HQVA press release:
Husqvarna Factory Support rider Mitch Harper has done his reputation as Australia’s foremost hard enduro rider no harm whatsoever, adding another Husqvarna Wildwood Rock Extreme Enduro title to his tally.
Harper used his brand new, MotoGC-backed Husqvarna TX300 to move into the lead by the end of the first lap of the super-challenging 12 km circuit, and win the event by 11 minutes 39 seconds from Tim Coleman and Dylan Rees.
The 24-year-old who won the inaugural event in 2010, picked up a well-deserved $6000 winner’s cheque for dominating the annual three-hour torture test 30 kilometres north-west of Melbourne.
The event saw riders and machines take an absolute battering as they negotiated massive, boulder-strewn climbs designed by the event promoter to constitute the toughest Husqvarna Wildwood Extreme Enduro yet.
Former World Enduro Champion Mathias Bellino showed his plentiful class by taking his Husqvarna FE 450 to the fastest time in prologue, but after both his body and the bike he will race in next week’s A4DE took a beating in the first three laps, Bellino decided it was wiser to withdraw.
Husqvarna Factory Support racer Broc Grabham was intent on improving upon his best finish of fifth place at Wildwood, but could only manage sixth overall after technical problems in the first half of the event.
The Husqvarna Enduro Racing Team’s AORC U19 specialist Fraser Higlett also podiumed, a board is TC 125, finishing second in the expert category behind Chris Bales and ahead of Sean Holmes.
Mitch Harper (TX 300): “This is easily the hardest race in Australia and probably one of the hardest in the world I guess. It’s a different style to Erzberg; more of a cross-country extreme. It’s got the fast sections as well so it’s not just all trialsy technical stuff. There were five riders a minute ahead of me off the start, but I got into the lead by the end of the first lap. I got three of them up and down the gullies, in the first three quarters of the lap, and then in the final rock garden I got the last two, and when I got up out of the rock section where it’s like a flat, rocky paddock all the way back to the pits, I was looking back and I had a pretty good lead, so I put my head down and pushed on from there. I did a few good laps and the gap was getting bigger and bigger. So then I slowed down. The TX was an awesome choice of a bike. Struggling up these rocks sections you end up pushing the bike half the way, so the light weight was definitely a plus. I played around with the powervalve and I had it right out for the prologue so I could jump a few of the log doubles, but then for the race I screwed it in so it was real torquey, not slipping on the rocks or anything. It’s an awesome bike. I was on the clutch all day and it didn’t fade or anything. The crowd was huge out there today, in the rock gardens you’re thinking, ‘why am I here?’ But then you get to the top of the hills and you’re up on the pegs and they are all cheering and it helps you just keep you going. It’s good.”
Mathias Bellino (FE 450): “I am coming here for the four-day mainly, but then (girlfriend) Jess was going to Wildwood, so I say maybe I can try to do it and it will be good training for next year. I have never done any cross-country extreme racing in my life, and next year we will have some cross-country included in the World Championship. I knew it would be a tough race for me, and also because the 450 is a little bit heavy for this application. I got the best lap time in Prologue and was leading for almost one lap when I got to the last uphill rock section. I crashed like four times and everybody caught me up and I lost a lot of time and energy. The bike is pretty wrecked! It was epic! On the second lap I broke my gearlever and then on the third lap I couldn’t get through. It was too much for me, and I had to DNF unfortunately. I knew I didn’t like XC races, now I’m 100% sure it’s not for me! I come from motocross and already for me enduro is a big step, but this is too much. A big thank you to Husqvarna in Europe, my team, and especially Husqvarna Australia for giving me the opportunity to ride in this race. I’m looking forward to the four-day. All up, for me I didn’t have the skills for that last hill, but it was pretty interesting, and it’s a good race. Honestly if I had time to train in the extreme stuff, and a more suitable bike, I would come back and try to win this race, but I don’t have the skill enough and I don’t have time to train in the extreme stuff, so that will be for later, or maybe never! (laughs)”
Broc Grabham (FE 450): “My day wasn’t great. I prologued fifth, and I was fourth going through the enduro cross stuff for the first time. Mathias pulled away from all of us off the start and I passed a few guys and made my way into second, and was looking ahead trying to see Mathias, and when we got to the first hard rocky section he was there, so I thought I had a chance. I nearly made the pass at the first rocky section because he went the chicken line and I took the hard way, but then my clutch played up, for a couple of laps. I got sick of it and decided I had to try to do something so I just bled it, and that seemed to help. After that it was able to work again. I started catching the guys and making passes again and ended up sixth. My last lap was the fastest lap all day, and it was good to battle back and forth with Mathias and then with Chucky. It was a lot more technical this year than last year; they added a few more rock gardens to make it a bit more tricky. It still wasn’t that bad once I got into a flow, I just made a few silly little mistakes and had that clutch issue at the start and fell a bit too far back a bit early.”
Fraser Higlett (TC125): “Heaps better this time. The 125 did it for me – I’m very happy with how it went. It’s nice and light and I pretty much dragged it everywhere. It was pretty torquey, too. The track was tough; the hardest thing is people across the track, so you’ve got to be careful what lines you choose. I was pretty glad I didn’t have to do that Pro Line, but next year I probably will have two, so, I’ll have two train a bit harder for that. But it’ll be right. I was one of three expert riders battling for a while, and the guy that was coming second, his chain fell off on one of the hills, and then I just sat in second for the rest of the race. With the 125 I had to fuel up three times when they only had to fuel up once, so I lost a bit of time doing that, because there was a bit of a time penalty to refuelling. But I had fun. The crowd was good fun. The track sort of went near the car park at one point and I looked across and it was just crazy how many people were there. It’s pretty full on this year with the four-day, so hopefully next year be able to practice a bit more specific hard enduro stuff beforehand.”
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