More Aussie champs join the fray

NOTE: Due to last-minute permit planning issues, this Sunday's round two of the Maxxis Australian Supermoto Championship will now be held in Tamworth (NSW) -- not Marathon Stadium in Newcastle (NSW).

The 2004 Maxxis Australian Supermoto Championship will reach the halfway mark this Sunday, with a fresh injection of top-notch talent out to frighten the 'established' clientele in the premier S2 class.

Another three national champions -- dual dirt track winners Chris Seaton (Honda CRF450F) and Ken Bisley (CRF450R) and supercross ace Ryan Marmont (KTM Australia 450SXR) -- have declared their intentions to compete in the 450cc four-stroke class, in addition to reigning Australian Supersport -- and soon to be factory Superbike pilot -- Glenn Allerton (Suzuki Australia DR-Z450).

Marmont, 19, who won the inaugural Australian Supercross Nationals earlier this year, has just returned from Paris where he finished 23rd in the annual King of Bercy Supercross, which is one of the biggest end-of-year extravaganzas in Europe.

Another rider who has just arrived back in town from an overseas campaign is New South Welshman Mark Avard, who competed in the final round of the American supermoto title. Avard, on Husqvarnas, finished 18th in the 450cc class and eighth in the unlimited battle -- for championship placings of 22nd and 9th respectively - but is looking forward to re-uniting with his Yamaha/Beringer/DID-backed YZ450F at the Marathon Stadium -- home of the Newcastle ARL team.

"It was a tough outing in America; there were some outstanding riders from all around the world," said Avard, who finished second overall in the Aussie supermoto opener behind fellow Yamaha rider Shannon Johnson. "I was a little down on horsepower, but that won't be the case on Sunday, and I'm looking forward to putting the heat on Shannon.

"The pedigree of rider in the championships just gets better and better, and that's what makes it so exciting. And there is plenty of space at the Marathon Stadium, so I'm confident that the circuit will be a pearler."

After a third and first in the opening round, Avard currently sits on 45pts, two in arrears of the irresistible Johnson (Yamaha Australia YZ450F), who was on target for a whitewash before severe arm pump curtailed his race two offensive. The duo, in addition to Stuart Bennett (KTM Australia) on his purpose-built 450SMR, were the heavyweights in the opening Stanthorpe (Qld)-hosted hitout, and will be looking to solidify their positions in the top three.

However, the following names can also be added to the ensemble cast that will lock horns in Newcastle: enduro ace Ryan Bouquet (Motorcycle Accessories Warehouse CRF450R); reigning S2 number two Adam Altham (Subway Yamahas YZ450F); road racer Chad Turnbull (Motul Husqvarna Racing Team TC450) and his teammate Troy Herfoss; and Kent Nielsen (ACS CRF450R).

Additionally, Mark Willis (All Balls YZ450F), who won last year's S2 championship from Altham and Nielsen, will be hoping to consign his round one labours to history, while American visitor Craig Mason (Suzuki DR-Z440) should be competitive. Mason finished 17th in the American unlimited championship, behind Avard and another Australia, Graham Cheney.

Cheney, second in the 2003 S1 (450cc two-stroke versus 700cc four-stroke) class, broke his collarbone in round one, and his indisposition is expected to keep him idle until the back-to-back final rounds of the championship are held in Toowoomba (Qld) on December 11-12.

Thirty-eight S2 riders will compete on Sunday, in a field dominated by Yamaha (13 entries) and Honda (12), with 'support' from KTM (five), Suzuki (four), Husqvarna (two) and one apiece from VOR and TM.

In S1, three different manufacturers are currently ensconced in the top three, with Matthew Mace (Action KTM Husaberg) leading on 84pts from Mick Brummell (Tom Claxton Motorcycles VOR, 80) and Josh McFarlane (Motul Husqvarna Racing, 72). Into this Sunday's field will be newcomers Mason and fellow American Scott Hoffman (KTM), as well as former motocross ace turned KTM team manager Rob Twyerould. The latter finished 14th on last year's S1 ladder, despite only competing in two of the six rounds.

In S3 (200 two-stroke versus 250cc four-stroke), Peter Taplin (Yamaha YZ250F) is currently the pacesetter from Mick Avard (Parramatta Kawasaki KX250F) and Nick Mawkes (Kirkman Motorcycles YZ250F), while Cam Palmer (Honda CRF250R) holds court in the juniors -- the fourth official championship on offer in 2004.

Support events will also be held on Sunday for veteran, clubman and quad competitors.

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