to race on an international level, so we’ll be doing our best to continue supporting off-road racing in Australia in a bid to further increase the popularity of the sport.
With riders as good as this, along with world class teams that attract factory support, it’s needless to say that they deserve every bit of recognition and media spotlight that they can get.