INTERVIEW WITH JADE GUTZEIT, ENDURO EXTRAORDINAIRE
Jade Gutzeit must be one of the best, if not the best, enduro talents currently racing in South Africa. Locally, he is leading the field in both the National Enduro and Off Road Series. Compared to the best in the world, he is also very competitive managing top 10 finishes in some of the most gruelling races such as Erzberg and Romanics this season.
Where did it all start and what does he like about this style of racing? Paul Carrick interviewed Jade and this is what he had to say.
Q: When did you start riding motorbikes?
A: I started late, when I was 18. My dad bought me a bike and the bug bit me straight away. I rode in a couple WFO's, which are regional enduros in Natal, and that is where I learned to ride and cut my teeth in enduro riding. I started winning relatively quickly after jumping in at the deep end and riding all the time. It's always been on the up from there.
I took a break from 2005 to about 2008 when I was racing cars, but I quickly got tired of the politics. If I don't win on motorbikes, it's because I didn't ride fast enough and not because I had a weaker engine than someone else.
Q: You are currently leading the National Enduro and National Off Road Series, tell us more about that?
A: Ja, this year has been going really well for me. My Yamaha has been perfect all year and a real weapon for me. Last year, I rode a big four stroke and it was more difficult for me to win, so I had to train harder. That turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me because before that I never did any cardio or real training for my riding. With a bigger bike, I had to. So when I got back on the Yamaha, winning became easy again as the bike was a lot lighter and easier to win on.
Q: What is the difference between the Enduro and Off Road Series?
A: Enduros are a lot tighter than the off roads. The word off road sorts of explain it. It's jeep tracks, off road gravel roads and koppies every now and again, but the racing is generally faster than enduros and I don't enjoy that so much. But we get good TV coverage and publicity, so it's something that the sponsors need us to do to get their mileage. So although I'm leading in the Off Road Series, and that's great, I enjoy enduros more as tight technical riding is where I excel.
Q: In terms of extreme enduros, you have done two this year and there's the Roof coming up. Tell us more about those races?
A: This year was the fifth time that I've ridden in the Erzberg. The first time I took part was in 2002 and came third. Then in 2003 and 2004, I came third again and in 2005, I hurt my knee and that's when I decided to take a break from riding. What was interesting to see at Erzberg earlier this year is that more and more trial riders are entering the sport. With their background, these riders are quickly adapting their style of riding to an off road enduro bike and giving us enduro riders a good run for our money. I have a trials bike now so we'll see if I can take the fight to them. Earlier this year, I finished seventh at Erzberg and was really pleased with this result. Even though I finished in third place a few years ago, it was only against enduro riders and I feel that today, the race is on a whole new level, with better riders - including the trial riders. So for me, my seventh placing is better than the third of a few years ago.
I also took part in the Redbull Romaniacs race in Romania this year for the first time. It was a baptism of fire! It rained for two weeks solid before the race and they declared it a national disaster area. However, the race still went ahead - and they didn't shorten it. All the hills became three times worse and I was more than happy to have finished fifth. It was a great race. It's also really beautiful there and the Carpathian Mountains are extreme to say the least. This event was also an excellent opportunity for me to get some worldwide coverage.
Q: Did you see any of the other rider skills where you went (damn...)?
A: Often. Even though we started a minute apart, I was able to catch the other riders and we would ride together until we got to one of those stupid hills that had been added for that day. When I was lining up behind them, I also got to see them hopping and just get through a hill. I would then go,
Right, my turn,
and proceed to mess it up like an absolute clubman and think,
Gutzeit, you've got so much to learn.
It was a big eye opener and when I returned home, I immediately went out and bought a trials bike!
I know it's gonna take a long time to learn what these riders can do, but it's a good start.
Q: The Roof is at the end of November. Last year you where on a bigger bike and this year you gonna be on a É
A: This year I'm gonna be on a Yamaha YZ250. It's the same bike I rode at Erzberg, so it's the ideal ride for the Roof of Africa. Last year, I rode a heavy four stroke and took big strain, but still managed to finish third, just 10 seconds behind second place. I broke a chain 20 km from the end of the race and that took me out of second place. In 2007 and 2008, I rode a two stroke and came second behind Chris Birch. This year I'm a lot fitter and riding the right bike, so hopefully I can race with him. The format of the race has been changed slightly, as last year I think there were only six people who actually finished the first day. This year, the organisers want to make it comparable to the worldwide races where the first day is hard but doable and the last day is ultra extreme. It should be good with more riders finishing the race to claim gold, silver and bronze medals. With these changes, I'm really looking forward to the event.
Q: Do you like riding in Lesotho?
