Rookie Tatsuya Saiki claimed a surprise victory at the opening round of the JNCC Racing series in Japan.
Japan’s version of the GNCC Racing championship, the opening round of the three-hour cross country race series attracted a huge 500-rider entry.
Back in Japan for 2016, Takeshi Koikeda (KTM) was favourite for top honours along with defending champion Manabu Watanabe (Yamaha).
But from the off, XC1 rookie Saiki set the pace out front. Catching up to him by mid distance, Koikeda looked to challenge for the lead but at the end of lap five was forced to slow dramatically due to a broken moose.
Escaping with the win, Saki was estactic to secure the top step of the podium at round one…
"Unbelievable! I didn't think I could win this race because I knew so many strong riders gathered for this race including Takeshi Koikeda and last year’s champion Manabu Watanabe. I'm very happy so I want to say many thanks to my team and their hard work!”
Almost three minutes adrift of Saki, Watanabe crossed the finish line in second, while Masahiro Kobayashi (Honda) completed the top three.
Koikeda eventually placed seventh.
In the XC2 class Kenji Suzuki completed 13 laps to take the win.
The next round of the JNCC is on 20th March in Osaka.
1 Tatsuya Saiki KTM 13laos 2:59:20.193
2 Manabu Watanabe Yamaha 13laos 3:01:57.733
3 Masahiro Kobayashi HONDA 13laos 3:10:18.799
4 Masato Kobayashi KTM 13laos 3:15:19.425
5 Hiroshi Yamamoto 13laps Suzuki 3:22:21.736
6 Ren Ishidoya KTM 12laps 2:56:53.963
1 Kenji Suzuki Yamaha 13laps 3:04:23.151
2 Nobuya Watarai Kawasaki 13laps 3:03:20.545
3 Hirokazu Yanagihara KTM 12laps 3:10:22.262
Report/Images: BIG TANK Magazine / ENDURO.J