Defending national enduro title holder, Chris Birch (KTM) made a welcome comeback to the series with a win in the Kei Enduro, Round 3 of the 2012 championship, run at the weekend outside East London in the Eastern Cape.
It was his first national victory of 2012 as well as the first time he had won this race - the only one he didn't win during the 2011 season.
A crash and injuries prevented Birch him from finishing the first two rounds of the 2012 series so, with no points on the board, he had start from the back of the field - but that didn't stop him from posting the fastest times after the four special timed stages of an event that was described by the riders as a “real enduro”.
Jade Gutzeit (Yamaha) finished second behind Birch overall as well as in the E1 (Open) class, with Altus de Wet, provisional winner last time out, third overall and first in the E2 (200cc) class for the second consecutive race.
Schoolboy Wade Young (Yamaha), winner of the 2011 Junior National Championship, posted his best result since moving to the Senior ranks, finishing second in E2 and fourth overall, despite still suffering from an injury, while Kenneth Gilbert (Yamaha) was happy with his best result in the enduro series (third in E1 and fifth overall) this year.
Gilbert moved back to South Africa and has been competing full-time locally this year after racing in the US for the past five years.
He finished only two seconds ahead of Marc Torlage (Yamaha) who was third in E2 after a frustrating race where he crashed and admitted to trying too hard, resulting in him losing valuable time. He was also still suffering from injuries sustained after crashing at an event three weeks before.
TOUGH DAY AT THE OFFICE
The rest of the top ten consisted of KTM riders Louwrens Mahoney (fourth in E1 and seventh overall), stunt star Brian Capper, who was fifth in E1 and eighth overall, Scott Bouverie (fourth in E2 and ninth overall) and Riaan van Niekerk - fifth in E2 and 10th overall despite illness.
Bouverie gave himself a very tough day at the office by wrong slotting on the start, which meant he had to ride that section twice without a break - but he managed to complete the extra distance within the time limit and score valuable but hard-earned points.
Darryl Curtis (KTM), who was also sick during the race, was 11th; Curtis and Van Niekerk rode with care as they were due to leave for Morocco the day after the race to compete in the XRally Marrakech.
The battle between the Senior Class winner of the season opener, Jody Engelbrecht, and defending champion William 'Wild Bill' Gillit (each on a Yamaha), who won the second round, continued with Engelbrecht claiming his second victory of the season. Gillit was not too far behind in second place. Competitors in the Senior Class rode each of the 8km and 10km timed stages only once and there was no margin for error.
Another Yamaha rider, Ryan Struckman, rounded off the Senior despite losing time when he flipped his bike. Bruce Gargan was fourth and Bruce May fifth, in his first season in the national enduro championship, to make it an all-Yamaha top five.
Marc Torlage's father Denzil remained unbeaten in the Master Class, beating KTM riders Mark du Plessis and Graydon Ilderton.
The fourth round of the SA Enduro series, the Offroad Evolution Enduro, will be run at the Wild West track outside Johannesburg on 2 June.