By Quintin van Jaarsveld and Elza Thiart-Botes
The ‘underdog’ came out on top as St Michaels rider Jody Engelbrecht (Yamaha) was crowned South African senior enduro champion in thrilling fashion outside Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The tension was palpable at the Liquorland Winterberg National Enduro, the final round of the 2015 Liquorland National Enduro Motorcycle Championship, and factors like lots of rain the day before the race as well as battles for various national championship titles contributed to an exciting race.
The race consisted of three Special Stages of which one had to be shortened due to the high water level of the rivers. E1 and E2 competitors had to complete 11 stages; Senior Class, High School competitors and Silver Class riders were in for eight stages while Master Class riders did five.
Anything could still happen in all the championships and it was especially the battle for the Senior Class title that was nerve-wrecking.
Before the race, Bruce May (Team AgriSales Peak Yamaha) was leading Engelbrecht by a mere two points, but May crashed on the first stage in old truck tyres and lost 45 seconds.
He had to play catch-up the whole day, but it was not enough and he finished a mere eight points (seconds) behind Engelbrecht, who walked away with the South African national title.
“It is really an amazing feeling to be SA champ…it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” an elated Engelbrecht told eHowzit.
“It’s a goal I have pursued for a while. I am glad to have achieved this goal especially against some tough competitors, who have made this the closest and most exciting championship to follow.
“The race was quite tough but enjoyable. I had a good race with no major problems in the special tests except for one crash in the fifth special test, but I managed to keep focused and pull through for the win.”
As a privateer, Engelbrecht had the deck stacked against him, but it’s made the championship win that much sweeter, he said.
“Being a privateer has been tough as it is costly but I’m very chuffed to win this title. I have had amazing support from my wife, Joni, who helped me every step of the way and this championship could not have been possible without her and the support from my kids and Greg Orsmond, who has helped with my training and staying focused throughout the season.”
Graham Hedgcock (KTM Cape Town) finished in a close third place and was followed by local PE hero, Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen (Brother Leader Tread KTM), a former ‘Winterberg’ winner who competed in the national enduro series for the first time this year.
Steven Carr (Roost KTM / EC Security) rounded off the top five. Steve Landman (Team Liquorland Yamaha Racing) was sixth; Ryan Pretorius (KTM) finished seventh and Chris Lindhorst (KTM) was eighth.
In E1, the Pietermaritzburg scholar, Travis Teasdale (Brother Leader Tread KTM) aimed for his first national enduro title and he went to PE only two points ahead of Brett Swanepoel (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha).
It was not a good day for Swanepoel who crashed twice on the first lap and had to settle for second place behind Teasdale who claimed his fifth E1 victory and the 2015 national title.
Teasdale’s team-mate, Dwayne Kleynhans, finished third (he suffered from food poisoning the previous day and was even admitted to hospital!) with Paddock’s Kyle Flanagan (KTM) fourth and Brandon Warwick-Oliver (Team Liquorland Racing Yamaha) in fifth place.
Richie van der Westhuizen (Yamaha) finished not too far behind in sxith place despite a huge crash towards the end of the race. Michael Pentecost (Kargo Racing Yamaha) was seventh; Dylan Barker (Pa Ma Racing Yamaha) finished eighth, only 13 points ahead of Shelly Beach rider Chayse Orsmond (Ihobe International KTM) with Kyle Erasmus (Kargo Racing Yamaha) a single point behind Orsmond in tenth place.
Marc Torlage (Roost KTM / EC Security) was back in his happy place and doing well until a crash caused the clutch master cylinder to break on the ninth of the 11 Special Stages.
Wade Young (Brother Leader Tread KTM) claimed his sixth consecutive victory and his first E2 title (he won the E1 / 200cc title in 2014 and 2013). Kenny Gilbert (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha) finished in a solid second place. Young’s team-mate, Scott Bouverie, had a careful race as he will be undergoing a knee operation and finished third. He beat Altus de Wet (Altus de Wet Racing Sherco) by a single point (second).
Umzumbe’s Bronson Louw (ABE Midas Husqvarna Factory Racing) was fifth while his team-mate, Mark Garland who has not been competing this year, finished ninth. Roan Lindsay (D&H Engineering Works Yamaha) was sixth followed by Nick Wade (Team Liquorland Racing Husqvarna); Sage McGregor (KTM) eighth and Riaan van der Walt (KTM) tenth.
Hilton Hayward (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha) went to the ‘Winterberg’ with five victories in the Master Class championship behind his name. The championship title was within his reach, but could easily disappear if he made a mistake. Well, that did not happen as the suspension guru claimed a sixth consecutive victory and the 2015 SA National Championship title. He was chased by his team-mate and Paddock great Denzil Torlage, who finished second after beating the defending champion, Alfie Cox (KTM), by a mere six points (seconds).
Shaun Kirk (Beta Liqui Moly Racing SA) finished fourth with Gideon Malherbe (Eddy2Race KTM) fifth; Steven Botha (Team AgriSales Peak Yamaha) was sixth and Carl Rohrbeck (KTM) finished seventh.
Like Young and Hayward, there was also a sixth victory for Eduan Bester (NUTS Racing / KTM Centurion) who took the High School Class win and bagged the title. Bester also won this class last year after it was introduced into the championship for the first time.
He had to fight for it though as he crashed during the first lap of the race and lost valuable time. Daniel van Zyl (Pa Ma Racing Yamaha) finished second with Dean Lindsay (D&H Engineering Works Yamaha) rounding off the podium.
The youngsters had to stand their man in some really testing Special Stages this season, but they proved that they can race with the best. Bryce van Heerden (KTM) finsihed fourth with Keegan Eich (KTM) fifth; Max Jordaan (KTM) was sixth; Carl-Reinhardt Cronje (KTM) was seventh and Grahamstown scholar, Josh Thorburn (KTM), in eighth place.
The Silver Class Challenge might not be a championship class – it is a challenge – but the winner gets free entries into next year’s national enduro season.
The young Matatiele scholar, Lloyd Kirk (Pa Ma Racing Yamaha) confirmed his ‘prize’ by claiming a sixth victory this year (his team-mate, Dylan Barker, who is from neigboring town, Kokstad, did the same last year when he won all six rounds of the 2014 national series). Stuart Gregory (FDBR Racing) of Port Edward was second with Sonwabile Eddie Mdodana (Mens Clinic KTM) posting his best result of the season by finishing third.
All results are still provisional. The official standings for the 2015 Liqourland National Enduro Championship will now be calculated by Motorsport SA and will be published on www.motorsport.co.za. The national season will commence early in 2016.