Rounds nine and ten of the 2016 Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championships (AORC) headed to rural Monkerai, NSW.
Just like rounds seven and eight at Hedley in Victoria, it was another cross-country/sprint format, which saw 23-year-old Jess Gardiner taking two solid podium placing’s with two third place finishes overall.
The cross-country track on Saturday was pretty much ‘wild and crazy’, but really well setup by the Dungog Motorcycle Club, which had the track in prime condition and most of all very challenging for Gardiner and her rivals.
“The track was quite challenging as it was rocky, had a lot of bull dust in corners, bog hols and explained Gardiner.
“On top of that there was a flat grass track section which was a hard pack surface and slippery. It was a big mix and quite hard to adjust consistently to the different terrain. Every corner was a different type of surface, which made it interesting.”
Starting off the on front row, Gardiner trailed Jemma [Wilson] into the first corner and did everything she could to follow Wilson. Gardiner kept Wilson within sight until she came off in the first dusty section.
This allowed Emelie [Karlsson] to close the gap on Gardiner while she was getting back up and remounting her Yamaha WR250F machine.
However, Gardiner managed to hold Karlsson at bay for the entire six lap journey, but was right on her tail throughout the whole race.
On the third lap Gardiner managed to pull a twenty second lead on Karlsson, which was a comfortable gap for the former three times Australian Off-Road champion.
Drama would strike again for Gardiner coming into the ‘sloppy’ mud section when her front wheel simply got stuck as she went into it which resulted in her going straight over the handle bars.
“After getting cleaned up after crashing in the mud section it allowed Emelie to catch back again,” said Gardiner. “The battle was on again between myself and Emelie,” added Gardiner who described the battle as “intense”.
Gardiner was always just in front enough which didn’t allow Karlsson to get by her for second place on the track.
After the fifth lap, both Gardiner and Karlsson pitted for fuel at the same time. Just to make things exciting, the pair left the pit lane in the same position as they came in together, with Gardiner just one bike length ahead of Karlsson.
“We were basically freight training each other,” said Gardiner who finished with a total time of 2hr19min48.608.
“Sometimes I would make a mistake, then Emelie would catch up, then she would make a mistake which allowed me to pull a gap on her, but only within one corner.”
“She was pretty much pushing me the whole way throughout the whole race.”
On the last lap coming past the pit lane Gardiner went into the first corner too hot and went wide, which unfortunately resulted her going down again handing second place to Karlsson.
“To be running in second place in the whole race until the last lap, then lose it due to a crash is frustrating,” said Gardiner at the conclusion of round nine.
“I am annoyed. I did all that work only to lose out on the last lap due to a silly little mistake. I should have come in a little bit more steady on the front brake. That’s racing however. You have to take the good with the bad. I’ll regroup and come back and have another go tomorrow in the sprint series.”
“The main thing is I still managed to bring home twenty important championship points, which keeps me in contention for the championship fight with Jemma,” concluded Gardiner.
Gardiner kept her pace going into Sunday’s sprint format series on Sunday. While she did score another positive podium placing with a total time of 1hr13min54.189, Gardiner admitted it wasn’t the best day that she has had.
“It just took me a while to find my rhythm,” explained Gardiner, who set her best time in the first heat with a time of 10min15.724.
“I just couldn’t put it all together today. Well done to both Jemma and Emelie as they both rode really well this weekend.”
If there was a positive Gardiner which she can take away with her, it would be the fact that she was able to do all seven heats without stepping off her #737 Yamaha WR250F, on a track which had lots of soft spots and dug out deep ruts.
“The track today was hard to pick which line to take out there. You had to make sure you got the right one each time. Overall, it was a good few rounds.”
“I just held my place throughout the day and made sure I brought the bike home in one piece and score some good points to help consolidate my second place in the championship.”
Gardiner will now head into the final two rounds of the Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship, which will take place in second place in the title fight with 209-points to her name, thirty-three points behind the championship lead.
“The championship is not over just yet, but it will take a lot of luck to be able to win from here. I’ll keep pushing right to the very end of the championship and we’ll see what happens.”
The final two rounds will be held at Penshurst in Victoria on 10-11 September.
Photos: John Pearson