Words & Photo: Elza Thiart-Botes
Proudly Bidvest Yamaha Racing made a successful start to the 2014 National Off-road Championship and not only scored their first points, but claimed two podium positions at the Diamond Route 400, the opening round of the season that took place at Wolmaransstad in the North-West Province.
The results of the season’s Seeding Event (it determined the starting order for the Diamond Route 400) showed that the National Off-road Motorcycle Championship will be extremely competitive this year and all the major competitors in the off-road racing fraternity were in action at Wolmaransstad. These included the current overall title holder, Proudly Bidvest Yamaha Racing’s Kenny Gilbert, who is also the defending OR1 (Open Class) Champion as well as multiple former champion, Marc Torlage. Both Gilbert and Torlage, who has already claimed national enduro and off-road championship titles in his short racing career, are competing in OR1 with their WF450 Yamahas.
Gilbert and Torlage both qualified in the top five at the Seeding Event and riders tackled the first of two 60 odd kilometre loops two abreast. Gilbert was off from the second row while Torlage started just behind him from the third row. The route was quite damp as the area has had some good rain and after a week of rain in Gauteng, riders welcomed the sunshine and blue skies at Wolmaransstad.
The defending champion fell back somewhat during three frustrating laps and had a crash due to inconsistent front brakes, but during a 15 minute de-control at the halfway mark, the issues were addressed and sorted out resulting in him making up lots of time and positions during the second half of the race. Gilbert rode like the champion he is and finished third overall and third in the extremely competitive OR1 Championship missing second place by a mere 14 seconds after racing for four hours and 37 minutes.
After not participating in off-road racing for the best part of 2013, Torlage was back in action and has moved up from OR3 (200cc) to the OR1 Class. While ferocious battles continued around him, he got himself back into the off-road game with a sure-footed race on the bigger and heavier machine and scored his first points in OR1 with a 10th place in the class. His 16th place overall also resulted in him scoring valuable points towards the overall standings.
With five rounds of the national off-road championship remaining, Proudly Bidvest Yamaha Racing is satisfied with these podium positions and points and is confident for the rest of the season. The second round of the championship takes place on 12 April at Windsorton in the Kimberley area.
Both Gilbert and Torlage, together with Proudly Bidvest Yamaha’s representative in the Master Class, Denzil Torlage, are now getting ready for two rounds of the Liquorland National Enduro Championship, the Ashton National Enduro, that will take place on 21 and 22 March in the Western Cape.