Team Proudly Bidvest Yamaha Racing ensured their long trip van Gauteng to Ashton in the Western Cape was worth it and not only brought home a bag full of silverware, but claimed lots of valuable points in the Liquorland National Enduro Championship.
The Ashton National Enduro formed two rounds of the Liquorland National Enduro Championship and the Proudly Bidvest Yamaha Racing team faced a new challenge – to compete in two events on two consecutive days. Sweltering conditions and a dry and dusty track in the mountainous area between Ashton and Bonnievale added to this new test. The team was also without their multiple champion, Marc Torlage, who unfortunately injured his shoulder quite badly after a crash during a race the previous weekend in the Cape. An extremely disappointed Torlage was however at the race to support the team consisting of his dad, Denzil (Master Class Championship) and Kenny Gilbert (E2 Open Class Championship).
They were faced with two Special Stages (a short grassy MX stage and a 10km Enduro Special) on Friday (21 March). Except for the extreme heat, both riders stood their man with Gilbert claiming podium positions in both the overall standings as well as in E2. He finished third overall (only 80 points behind the rider in second place) and second in E2.
Torlage was entwined in the Master Class battle for the win, but injured his ankle (it bent backwards!) early in the race. It was ‘mind over matter’ for the multiple defending champion who finished a mere 21 points behind the class winner in second place.
The swollen ankle had to go back into the boot for Saturday’s race where the competitors had to tackle the same 10km Enduro Special again while the grassy MX Special was run in reverse. A new regularity section that included a tricky mud hole was added to the second day’s loop – many a rider ‘lost’ their race here – while steep climbs and descents tested the riders on Saturday. It was also another hot day where temperatures climbed to just below 40°C with the heat in the dry riverbeds and valleys almost unbearable.
Torlage played it safe and scored yet another second place after their four special stages while Gilbert, who left after the race to tackle the Cape Epic Mountain Bike Race of eight days in the Western Cape, finished fourth in the competitive E2 Class – only 62 points separated him from the class winner! He finished sixth overall.
With the season now at its halfway mark, Gilbert is currently third in the E2 Championship (fourth on the overall standings) while only nine points separate Torlage from the lead in the Master Class.
The next round of the Liquorland National Enduro Championship takes place on 23 July at Lydenburg.
The second round of the National Off-road Championship, the Windsorton 400, is next on the calendar and Gilbert already has his focus on more good points and results. He is currently third in the overall standings as well as in the OR1 (Open Class) where only five points separate him from the leader. This event will level the playing field as it is an all new race and terrain.