A: Lesotho is my favorite place for riding, other than in Natal my home town. With the sled paths and rocky mountains, you know the riding is going to be extreme and loads of fun. There is more low-land riding, as well as jumps, banks and other stuff to play on. This is what I like doing best and what I grew up with. And that's why I love Lesotho!
Q: In 2011 there is the World Extreme Enduro Championship, which is gonna be a combination of Erzberg, Rominiacs, Hells Gate, Tough One and Roof! Are you gonna compete?
A: I'll definitely do some of them. There's actually a lot of in-fighting between the races, which I only found out about at Romaniacs. Tough One's out as they have decided to do their own thing. Hells Gate has been told that if they don't change the race format, they will not be allowed to join as you can't have only one person finishing a race. The format they use is, if a rider falls more than half an hour behind the leader they are taken out of the race, which is not really right. You need some kind of point scheme, and need riders to finish to get points.
At the moment, it looks like it's going to be Erzberg, Rominiacs and the Roof. I heard that America might be pulling something together as Jeff Pakosta, who heads up the whole World Extreme Enduro Championship, is from America and wants to have a race there to showcase what he's got. So at the moment I'm not sure if there will be an official world championship, but if there is I'll be competing. Maybe in 2012 we'll have an official world championship. That would be really cool because if there was one next year, I'd like to be able to compare myself against them.
Q: Of the races you have competed in this year, which is your favorite?
A: Including overseas races ... I would have to say Romaniacs because I [email protected]
%d off more than I have ever done in my life! But I managed a really good result. It was also my first time there and I was riding a bike I wasn't used to and enjoyed it, so this race was a major achievement for me.
Q: You got back into riding endurocross in 2008. Tell us about this discipline?
A: That's right! At the beginning of 2008 I started focusing on motorbikes only. There was an endurocross in Pietermaritzburg on a really well set up track. It was a lot like an oversea endurocross - it was awesome. I took part and won. Although I hadn't competed before, the style of riding for endurocross is what I grew up with. When I was riding at the coast, I would always try and hop over logs and rocks, and up banks. We called it
do or die
stuff. If you messed up, you were gonna get hurt. That's how I learnt to ride.
Just recently we also had an extreme endurocross, which was organised by South Coast Fever. It was a huge success with 15,000 spectators attending the weekend event. They loved it as it's a real spectator sport. It was held in a small confined area and the riders were upside down all the time, which proved quite entertaining to the crowd. It was an action-packed show.
Q: Do you think we can support an Endurocross Series in South Africa?
A: Definitely! I was actually thinking of doing it myself, but it will take a lot of time to put together and I would have to speak to my Dad about how much time he can give me off work. But it's definitely something that can work. The advantages of this type of event are, you can hold it in a small arena in the middle of a city so it's centrally located and easy to get to, has great spectator value and you can do it at night!
Q: Are you planning any motocross racing?
A: I love motocross! The riding here in Jo'burg isn't great though and I cringe when people say De Wildt, Chimes and all those places. So the only riding I do is at motocross tracks because they water the track and it's the only place in Gauteng that's not dusty. I also train on motocross tracks on the weekend, as I can get more done in two hours there than six hours at De Wildt. It works for me and I'm doing well, so ja, motocross is the way to go!
Q: What is your favorite track in Jo'burg?
A: My favorite track is actually in Eshowe, Natal. On a borrowed 125 KTM, I took part in a national at Eshowe and managed to beat all the top South African motocross riders. That win was quite a highlight in my life.
Q: Have you ever been tempted to do something like the Dakar?
A: Hmm, Yamaha was gonna make it an option and bring in one of David Fretigne's bikes or a practice bike. But my opinion of the Dakar is that one of the top 10 to 15 riders tends to die, and that's not a nice thought. However, the Dakar only allows 450s to participate now and they are also doing a lot to make the race safer. But when you consider that you are racing at speeds of 160 km per hour, whilst looking at your GPS and road map the whole time and not where you are racing, a split second could mean the difference between lying on your head or staying on your wheels.
Q: You have a full title sponsor, Full Throttle. Tell us more about what they do for you?
A: They are the biggest accessories dealership in South Africa and have been really good to me. They joined, or rather I joined them in the second third of the season. They have put a lot of money into the sport and also sponsor a number of people, which is great. We have an excellent relationship and next year, we will take it to the next level and see if I can give them more national championships.
Q: Who else is sponsoring you?
A: Greg Orsmond from the Fever Group came on board about a month or two ago. He's a great guy who I know from the South Coast, where the company is based. They wanted to get into the motorcycling scene and start a team. They also own newspapers - so I get free advertising and they get value for their money - it's a win-win relationship.
I also ride for Yamaha and they have really good bikes. I've been riding with them for a couple of years now. They are also great people and I enjoy dealing with them because they are good to me and I can relate to them. They are not just bosses but friends as well.