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The 37th Winterberg Enduro, fifth and penultimate round of the 2012 South African Enduro championship, will again take riders to the mountainous area around Hankey and Loerie in the Eastern Cape where they will tackle a route that will test their enduro-riding skills, their stamina and their perseverance.
The area has received lots of rain and entrants might find themselves competing in a wet event this year.
Jade Gutzeit (Yamaha), Altus de Wet (KTM) and Chris Birch (KTM) have all been victorious at the Winterberg Enduro and all three have scored a victory in this year's SA Enduro series, so it would be risky to predict a winner for the 37th Winterberg Enduro, to be run on 18 August in the Loerie area of the Eastern Cape.
Gutzeit is leading the overall standings and E1 (Open Class) after winning twice this season. He has also won the Winterberg three times (2003, 2005 and 2010) and will no doubt aim for more victories while 2011 winner Birch has been plagued by injuries and could not finish two races this season. He has managed to pull himself back into the overall top 10 (he's ninth overall) and a good result will help his cause.
De Wet has (provisionally) won the Humansdorp enduro and was the Winterberg winner in 2009. After recently claiming the OR2 title in the National Off-Road championship, albeit injured, he's hoping to be injury-free and possibly better his fourth place on the Enduro championship points standings as well as in E2 (200cc) Class.
They will have their hands full with more possible race winners: Louwrens Mahoney (KTM) is the new National Off-Road title holder and also won this enduro in 2004, but he has not yet won overall this season. He is second (13 points behind Gutzeit) in the points and a win will look good on his 2012 list. Defending E2 champion, Marc Torlage (Yamaha) is leading E2, but has had some bad luck and is third overall, 10 points ahead of De Wet who could not finish the opening round.
Scott Bouverie (KTM) is fifth overall - just two points behind De Wet - and second in E2 while Wade Young (Criterion Yamaha) is trailing him by three points on the overall standings and in the E2 championship. Kenny Gilbert (Yamaha) is seventh overall, one point ahead of the vastly experienced Darryl Curtis. Birch is level on points with Riaan van Niekerk (KTM) who rounds off the top 10.
The Senior Class battle between defending champion and current leader, William 'Wild Bill' Gillitt (Yamaha) and Jodi Engelbrecht (Yamaha) will continue. Each has won twice this season and Engelbrecht would like to close the two-point gap and regain the series lead.
Something unusual will have to happen to dethrone Marc Torlage's experienced father, Denzil (Yamaha) who is the defending Master Class champion and has won every race he has entered since February 2009.
Graydon Ilderton (KTM) has been scoring consistently and is safe in second place, although within reach of third-placed Carl Rohrbeck (KTM). Mark du Plessis (KTM) did not compete in the Gauteng event and has dropped to fourth place where he is now four points behind Rohrbeck, a situation he would like to rectify.
More rain can be expected during the days preceding the race, but riders, organisers, spectators and enthusiasts might be welcomed by clear skies and no rain on race day, Saturday 18 August.
The race will start at 8am, over a route consisting of two loops with Loop A designed for the experts (competitors in the National Championship) as well as entrants in the regional enduro series. This loop will be about 25km and will include a 14km Special (timed section) that will take riders through a quarry. Although the quarry is a mass of tricky sections, it will not be 'extreme', but the organisers issued a little warning: “It will be in your face and there will be no time to relax.”
The name Miss Piggy will bring back memories to riders who have competed in previous Winterberg Enduros and love it or hate it - this tricky racing section is back and will be done going down year. This year Miss Piggy's Sister will also be introduced and riders can just imagine what that section might be like!
While on the route, competitors can watch out for sections with names such as Blood Alley, Iron Bridge Valley and Mine Shaft (high quality lime-stone was mined in this area until 1990, but there are no mining activity any more), The Saddle, Bamboo Forest, George's Klap, Horse's Trail and Fire Break while they will probably post extremely fast times if they spot the leopard at Leopard Creek.
D Dump is an off-camber section of note with a huge step-up ledge to exit the section while the quarry terraces aptly named Mini Erzberg will remind enduro riders of the race in Austria with the same name. Last but not least - MTB Downhill will be an uphill.
The total race distance for national competitors doing the full race distance is about 185km.
Novice riders, Club riders and the ladies will tackle Loop B that will be doable for everybody - no matter how inexperienced. This loop will be about 30km long and competitors will have to complete it twice. The loop will start with a motocross section from where riders will tackle a river section and some open tracks and rocky downhills, but be warned: there is a Sting in the Tail section about 100 metres before the main control.
There will be lots of view points for spectators and spectator maps will be available at the race headquarters at the Loerie Ruskamp, about 16km along the R331 towards Hankey.