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It's not often that a rookie comes out of nowhere to win a classic enduro such as the Winterberg, but that's just what 200c Yamaha rider Wade Young did this weekend, beating the 2011 winner, Kiwi Chris Birch (KTM), into second by 14 seconds.
OK, Young does have a pedigree - he's the reigning SA Junior Enduro champion - but this was his first shot at the Winterberg and if he never wins another race (unlikely!) his place in the history books is assured.
The fifth and penultimate round of the SA Enduro championship was run under clear skies in the Loerie area of the Eastern Cape, and defending Winterberg title-holder birch was expected to make the running - until he made a mistake at a corner in the first motocross-type section and ended up underneath his bike.
By the time he got going Young was through, and Birch was unable to close the gap, cominh home second overall and first in the E1 (Open) Class, just six seconds ahead of three-times Winterberg winner and the current leader of the overall standings, Jade Gutzeit (Yamaha) who finished third overall.
Young said afterwards that he'd enjoyed a trouble-free ride, while Gutzeit, who won at Loerie in 2003, 2005 and 2010, commented that “this is how an enduro should be” and Birch admitted that the 2012 Winterberg was more difficult than the previous year, but quite enjoyable.
Competitors had to complete the 34km loop, that included the short motocross-type section, three times and then finish the race off with one last stint on the spectator-friendly motocross circuit..
They also had to complete the 27km loop, that included a longer 14km special timed stage, twice. The route had to be changed during their first attempt at the 14km stage due to a bottleneck created by struggling riders on a tricky uphill section. The times posted in this section had to be scrapped, and only their racing times posted after the second 14km stage counted towards the final results.
2009 Winterberg winner Altus de Wet (KTM) finished second in E2 and fourth overall after a trouble-free ride, followed by his team mate, Louwrens Mahoney (who won in 2004), third in E1. Marc Torlage (Yamaha) lost time when his bike stalled several times in the motocross section and finished third in E2 and sixth overall while Bradley van Aswegen (Yamaha) finished seventh.
Kenny Gilbert (Yamaha) was eighth followed by two KTM riders, Riaan van Niekerk (E2) and Darryl Curtis (E1). Both Van Niekerk and Curtis have been riding and training with the bikes they will be using for the 2013 Dakar Rally and admitted that they had to get used to their 'smaller' enduro bikes.
Defending Senior Class champion, William 'Wild Will' Gillit (Yamaha) scored his third win of the season to clinch the Senior Class title; the season-long battle between himself and Jodi Engelbrecht (Yamaha) fizzled out as Engelbrecht could not compete due to illness. Bruce May (Yamaha) finished second with Steve Landman (Yamaha) third after not competing for a few months due to injury.
Current Master Class champion, Denzil Torlage (Yamaha) wrapped up the 2012 class title with another straightforward win, but there were no points for Graydon Ilderton (KTM) who was second in the standings. He made a mistake by tackling the wrong loop according to the sequence he had to follow and will now drop on the overall standings in this class. Carl Rohrbeck (KTM) finished second, ahead of Kevin Bremner (KTM) and Evan Woodgate (KTM).
The final round of the SA Enduro series will be run in KwaZulu-Natal on 20 October.