5th Round: Liquorland SA National Enduro Motorcycle Championship – 18 August 2012 (Eastern Cape)

Castrol Winterberg Enduro


The Castrol Winterberg Enduro, the fifth and penultimate round of the 2012 Liquorland SA National Enduro Motorcycle Championship that takes place on 18 August in the Eastern Cape, is one of the oldest motorsport events in South Africaand will take place for the 37th time. It will be the 34th year that Castrol will be the official sponsor for this enduro race that is also one of the most popular enduro races on the national calendar.

The organising club, the Rover Motorcycle Club, has been in charge of this event for decades now and is busy adding the final touches to this year’s event that will again take place in theEastern Capeand will no doubt be an event where memories will be made. The history books will be updated with yet another winner – the Kiwi and defending national title holder and E1 champion, Chris Birch (Comsol BELL ACR KTM) added his name to the long list of winners when he claimed victory last year.

To predict a winner for the 2012 event will however be risky as Jade Gutzeit (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha), who has won this event in 2003, 2005 and 2010, has already won twice this season with Birch claiming one victory while the 2009 winner, Altus de Wet (Brother Broadlink KTM) has also won this season. The 2004 winner, Louwrens Mahoney (Brother Broadlink KTM) has finished on the podium three times already this season and will also aim for a second Castrol Winterberg Enduro victory.

Looking further back into the history, the record books show that the 2009 event had the biggest field in the history of this event with 313 competitors starting the event that was moved to the beginning of the season. The Cape   Townrider, Brett Lewis, won the 30th Castrol Winterberg Enduro in 2008 and although he has not been competing all the events this season, his name might appear on the entry list.

In 2006 it was localPort Elizabethbusinessman, Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen, who took a hard-earned victory forKawasakion a technical route that was made even more challenging due to heavy rains days before the event. The next year (2007) competitors tackled the event under clear skies and it was Barry Kriel (KTM) who then added his name to the list of winners.

The late Elmer Symons was the 2001 and 2002 winner and before him the off-road motorcycle ace and multiple off-road and enduro champion, Alfie Cox, claimed 10 victories in 12 years with his first victory in 1987 when the race was moved to theKirkwoodarea.

Cox’s long-standing dominance was briefly interrupted when another legend, Willie Ireland, won in 1988 while Richard Manning was victorious in 1995 with Hilton Hayward winning in 1996.

Ten years before Hayward’s victory, the Winterberg Enduro celebrated its 10th anniversary (1986) with the first event officially taking place in 1976, but the “Winterberg” legacy actually started a few years before then. It was in 1970 when Brausch Niemann, theKawasaki dealer inPort Elizabeth, and a group of friends explored a trail in theWinterhoekMountains north of Uitenhage in theEastern Cape.

The scenic terrain in this area was soon adopted as a setting for one of the most spectacular enduro events on the racing calendar that officially took place for the first time in 1976 in theLongmoreForest. The name “Winterberg Enduro” was not entirely correct as the surrounding mountains in this area actually form part of the Winterhoek range while theWinterbergMountainsare some 200km inland near Tarkastad.

These days hundreds of orange day-glow stickers and metres of red and white “candy tape” are used to mark the routes that stretch over kilometres in the mountains as well as the special timed stages. In the earlier Winterberg Enduro events, bread flour was used to mark the turns and many of the riders only completed the route after dark due to them getting lost.

The first entry into the history books of the Winterberg Enduro, was that of local PE rider, Mervyn Woods, who won the first three events (1976 to 1978). He won the first two of these pioneering races on a Honda MR250 and competed with a Yamaha IT400 in 1978. When he won again in 1983 he did so competing on a Yamaha IT465.

In 1979 Castrol became part of the history when they started to sponsor and support this event and as the spiritual founder of the event, Niemann appropriately ensured that his name was recorded for prosperity by claiming victory that year on a Kawasaki KX125. The next year (1980) Dave Ogden took the honours on the mighty Yamaha TT600.

During the early 1980’s motorcycle sales boomed in SA which led to a record entry of over 100 competitors for the 1981 event. These races were held near Bridgemeade with the famous main control at the Pick ‘n Pay Hypermarket providing a great spectator point while the night race stage was a unique feature.

In 1981 the multiple motocross and Roof of Africa winner, Rob Wicks won the event on a KTM390 and when mechanical problems on his Husqvarna forced him out of the 1982 race, Greg Thomas took the victory. TheKwaZulu-Natalrider, Gary Lindsay, claimed a succession of victories between 1984 and 1986.

The unparalleled success of this race is, in no small part, attributable to the Rover Motorcycle Club and its dedicated organising committee that includes and has included the likes of Ian Mirk, Mike Glover, Pete Fell, the late Graham Maltby, Wayne Petit, Ross Guscott, Geoff Bland, Ian Wright and Chris and Joan Shinn as well as the incredible ongoing sponsorship by Castrol – its 34 years representing the longest standing successful sponsorship of any motorsport event in South Africa.

The competition in this event will again be extremely tough and spectators are welcome to be part of the spectacle on 18 August where many of South Africa’s top enduro riders will be in action, aiming for the overall laurels as well as for maximum points towards the various championship titles. The event will take place from the Loerie Ruskamp in the Loerie and Hankey area in theGamtoosValleynear Jeffrey’s Bay.