9 July 2013

by Michelle Smith / Laren van der Westhuizen

Most often found behind the microphone promoting all things motocross, very seldom does this humble man take the time to discuss himself and his successful motocross career. The rest of the MX SA team scouted as much info as we could so that for a brief moment we can put the spotlight on the career of a man that has come to be known as 'Mr. Motocross'.

Laren first started riding when he was 4 years old on an Italjet. He used to ride around his house in Pinetown until his mom heard about Peewee racing on the radio. They went down to the track in 1982 and so his career began. They had 8 races that day and Laren won all 8 on a track that was really small and just a bean shape with 3 jumps.
The next year he changed to a Yamaha peewee 50cc and he won the 50cc championship. There was no question about his natural talent.

Laren's MX Career
In 1986, Laren moved to senior MX after a season or so on a Peewee 80cc. MX was really tough back then, with full gates and sometimes even double row starts. He rode a KX80cc in the novice class and won his championship. He then moved up to the 80cc expert class from '87 to '89 but it was no easy feat.
In '87 he battled to score points at his home nationals and eventually he scored his first point in PMB in '87. He celebrated his points as if he had won the championship.
In '88, he started scoring points in his home nationals more easily and even managed to run top ten at the PMB national.
In '89, his hard work had paid off and it was his turn at the top. He won his home national at his favourite track in Hammersdale and his career was now on it's way. He was named Kawasaki Rider of the Year.
In 1990 Laren was given a bike and kit and joined the ranks of the 125 Junior class. He won his first official KZN championship that year and was awarded provincial colours. Along with that he finished 3rd in the 125 junior SA championships and picked up a team ride with Wrangler Yamaha for the 1991 season.
1991 was a good year for him as he won heats at Hammersdale, East London and Kilarney in Cape town. Unfortunately abig crash in the first national of the year leaving him with a DNF and cost him a top spot in the MX nationals. This was also the year he realised he was a good SX rider, as his supercross results were better than his mx results. His season came to an end when it went to the wire with Bruce "the boss" Robertson. They crossed the line almost side by side in the final heat of the year, but Bruce winning by a nose, and giving him the championship by 1 point. Laren made up for it and won the KZN championship again that year and was 2nd overall at the Suncity superbowl final.

In 1992, the team changed to Schick Yamaha and it was his first year in 125 highschool. He finished his year 3rd in the MX and SX championships and at the end of 1992 he went to race in the USA. He won the Golden State warm-up race in California in the 125 junior class. They bumped him up to intermediate from then and hefinished 6th in the other GFI races he did. Back home he finished 4th in the Suncity superbowl SX final that year.
In 1993, he finished in the top 5 of the National MX Championship, but won his first SX National title, winning the 125 Highschool Championship. He topped it off by winning his 3rd KZN provincial title.
1994 was his first year as a 125 Senior wiht a support ride from Yamaha and he finished consistently around the top 5. This turned ut to be a real learning year for him.
1995 was another good year for him as he was selected as team captain for a BIG international at Corobrick. He raced against an American Mitchell Hodges and beat him for good points for the SA team. This was the year Pastrana also raced against Grant Langston in the same event. He also finished 2nd to Italian rider Ivan Lazzarini in an international in Angola.
1996 again saw him consistently around top 5 in the SA championships, but it was the year he realized he needed a change as he seemed to have lost motivation.
Laren decided to move to Zimbabwe in 1997 to help start up junior MX there. This turned out to be a great move for him as he took a step back from serious mx and learned how to have fun again. His riding soon became the best it ever was and he won the Zimbabwe championship in 1999 and 2000.

Laren's biggest achievement to date happened in 2000 when he won the AMU title in Morocco. There weren't too many SA riders there, but he had to race in the Mediterranean champs with the best French riders and beat all in the 125 class. He had also taken to racing downhill mountain biking and won the Dual slalom and downhill mountainbike champs.
In 2001 he went to USA to compete in the Mini-O's in Las Vegas. He did a night race at Starwest leading up to the event and finished 3rd on a 125 against 250 2 strokes. He had a bike which was not setup for him and struggled a little at the Mini O's. He rode the 125 pro class, which was stacked. He managed to finish mid pack even despite a BIG crash in heat 2 and a first turn pile up in heat 1.
At the end of 2001, he was asked to go and help Tanel Leok in the world champs. Tanel was a two time world junior champion and this was very exciting opportunity for Laren. It was also his ticket to throw in the towel for competitive MX.
He spent 2 years helping Tanel, alongside riders like Tyla Rattray, Ben Townley and Jonathan Barragan before he finally moved back to SA in 2004 and has been back ever since.

Laren's Achievements:
Motocross 1983 – 2001

- 4 times KZN regional motocross champion. (‘84,’89,’91,’93,)
- 1 SA supercross championship. (1993)
- 1 AMU All Africa motocross championship. (2000)
- 2 Zimbabwe national championships. (2000,’01)
- SA team captain in MX international. (1995)
- GFI MX warm-up winner 125 junior USA. (1993)
- Golden state series 6th Intermediate 125 USA (1993)

Cycling 1999 - 2000
- Zimbabwe national downhill mountain bike champion.
- Zimbabwe dual slalom champion.

Badminton 2004 – 2010
- Represented KZN in a national tournament 4 times.
- Represented Eastern Cape in a national tournament 2 times.
- Graded SA Woodroffe cup #9 in 2008.
- Graded #10 in 2009.

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