The fourth and penultimate round of the 2023 Australian Hard Enduro Championship (AHEC) was held in the extremely technical Hillston (NSW) course, dubbed the ‘Hill Storm Challenge’ held on the weekend of August 12-13.
The riders' first challenge to overcome wasn’t even a course obstacle but the extreme dust during Saturday’s prologue race. Team Motul SHERCO hard enduro team riders Anthony Solar and Chris Perry started off strongly onboard their 300 SE Factory race bikes, however, would surrender several positions throughout the 1-hour race, ending the day in P5 and P10, respectively.
Sherco-supported rider Tom Woodhouse would again shine in the faster AORC-like conditions qualifying in P2 for Sunday’s main event.
The heavens opened overnight and again throughout Sunday morning to keep the dust at bay. The wet and slippery conditions favoured the Victorian-based riders, with both Solar and Perry looking to repeat their 1-2 success from the year prior.
By the halfway mark at checkpoint #5, Solar would be the first rider to arrive for a quick splash of fuel, followed closely by Tom Woodhouse with Perry not too far behind.
Towards the race end, Perry had put on an unbelievable charge moving through the pack and into first place, just ahead of Solar and Wade Ibrahim. The race went down right to the wire when traversing through one of the last difficult hill climbs, Wade Ibrahim found an alternative line that would see him pass the pair of Sherco riders for victory. Solar would take the runners-up honours with Perry rounding out the podium in third place.
After a disastrous previous round, with Solar withdrawing due to heat exhaustion and Perry missing the event entirely due to sickness, the boys were happy to put that weekend well and truly in the past and reclaim some valuable points on the championship and a well-needed boost in confidence as the series heads to Bathurst next month for the final round.
Anthony Solar – P3 overall (5/2 finishes)
“After a terrible round in Queensland, I’d rather forget, it is great to be back on the podium with a second today for P3 overall for the weekend. I went the wrong way with my bike set-up for the qualifying race on Saturday, but I’m glad we corrected that for today, and I had a great feeling with the bike! We were also lucky to get some much-needed rain which favoured us Southerners and slowed Ruben (Chadwick) down a little, as he was untouchable on Saturday.
The Metzeler Supersoft ‘gummy’ front tyre is an absolute game-changer in today's wet, rocky conditions. The stability and speed we could carry in the sketchy downhill sections were phenomenal. Although it is slim, we are still in the championship hunt, so we will do everything possible and pray for a little bit of luck to keep the #1 plate. A big thank you to the Motul Sherco team and its supporters for all their help”.
Chris Perry – PX overall (10/3 finishes)
“I was devasted that I missed the last race due to illness but glad to be back racing again. Saturday was going well before I came to a complete stop when pinned in third, I can’t believe I didn’t break the front end off as I hit the rock that hard; man, these Sherco’s are built tough!
The bike was unbelievable today, everything from the power delivery to the clutch feel and the Chad’s offroad suspension, it was just a joy to ride. I had to make my way through the pack and nearly had the victory today which would have been nice but just got pipped by Wade and Anthony at the end. We have a lot of positives to take away as a team heading into the final round, I’m beyond keen to finish this season out on a high with a win.
The fifth and final round of the 2023 AHEC, the 'Goldfields Extreme’ will be held in Bathurst NSW on September 16-17.
For more information on the championship, visit grassrootsenduro.com.au