WHEN he was a young boy, Wil Ruprecht remembers going to his grandparent's place to watch Taree's Troy Bayliss on TV dominating the World Superbike championship.
Bayliss's feats inspired him.
"Seeing Troy do it and seeing how far he went showed me what you can achieve. That opened my eyes to what you can do,'' Ruprecht, now 24, said.
Like Bayliss, Ruprecht rides motorcycles, although his type of racing is different to the superbikes. He's an enduro rider, described as a form of motorcycle sport run on extended cross-country, off-road courses, where riders confront different obstacles and challenges.
Ruprecht is the Manning's latest world champion, having claimed the WPTGlobal FIM EnduroGP Endruo2 title in Zschopau, Germany early last month. The championship was contested over seven rounds, starting in Spain in May. He's currently home at Mitchells Island for a bit of R and R.
"For sure,'' he replied when asked if he was confident of winning the title at the start of the campaign.
"Last year I was fourth across the line but there were a few things in there that kind of happened. I should have finished better than fourth,'' he said.
He took the lead in the pointscore from the second round.
"I had quite a healthy gap going into the last round,'' he explained,
"Basically the only way that it wouldn't have worked was if I didn't finish. My last round was my worst one points-wise, but I knew I only had to finish, so that's what I did.''
He said there was a sense of relief when it was all over and he was officially the best on the planet.
"There was a huge weight off my shoulders,'' Ruprecht said.
"I knew it probably should have happened before, but it didn't because of some stupid little problems that shouldn't have happened. The last day when I was trying to wrap it up was really nerve wracking... even though I didn't have to do that good of a job, I just had to finish in a reasonable position.''
Ruprecht finished nine points clear of his nearest rival. "That doesn't sound much, but if I needed it could have been 30 easy,'' he said.
He's based in Europe for nine months, where he lives in Italy, heading there for the first time when he was just 19. Ruprecht concedes it was a big step. He had to grow up pretty quickly.
"It's funny because I have a lot of team-mates who are European and I'm kind of five years ahead as far as maturity goes. It's a very sink or swim thing in a European-based championship,'' he said. "So there's been a lot of sacrifices my parents and myself have made. But once I was out of school I was keen to go there.''
While he said enduro doesn't have the profile of MotoGP or superbikes, it's possible to make a living out of the sport.
He'll begin his title defence next February, the championship again over seven rounds, although with an earlier start now that pandemic restrictions have eased.
Ruprecht expects there'll be a bit more pressure now he's the champion, but he's not concerned.
"I always expect to win,'' he said. "I know how hard I train to be one of the top guys.''
He's in his prime and Ruprecht is confident that providing he has luck with injuries, he can ride at the top level until he's around 32. Then he wants to move back to Australia.
"I've been lucky to live in Italy and it's a really nice country, but our way of life in Australia suits me,'' he said. "I can set myself up with a business or something related to motor cycles.''
So back home to Mitchells Island it'll be.
"That's the plan," he replied with a smile.
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