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.
“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 trials technical stuff.
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.
“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.
When I got up out of the rock section I looked back and had a pretty good lead, so I put my head down and pushed on from there.”
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 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.
“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 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.
“On the second lap I broke my gear lever and then on the third lap I couldn’t get through. It was too much for me, and I had to DNF.
“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."
Photos: Lee Popowski
Husqvarna Wildwood Extreme Enduro 2016 results
1. Mitch Harper, 2. Tim Coleman, 3. Dylan Rees, 4. Ruben Chadwick, 5. Chris Perry, 6. Broc Grabham, 7. Robert Nowak, 8. Daniel Sanders, 9. Wade Ibrahim, 10. Hamish Macdonald