Lydenburg, Mpumalanga - After a four-month break, the SA Enduro series is ready to rock and roll with Round 4 in the Lydenburg area this weekend.
Most of the riders, however, have not been sitting still, entering various events at national and international level to stay fit, so the 'silly season' has hit early this year and quite a few changes have taken place.
Blake Gutzeit has swopped his Sherco for a factory Husqvarna, while Brett Swanepoel has joined the official Yamaha squad and team-mate Marc Torlage is back in the saddle after injury prevented him from competing in the double-header event at Ashton in March. Former champion Riaan van Niekerk will be out for the first time this season on his Husqvarna.
The various class championships are still wide open and anything can happen during the final three rounds of the series.
RIGHT NOW IS THE TIME
If anybody harbours ambitions of catching defending 200cc champion and overall title holder Wade Young (KTM), they had better get to it.
Young has won all three rounds so far this year and may soon be too far out of reach. He has just returned from Romania, where he became the youngest rider yet to finish on the podium at the Romaniacs extreme enduro.
Altus de Wet (Husqvarna), who finished 12th overall in Romania, will have a point to prove; he has finished second to Young in all three rounds so far in 2014 and is leading the Open (E2) Class.
Consistency and three podium positions each have resulted in Young's team mate Travis Teasdale and Swanepoel trailing the champion by 11 and 13 points respectively. The battle between these three KwaZulu-Natal youngsters will continue at Lydenburg.
BACK FROM INJURY
Brett Lewis (Husqvarna) is fourth in E1 (and 10th overall) with Yamaha privateer James Hodson fifth (five points Lewis in E1) - only a single point separates Hodson from Lewis and a place in the top 10.
In E2 Scott Bouverie (KTM) trails De Wet by 11 points (he is third overall) and he is hoping to have fully recovered from an injury sustained at the Erzberg Rodeo event in June in Austria. He is only four points ahead of Kenny Gilbert (Yamaha), who is fourth overall, four points down, and will also have a point or two to prove.
Bouverie's team-mate Louwrens Mahoney has his eye on the E2 podium (he is fourth and four points separate him from Gilbert) and would like to get into the overall top five - two points separate him from Teasdale in fifth overall.
Swanepoel has had a few close battles with Mahoney this year with split seconds separating them. He now trails the former champion by only four points on the overall standings - but is only five points ahead of Gutzeit who recently finished in the top 10 in his first Romaniacs.
Yamaha rider Charan Moore has worked himself up to ninth in the overall standings (he's sixth in E2, four points behind Gutzeit) but there's only a handful of points in it and the standings could look very different after the Lydenburg enduro.
Only nine points separate the top three; defending champion William 'Wild Will' Gillitt (Yamaha) will aim for a third win to bolster his lead of only four points from Hilton Hayward (Yamaha). Hayward has not yet won this season, but three runner-up positions have secured his second place.
He will however have to look over his shoulder as Bruce May (Yamaha), who has a 2014 victory behind his name, trails him by just five points and is looking to better his current position.
If there is one defending champion that will be back with a vengeance, it is Yamaha's Master Class star Denzil Torlage (Marc's father) who is currently second behind the legendary Alfie Cox (KTM). Cox has taken three wins so far this season and is nine points ahead of Torlage who has had to settle for three runner-up finishes.
Shaun Kirk (Beta) is third, but only three points ahead of Husqvarna's Garth Prost who will be aiming for a third consecutive podium result.
Lady riders Kirsten Landman (KTM), who finished the Romaniacs enduro in the Bronze Category and Toni Jardine (KTM), who has competed in a number of World Enduro Championship races during the break, will also be in action.
WHERE AND WHEN?
Documentation and prizegiving will take place in the Cow Shed at Badfontein in the Lydenburg area. The race will start from the Cow Shed at 8am on Saturday 26 July.