Double trouble for SA Enduro ridersComment on this story
Ashton, Western Cape - Back-to-back races await the riders in the SA Enduro series when they tackle rounds 2 and 3 of the championship on consecutive days at the Ashton National Enduro on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 March.
The rider with the most to gain is Yamaha hotshot Marc Torlage, who took his maiden national win at Ashton in 2013 but finished a dismal 14th at the 2014 season-opener in the North-West province. He needs a couple of strong finishes to get his E1 (200cc) championship campaign back on track - and to get them on one weekend would be ideal.
Also looking to move up the standings is Yamaha privateer Timothy Young who would like to improve on his uncharacteristic 16th overall and eighth in E2 (Open Class) at Wolmarransstad .
KTM rider Nicholas Pienaar finished sixth overall and third in the Open Class at Ashton in 2013; he certainly needs to better his 17th place in his previous outing, as does Nick Wade (Yamaha), who was 22nd overall in North West.
LEADER OF THE PACK
But they'll start from near the middle of the pack and will have to fight their way through the field while, at the sharp end, overall and E1 leader Wade Young (KTM) will aim for another win to defend his 2013 titles.
Local Montagu rider Altus de Wet (Husqvarna) started the 2014 season with an E2 Class win and overall second behind Young in Wolmaransstad; he was also second in his home round in 2013 and will be going all out for a win in front of his home crowd.
It will be a first visit to Ashton for Travis Teasdale's first visit to Ashton - but then he hadn't been to Wolmaransstad before either and he got a podium there.
His KTM team mates Scott Bouverie and Louwrens Mahoney, however, have both raced here before; Mahoney was third overall at Aston in 2013 - but Bouverie would prefer to forget his mechanically-challenged 19th overall.
He's riding in E2 this year and finished fourth in the North-West; he's already said his goal for the Ashton double-header is at least one podium finish.
He will, however have to see off Yamaha's Kenny Gilbert (fifth overall and third in E2 at Wolmaransstad), as well Brett Swanepoel (KTM), who crashed out of this race last year but still finished 12th - he's now seventh overall (third in E1) with Blake Gutzeit (Sherco) just behind him on the overall standings.
2013 class runner-up, Bruce May (Yamaha) beat the defending champion, similarly-mounted William 'Wild Bill' Gillitt in Aston last year and, after a poor start to his season, would like nothing better than to do it again.
Multiple former Senior Class Champion Gillitt is, however, still the man to beat, the target for newcomers such as like Hilton Hayward (Yamaha) second in class after a strong first round, the ever-consistent Jody Engelbrecht (KTM), Gillitt's team mate Steve Landman, and Matthew Barker (Yamaha).
The Master Class for riders older than 46, is likely to be a nonstop battle between the defending champion, Denzil Torlage (Yamaha) and current class leader Alfie Cox (KTM), although the pint-sized KwaZulu-Natal legend will be at something of a disadvantage, never having ridden here before.
Newcomer Shaun Kirk (Beta) kicked off his season with a fourth in Wolmaransstad place and would like to build on that while regular riders Carl Rohrbeck (Husaberg) and Garth Prost (Husqvarna) would like to better their current positions; they are seventh and tenth respectively. Cape Town rider, Tom Bogershausen (KTM) didn't finish the season opener, but home-ground advantage could see upsetting the applecart.
TO BONNIEVALE AND BACK
As per 2013 (why mess with success?) the Ashton National will be based at La Montagne Deli, about 9km from Ashton on the R60 to Swellendam. The route will take the more than 150 entrants from the deli through the valleys and over the hills to Bonnievale and back, with a number of spectator points close to the deli.
There will also be two special stages: the Cross Test, a spectator-friendly grass test at the deli, and the longer 9km Enduro Test, sections of which may be familiar from last year.
Racing will start at 8am on both days and entrance for spectators will be free, both at the deli and the spectator points.