Two podium positions, two top five results and three top 10 results – these were the results for the Proudly Bidvest Yamaha Racing team at the first round of the 2014 Liquorland National Enduro Championship this past weekend (Saturday, 22 February) at Champagne Valley in KwaZulu-Natal.


The Liquorland Champagne Valley Enduro was not an easy race and both Kenny Gilbert, who competes in E2 (Open Class) and Marc Torlage in E1 (200cc Class) had to tackle 11 tough Special Stages while there were seven timed stages for Denzil Torlage in the Master Class. These stages included a short, flat grass stage; an extreme Special Stage where competitors had to attempt sharp drop-offs and rocks; a forest stage and a longer enduro stage deeper into the mountains.

The competition in all these classes was extremely tough and although Gilbert would’ve liked to finish higher up than his fifth place overall (only 151 points / seconds separated him from the race winner, Wade Young), his third place E2 (only 73 points behind the class winner) ensured him a healthy amount of points to kick-start the season. His times after each of the 11 Special Stages were on par with the rest and his Yamaha YZ290F was running smoothly. He did however struggle with a bent front brake disk on the last lap – having brake problems on those treacherous and rocky ascents and descents, can be quite dangerous.

As always, the defending national off-road champion made sure he got to the finish to start the season with a healthy amount of points and a well deserved podium position.

There was a bit of a hiccup for Marc Torlage who competed for the first time in the National Enduro Championship after having to miss the last two races of 2013 as well as the Roof of Africa due to a back injury. At a steep step-up on the first extreme special (the second Special Stage of the race) his Yamaha YZ250F fell on him with the front wheel hitting his collarbone – the same collarbone where a steel plate is currently assisting with the mending process. Although in pain, this did not keep him down and he completed the race albeit in seventh place in E1 (14th overall).


Torlage vows to be back – stronger than before and is already looking forward to the next event.

Denzil Torlage is aiming for the seventh consecutive Master Class Championship and an approach of “rather safe than sorry” resulted in him finishing second in the class. Rocky climbs, mud and some technical sections could’ve resulted in tears and the defending Master Class champion made sure that he finish all seven the Special Stages to bag the necessary points.

“There is still a long season ahead and you have to make sure you start well,” the experienced Torlage said afterwards. “The first points are on the scoreboard and the next test will be a real tough one for both the rider and his bike,” he said.


This ‘test’ is the Ashton National Enduro on 21 and 22 March in the Western Cape. This event will form two rounds of the Liquorland National Enduro Championship and will test riders on two consecutive days.

In two weeks’ time Gilbert and Torlage will tackle the Diamond Route 400, the first round of the 2014 SA National Off-road Championship that takes place at Wolmaransstad in the North-West Province. Both riders qualified in the top five at the Seeding Event and will be between the frontrunners to take on this event where Gilbert finished on the podium in 2012.