News 13 Mar 2012

Off-Road Observer: 10

Adam Riemann shares his insight into the world of off-road, presented by Yamaha.

There’s a sense of calm before the storm when doing team photo shoots. The bikes are freshly stickered to showcase latest sponsors, and the relevant products bolted on only enhance the bling. The riders are also fresh from the off-season, keen to get the year underway and draped in their latest nylons.

For an outsider looking in, it would probably all seem like a big deal. Well, the Ballard’s Yamaha shoot was a big deal for the simple fact it happened two-days before the opening round of the 2012 Australian Off-road Championship last weekend.

It’s one thing that finalising sponsors and product can hold up the show, but the late arrival of the 2012 Yamaha WR450F only compounded the situation. No sooner were handlebars, exhaust systems, graphics, hydraulic clutches and fresh tyres fitted, was I lining the bikes up for static shots.

The Ballard’s team main mechanic, Steve Clarke, is also a gun rider and has now based the operation of the team at his workshop near Nelson Bay, NSW. Piecing the whole entourage together for a group shot is always a mission too, but enjoyable when you can map out a scenic location.

Ballard's Yamaha has a slick three-rider operation in 2012. Image: Adam Riemann.

Getting the boys together for their first real initiation as a new team is always an interesting experience and in this case, Stefan Merriman, Matty Phillips and team manager Geoff Ballard are all excited to have Daniel Milner onboard for 2012.

The real fun begins when the action shots take place though. The dynamic between the three riders is great on trail. Picture the juvenile antics of Phillips and Milner crossed with the composed demeanor of Merriman and you’ve got a situation you can liken to two pups terrorizing an old dog.

When the camera’s rolling, Phillips and Milner are smashing lines hard, boosting off everything and basically hounding Merriman with close contact roosting. What’s really impressive though is the fact Merriman can deal with whatever they dish out.

The weekend’s racing was a testament to that after he finished ahead of both of them and now sits second in E3, as well as Outright, behind Toby Price in the championship standings.

You’ve got to hand it to Merriman, who at 39-years of age is still battling for the win with riders nearly half his age. I guess people are quick to forget that he is a four-time World Enduro Champion.

As for Matty, despite having a slow start, he sits in fifth Outright, and is leading the E2 class ahead of Glenn Kearney, who actually sits third in the Outright championship after more consistent overall placings.

Four-time world champion Stefan Merriman still has what it takes to mix it with his younger rivals. Image: Adam Riemann.

Despite leading the event early, KTM’s Chris Hollis had the misfortune of a derailed chain in the final motocross test of day one.

“I don’t know what happened, it just popped off the rear sprocket. I didn’t hit anything, but there was some loose hay coming into that particular corner which may have got into the sprocket teeth,” explained Hollis, who came out firing again to take the overall win on day two.

As for Milner, fourth outright and first place in the E1 class is a great start to the year with the Ballard’s team, but it’s no real surprise to see that KTM’s Toby Price is leading the championship outright after the first weekend’s enduro format.

Next round looks to be a two-day sprint in Wonthaggi, Victoria, on the 31st of this month.

Looking for more off-road action from Adam Riemann? Check out his website at