- REVIEW : ‘LIQUORLAND CHAMPAGNE VALLEY NATIONAL ENDURO
- Round 1 of the 2014 Liquorland SA National Enduro Motorcycle Championship
- 22 February – Four Rivers Adventures (Winterton area, KwaZulu-Natal
The current national enduro title holder, 17-year old Wade Young (Brother KTM) took the first step in defending his title by winning the opening race of the Liquorland National Enduro Motorcycle Championship this past weekend at Four Rivers Adventures in KwaZulu-Natal. The ‘Liquorland Champagne Valley Enduro’ will not only be remembered as a tough season opener, but also for the high level of competition that predicts an extremely competitive season.
As the defending title holder, Young, who is also the 200cc champion, opened the route set in the scenic Champagne Valley in the Winterton area. There were 11 Special Stages that varied from a short grass track to an intensive 400m stage that provided excellent spectator value while the two longer enduro stages – one in the plantation and another further into the mountains – that tested the riders’ fitness, endurance and abilities. Young posted the fastest times after four of the stages to beat second-placed Altus de Wet (Cargo-Tac Husqvarna Factory Racing) by 78 points (seconds). De Wet won the E2 (Open Class) and was the fastest after two stages even though he experienced problems with leaking fork seals and a leaking radiator pipe due to a crash. De Wet made a plan with the leaking fork seals (his underpants had to serve as bandages around the forks) while he was forced to repair the radiator hose in the bush.
Young’s team-mate and a scholar like himself, Travis Teasdale, started the 2014 season the way he finished the previous one – on the podium. Teasdale was 29 points behind De Wet and won two Special Stages to finish second in E1 (200cc Class) after a trouble-free race. He was again only 21 points ahead of yet another of his team-mates, Scott Bouverie, who clinched the second place behind De Wet in E2. The 2013 national off-road winner, Kenny Gilbert (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha) rounded off the overall top five and the E2 podium and finished 23 points behind Bouverie albeit struggling with a bent front brake disk.
Another Brother KTM rider, the former multiple enduro champion, Louwrens Mahoney, is back in action after breaking his ankle last year. He finished sixth overall (fourth in E2) and also won a Special Stage while he shared a stage victory with Young. There was only one point (a single second) between Mahoney and youngster Brett Swanepoel (ccGallery Gateway KTM / JOAT) – he finished the 2013 season as the runner-up in the 200cc championship – who also rounded off the E1 podium. Blake Gutzeit (Sherco) lost some time behind slower riders, but still managed an eighth place overall (fifth in E2) while Brandon Warwick-Oliver (Honda) made a successful comeback to the enduro championship by finishing ninth (fourth in E1). He was a mere two points behind Gutzeit and only 11 points ahead of the 2013 Silver Class Challenge winner, Damien Scott (Manhand Ridgeway Yamaha) who rounded off the E1 top five and the overall top ten.
The ‘Liquorland Champagne Valley Enduro’ received almost 60 entries in E1 and E2 with 41 competitors finishing the race (E1 and E2 competitors have to complete the full race distance an all 11 Special Stages). Dwayne Kleynhans (KTM) was 11th with James Hodson (Team Liquorland Yamaha) 12th overall. Hodson competed with a loan bike after his race machine developed a mysterious mechanical problem the night before the race. Charan Moore was Team Kargo Racing Yamaha’s best performer and was 13th overall (his team-mates, Timmy Young and KTM rider, Ross Blackwell, were 16th and 27th respectively) while Marc Torlage (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha) had to settle for 14th place after his bike fell on him early during the extreme test aggravating a collarbone injury. Brett Lewis (Eddy2Race Husqvarna) finished 15th, one point behind Torlage.
Also in the top 20 were Nicholas Pienaar (KTM) who finished 17th; Kyle Flannagan (TLB Plant Hire Alfie Cox KTM) who, like Teasdale and Scott, still competed in the Junior National Championship last year – he was 18th; Brandon’s twin brother, Travis Warwick-Oliver (Honda) who finished 19th and scholar Henco Botha (Husaberg) who was also a junior competitor till last season.
Both the Senior and Master Classes received many entries and a few new riders stepped onto the podium after a challenging event. Defending Senior Class champion, William Gillitt (Liquorland Yamaha) was however unstoppable and claimed yet another victory despite his bike also suffering from leaking fork seals due to the mud. Suspension guru, Hilton Hayward (Yamaha) struggled initially as he has not competed for the past few years, but finished second while Jody Engelbrecht (TLB Plant / Alfie Cox KTM) rounded off the podium. Bruce May (Yamaha) had to settle for fourth place after a few mistakes while Mike Morris (KTM) – he has also not raced for two years – rounded off the top five.
Mud, mechanical glitches and the level of fitness seemed to have hindered some riders of all ages though.
Like the 2013 season opener, Alfie Cox (KTM) claimed the victory in the Master Class when he beat the defending champion, Denzil Torlage (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha) who had to settle for second place. This result predicts an exciting season between the ‘Masters’, all over the age of 46. Dino Santoro ensured he put a third manufacturer on the podium by finishing third with his Beta while Shaun Kirk, also on a Beta, was fourth. Richard Cunniffe (Yamaha) rounded off the top five.
Youngsters between the ages of 14 and 16 years competed for the first time in the new High School Class Championship with Chayse Orsmond (TLB Plant Hire / Alfie Cox KTM) making a little history by winning the class for the first time. Bradley Coulthard (KTM) was second with Eduan Bester (NUTS Racing / Century Civils Yamaha) rounding off the podium of a race where the youngsters showed that they can stand their man under trying conditions.
Three scholars also finished on the podium of the Silver Class Challenge where 17 of the 26 riders of all ages managed to finish the race. Kokstad’s Dylan Barker (Pa Ma Racing Yamaha), who finished as the runner-up in the 125cc class of the 2013 Junior National Championship, won with last year’s runner-up, Sage McGregor (KTM) from East London, finishing second while Ladybrand’s Reghardt van Nieuwenhuizen (KTM) was third. Kirsten Landman (Brother KTM) was the only lady finisher in the national category and was 12th in this class. Mechanical problems forced Toni Jardine (KTM) to call it a day.
Competitors now have less than a month to prepare for an all new challenge – a ‘double-header’ event on Friday (21 March) and Saturday (22 March) at Ashton in the Western Cape. The ‘Ashton National Enduro’ will form the second and third rounds of the Liquorland National Enduro Championship and will count as two separate events. It will be a first for enduro motorcycle competitors to compete on two consecutive days. This event will be organised by CSMX and all the activities will again be at the La Mont Cheese and Deli just off the R60 in the Ashton / Bonnievale area in the Western Cape.