Winterton, KwaZulu-Natal - Four Rivers Adventures in the scenic Champagne Valley will be the setting for the first round of the 2014 South African Enduro Motorcycle series on Saturday 22 February, where a spectacular but testing route awaits the riders.
All eyes will be on the 17-year old defending champion, Wade Young (KTM) who will aim to defend his No.1 plate as well as the 200cc (E1) championship - but former multiple enduro champions, Altus de Wet (Husqvarna), who finished just behind Young in 2013 and won the Open Class (E2) championship, and Young's team mate, Louwrens Mahoney, who has recovered from an ankle injury, will be am9ong those hoping experience will count in their favour.
The big 'official' KTM squad will include Junior National Open Class Champion Travis Teasdale, who will start his first full enduro season, Scott Bouverie - who was South Africa's best finisher at the 2013 Roof of Africa with a third place after recovering fully from a wrist injury last year - Louw Schmidt and Tyron Miller.
A DOZEN OF THE BEST
It's worth noting that all the riders in the 2013 overall top 12 have entered the 'Champagne Valley Enduro, showing just how competitive the national enduro championship is.
Yamaha's Kenny Gilbert (E2) and multiple former champion, Marc Torlage (E1) who has recovered from a back injury, will again have their eyes on the title while Nicholas Pienaar (KTM) will hope to kick-start his season with a podium result as in 2013. More up-and-coming young riders include Timothy Young (Yamaha) who finished the 2013 season in fourth place overall; Brett Swanepoel (KTM), runner-up in the 200cc championship and Blake Gutzeit (Sherco) who rounded off his season with second at the final event.
A number of teenagers have moved up from the Junior National Championship and have the potential to post good results - especially 125cc Class champion, Angus Coetzee (Yamaha), who will bear watching.
Senior Class entries include not only the top three finishers of 2013 - multiple Senior Class champion, William Gillitt (Yamaha), runner-up Bruce May (Yamaha) and Jody Engelbrecht (KTM) - but also 'born-again racers' such as Gillitt's team mate, Steven Landman and Mark Fox (KTM), while regulars Matthew Barker (Yamaha) - he finished the season fourth - and Peter Jung (KTM) will add to the competition. Suspension guru Hilton Hayward (Yamaha) will also compete for the first time in years.
Defending Master Class champion, Denzil Torlage (Yamaha) will be aiming for his seventh consecutive title, but he would not like to be beaten at the season opener as he was in 2013 by KTM legend Alfie Cox (whose name is on the entry list again this year) while Garth Prost (Husqvarna), the only other winner in 2013, will also be in action.
There are a number of new names on the list, but those of Carl Rohrbeck (Husaberg), runner-up in this class for the past two seasons, regular Cape Town competitor Tom Bogershausen (KTM) and the editor of EnduroWorld magazine, Gary Franks (KTM) will add spice at the sharp end.
The Champagne Valley Enduro will consist of four Special Stages. Two of these timed stages - a short, flat track motocross-style stage as well as an extreme 400m stage - are close to the pits and start/finish at Four Rivers Adventures and should deliver spectacular viewing. Competitors will also have to tackle a longer Special Stage in the plantations while the nine-kilometre mixed stage will have a bit of everything - plantation roads, rocky climbs and descents, mud and some forest track.
WHERE AND WHEN
The race starts at 8am on Saturday 22 February and spectators are welcome; Four Rivers Adventures is next to the R600 south of Winterton.