Ballard’s Wellard Yamaha frontman Stefan Merriman is ready to repeat his dual round wins from 2009 at the 2010 Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC) opener being held at Port Macquarie (NSW) this weekend.
Merriman, from Nelson Bay (NSW), returned to Australia last season from more than a decade of racing in Europe.
The 36-year-old, who won five world championships during his European career, adapted quickly to the “very different” Australian conditions, winning the first two rounds of the ’09 AORC also held at Port Macquarie last March.
Merriman then walked away with the win in the hotly contested Yamaha Championship E2 Class and nearly gained the number one AORC plate for the year.
“I’m ready for Port Macquarie. Finishing second in the Outright last year has made me even more determined to win this year,” Merriman said.
“You can’t go into it with too much confidence, just need to ride it like it’s a normal race.
“I’m feeling good, everything is good so far for the start of the season... it’s just like the start of any season, you don’t know who’s gonna be fast with riders on different bikes.
“My bike is going really well, I’m really happy with my preparation... I like the Port Macquarie track, last year it was good and I’ve heard they put in a whole lot more track so it should be good.”
Merriman will be gunning for the Outright and Yamaha Championship E2 Class victories on a WR450F.
Merriman’s teammate, rising star Ben Burrell (Championship E1) and Yamaha Motor Australia’s ‘King Kirk’ Hutton (Championship E3) will also be Yamaha pilots to watch this season.
Burrell, 16, from Parkes (NSW) roosted away with the Junior crown in last year’s AORC and is tipped to be a serious contender for the E1 title (riding a new YZ250F).
“All my off-season testing and body work is going really good, no injuries, everything going well,” Burrell said.
“My goal for the season is to do well in the championship Outright, hopefully win the E1 title and be on the podium for some Outrights as well.
“The competition is going to be real tough this year, now I’m in with the seniors there’s a lot of fast guys like Stefan. But it’s always been my goal to be up there with the best pro’s and to be doing it now is really exciting.
“I am a bit nervous for the cross-country on Saturday, I’ve never done a 2.5-hour cross-country and I’ve never raced any of the senior guys bar-to-bar... but I’ve been riding heaps so I’m looking forward to it.”
Hutton, 36, from Kobble Creek (northwest of Brisbane) has won four Australian Enduro Titles and will be hunting the E3 class top-prize on his big-bore WR450F.
Also flying the Yamaha flag in 2010 will be the remaining Ballard’s Wellard Yamaha Team riders: Josh Ballard (YZ450F in Champ E2), Jessica Gardiner (WR250F in Champ Women’s) and Geoff Ballard (defending his Championship Master’s title).
Caboolture Motorcycle’s Jemma Wilson will be a tough racer to beat in the Championship Women’s category on her WR250F. Wilson won the title last year.
And Pro Yamaha’s Tom McCormack (from Byron Bay) will be another hot favourite in the Champ E1 Class on his new YZ250F.