News 4 Sep 2012

Off-Road Observer: 35

Alex Gobert focuses on the world of off-road, presented by Yamaha's 2012 WR450F.

Are we seeing the progression in Australian Off-Road that the sport and riders deserve? It’s a question I often ponder when thinking of the effort that the likes of Toby Price, Stefan Merriman, Glenn Kearney and co. put into the sport. In some ways we are and you have to salute the true enthusiasts, but hopefully it continues to surge ahead.

These guys are absolute legends at their game, up there with the best in the world (and of course, Merriman himself is a multiple-time world champion). But in Australia, the AORC is finding it hard to gain traction when it comes to popularity across the board.

We here at are admittedly mostly focused on the sport of motocross and supercross, but the level of professionalism in the off-road ranks deserves as much publicity as we can offer (and afford to put together).

Luckily enough, brands like Yamaha and KTM are constantly supporting the sporting side of off-road in this country, whether it be with their first class teams of sponsorship of various events.

Combined, the AORC, Australian Four Day Enduro (A4DE), Finke Desert Race and Hattah Desert Race make for some of the biggest events on the national calendar. The national championship may not be at its peak just yet alone, but when we look at the lot of those events together then it’s a massive deal to be so successful.

Last year's AORC champion Chris Hollis will be working hard to do well at the upcoming ISDE and A4DE. Image: Russell Colvin.

And that’s what makes Price so valuable in this sport. He can win the AORC and has three times, he can win the A4DE and he has proven on multiple occasions that he can win both Finke and Hattah. That’s a lot of skill to offer, not to mention his various hit outs at motocross and supercross when he has time.

There are a few of these guys who can perform in multiple disciplines, but you’ve got to see them in their element to believe just how talented they are. Australia is different to both American and Europe when it comes to enduro racing or any sort of off-road for the most part, but it’s not unusual to see an Aussie succeed in both arenas.

That’s why I’m so excited for the upcoming International Six Day Enduro (ISDE) in Germany. It’s still a few weeks out on 24-29 September, but you can bet the Aussies are ready to roll and no doubt want to impress (as they usually do) on the world stage.

Thirteen of Australia’s top off-road specialists have been chosen for the team, which will be managed by Don Atkins.

The men on the team will be, Benjamin Burrell, Luka Bussa, Mitcham Harper, Christopher Hollis, Glenn Kearney, Daniel Milner, Matthew Phillips, Toby Price, Lachlan Stanford and Josh Strang.

Meanwhile, Jessica Gardiner, Tanya Hearn and Jemma Wilson holding it down in the girls division.

Over the coming weeks we’ll look at our ISDE prospects more closely and can’t wait for the event to get underway. It’s going to be especially exciting to see American-based Strang in the mix amongst the host of local talent currently racing on home soil.

What more we will be trying to do as 2013 approaches (yes, already) is increase our general coverage of trail riding and bike tests. Why? Because it’s time we stepped up our game in this department!