Quintin van Jaarsveld
Blake Gutzeit (Husqvarna) served for tense moments when the South African star crashed during the second round of the FIM Maxxis SuperEnduro World Championship in Riesa, Germany on Saturday.
The Oslo Beach star qualified seventh in the Akrapovic Superpole but suffered a nightmare start to the Prestige finals as he crashed hard in the first of the three heats.
“Some you win, some you learn,” said Gutzeit, who fortunately escaped serious injury.
“I got into fourth trying to make the pass for third and got it completely wrong on the big dragon’s back jump, sending it into the stands. It was a massive crash and honestly I’m so happy to limp away from that one.
“I completely destroyed the rear sprocket so I couldn’t finish. Then it was trying to salvage points through the evening.”
He did so by finishing sixth and eighth in the remaining finals to land in eighth position on the championship standings.
“I would not be chasing this dream if it wasn’t for the great people who believe in me, and I’m very thankful for all the support I had from my team.
“It was unlucky for me but I don’t believe in ‘luck’ – you create your own luck. I believe in blood, sweat and tears, so let’s get home and work hard,” said Gutzeit, who became South Africa’s first-ever superenduro champion when he won the junior title in 2017.
Factory KTM rider Cody Webb left Germany at the top of the standings. Webb was untouchable in races 1 and 2, winning with relative ease in both these heats.
He concluded a perfect weekend by taking third place in the last race, a relaxed move which allowed him to romp home with the overall win on the night.
The American won dominantly in Riesa last year, too, and seemed to stamp his authority once again when he took over the title lead.
Webb admitted to feeling very comfortable on this narrow track, despite initially raising concerns about the tight nature of the first turn. He won Round 2 ahead of Taddy Blazusiak and Colton Haaker (USA-HVA).
However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for last year’s champion; with his rivals desperate to hunt him down he was forced to push hard, especially in the reverse grid race where he rocketed to an early lead, requiring extreme levels of focus to keep his rhythm until the chequered flag. And in the third and final race of this manic night in Riesa, Webb had to settle for third place as Blazusiak fought back for an authoritative race win.
Drama hit the Husqvarna Factory squad from the first corner of the first Prestige final. Haaker, who set the best time in the Akrapovic SuperPole, had a nasty crash along with his friend and team mate Alfredo GOMEZ (ESP-HVA).
The Spaniard initially tried to get up but was clearly in severe pain, and the red flag was quickly flown. After a trip to hospital the unlucky Spaniard, who suffered a horrific knee injury last season, was diagnosed with a dislocated left elbow.
The shock of Gomez’s crash had far reaching consequences for all the riders, as they admitted they felt deflated and upset and struggled to get back into a racing rhythm.
For team mate Haaker, the crash left him fired up and he tried to force blame onto Blazusiak for the racing incident. Emotions and tensions therefore ran high into the Race 1 restart. Haaker fought hard and managed third despite another early off. Meanwhile Webb and Blazusiak placed ahead of the Husky rider.
Race 2 rewarded the passionate German fans with a very exciting battle between Blazusiak and Haaker, with the pair swopping positions multiple times and each making costly mistakes. This time around the American got the better of his Polish rival for second behind Webb.
The Spanish rider Cristobal Guerrero (ESP-YAMAHA) returned to SuperEnduro competition in style. The Yamaha rider took three top five positions and displayed impressive race pace.
He even ran at the front for some of the final race. His performance may well give him a big confidence boost heading into his home round in Madrid later this month.
Home rider Kevin Gallas (DEU-HVA) and Pol Tarres (ESP-HVA) showed great potential on the track at the Sachsen Arena.
Webb said: “What happened to Alfredo tonight affect all of us. I’m always sad to see a friend leaving the track with the medics. As I’m concerned, it was a great night, I have taken all the opportunities that opened to me. I’m very pleased to take the lead of the championship for a few points. I’m very much looking forward to the next round in Madrid.”
Blazusiak said: “I felt really good tonight but I was really affected with what happened to Alfredo. It took me a while to get back in the game in this race and same on the next one. Finally in the last I have put my head back together I have been able to ride like I like to do it. This championship is very tight, we still have a few races left but each point is going to count. I’m only two points behind Cody, everything is possible.”
Haaker commented: “Our goals are all the same; we want to win races. So when you end up on a podium you are happy but you can’t be totally satisfied. I’m third today, but you know those guys are good so you won’t have much room left if you make a mistake. Taddy was really flying in this last race I could not control him. I’m very sad for Alfredo; I wish him a speedy recovery so he can be with us back very soon.”
The next round of the FIM Maxxis SuperEnduro World Championship will take place in Madrid’s Caja Magica on January 26.