We continue our four-part in-depth feature on Blake Gutzeit’s Junior SuperEnduro World Championship triumph and his road to becoming South Africa’s first superenduro world champion.
Quintin van Jaarsveld
Born into a motorsport mad family, Blake’s the youngest of five kids – brothers Jade, Charl and Shane and sister, Claire. His dad Des was an accomplished supercar driver in the Wesbank Super Series.
The man commonly known as “Dezzi” is a former Jaguar Simola Hillclimb winner and a capable drifter who holds his own in the SupaDrift Series, South Africa’s national drifting championship.
However, his most significant contribution to motorsport is off the track, as pioneer and owner of Dezzi South Coast Raceway. Oslo Beach waves provide a picturesque backdrop to what is the home of KwaZulu-Natal motorsport – a full-fledged, 2.5km race circuit that incorporates two drift tracks and a fully certified quarter-mile drag strip.
Blake’s eldest brother Jade is one of the most decorated enduro riders in South African history, a trailblazer and multi-time Roof of Africa winner and national champion, who flew the flag in hard enduros across the world for a decade following the turn of the millennium.
Shane was last year crowned South African drifting champion. Carl dabbled in motorsport but became a professional angler instead, while mom Louise and sister Claire steered clear of competitive racing.
Blake’s future was forged when he got onto a bike for the first time at three years old. “It was a pee wee 50 Yamaha,” the Port Shepstone-born prodigy remembers, a far cry from the Yamaha WR250X two-stroke he won his world championship with.
“I got into riding though Jade,” he explains. “He was at his peak when I was really young. He was doing super well and I looked up to him so much and wanted to ride like him.” He was instantly hooked. “I can’t describe the feeling I get when I’m riding…it’s indescribable,” he says with a smile.
His early riding years were spent learning the basics and simply having a blast with fellow future stars. “I spent time riding with Jade and locals like Wade [Young] and Kyle [Flanagan] and a few other guys. We made special tests/flat tracks and had some rocks at the back of our house where we used to train.”
It was only at 12 years of age that the enthusiastic youngster entered his first-ever race – a South Coast Cadets Harescramble Series regional event on a Yamaha YZ85.
“I don’t remember much about my first race, but I remember one of the first in Harding. It was really cool and I think I got on the podium. Back then, it was all about having fun.”
That care-free mentally characterised his rookie racing years, with Gutzeit revealing he had no short or long-term riding goals at that stage. Nevertheless, the countless hours in the saddle saw him hone his craft – perhaps unbeknownst to the young wide-eyed wanderer – and develop into a technically-sound rider.
Yet, it was only four years after his maiden race that he became more serious about racing. “I was 16 when I decided I wanted to make a career out of riding, so that’s when I stepped up my training. I worked hard on strength and fitness training and became much more focused and thought of what I had to do to get better 24/7.”
Bolstered by his newfound motivation, the then-Fever Criterion Yamaha rider won the 125cc Class of the 2011 Junior National Off-Road Championship and enjoyed a brilliant Roof of Africa debut in which he finished 21st overall.
The following year, he made the move to Sherco South Africa and represented his country in the 2013 International Six Days Enduro in Italy. It was the first overseas race of his budding career, and he showed he had what it took to compete at international level as he conquered the gruelling race in style.
“It was an honour to ride for my country,” he told this scribe days after the event. “It was a big step up. Here in SA, you mess up one special test and you drop a few positions. Over there, you have a small crash and you drop 40 positions, so you must be very focused and consistent. The experience will definitely help me with my speed and to always push to beat the guy in front of me.”
His breakthrough performance came in the Roof of Africa that same year when torrential rain and howling winds saw just 23 of 110 Gold Class competitors finish. Gutzeit finished in a fantastic fourth place, which remains his career-best result in the Mother of Hard Enduro.
“I’m very happy and a little surprised with my result because of the weather,” he told me back then. “Not going to Lesotho once this year to ride, I wasn’t expecting anything amazing, but I was in top condition and I think that’s what pulled me though.
“Initially I was going for a top 10 but with rain pouring down on the final day, I was just going for a finish. It was a long, energy-draining day – being wet for seven-and-half hours wasn’t cool.”
Fast forward to a fortnight ago, and he stood tall atop the Junior SuperEnduro World Championship mountain. Despite his father and brothers’ accomplishments in the world of motorsport, Gutzeit said he’s never carried a weight of expectation or been pressurised to live up to the family legacy.
“I’ve never felt any pressure from them to win at all. I have a great family; every one of them has played a major part in me being where I am today and I love them so much. Jade has a lot of experience and national championships, so he helped me out a lot racing wise.
“My mom and dad have always supported and believed in me. My mom does all the behind-the-scenes work, I couldn’t do it without her, and my dad has given me great guidance and has shared invaluable knowledge with me.”
These factors were instrumental in the youngest Gutzeit emerging from the shadows to complete the family’s impressive trophy case with a world championship.
“It’s cool,” he laughed in response to being asked about becoming the family’s first world champion. “Unreal, but really cool. Every time I think about it I smile.
“My parents have invested a lot of money in me these last three years in Europe and to bring them back a world championship is really satisfying and to put a world championship behind the Gutzeit name makes me very proud.”
Action photos by Elza Thiart-Botes