14 August 2013

by Laren van der Westhuizen

Some times they say the best parties come about when you least expect it. This was the case with the recent North South challenge. What started out as a mere concept with little significance, has shocked the nation by turning into one of the biggest events in decades in SA.
3 competitions in 1 event meant there was a lot to ride for. First there was the individual prize for each class, then there was the interprovincial and finally, North versus South. For the first time in ages it was important for the province to race for every point. The difference between 9th and 10th could mean everything to the province. There were battles all the way from first to last and everyone gave 150%. The atmosphere was electric and the Bloem crowd came out in their numbers.

Gauteng were the eventual winners in the interprovincial, followed by Western Cape, Eastern Cape, (who surprised everybody), Freestate and KZN. The North versus South was fiercely contested over the 2 days, but the South finally won that. As for the individual classes, that was the highlight for me. Just seeing the sense of pride in each rider and how determined they were to do well for their province.

The 50cc juniors was awesome to watch. Kyle Phillips from EC was a stand out performer here. He was hounded by several "Gautengers", namely James Thompson and Barend DuToit, but non were consistent enough to stop him winning overall.

The 50cc Pro class was an all Gauteng fest, with Jono Mlimi and Cam McLellan going head to head. Jono rode like I have never seen before and despite a few mistakes, was able to win in impressive style. The rider that stood out for me here, was AJ Fourie, another EC rider. He has improved 10 fold and his corner speed was great. Ike Klaasen from WC beat him overall and another WC rider Callum Marriot was 5th.

The 65cc class was another all Gauteng fest. Dalton Venter won the class with some of the most spectacular riding of the weekend. He was hard pressed by the only real challenger from another province and that was Grant Hutton from EC. Those 2 checked out and were setting a blistering pace. The next 6 positions were all Gauteng riders. Ross Newby was the next non Gauteng rider and was also from EC. EC were showing that they were a force to be reckoned with early on.

Another EC rider was at the fore of the 85cc junior class, Keegan Hickson Mahoney. He was in a league of his own and made it 3 for 3 on the day. The next 3 riders were from Gauteng and they mixed and matched positions to finally end up with Mathew Kruger in 2nd, Dalton Venter in 3rd and Ruben Aucamp in 4th. Another Gautenger was 5th, Aiden McGuire, but he was under pressure from the WC rider Justin Sangster. Another WC rider Jason DuToit was 7th.

In the Pro-mini class, the top 4 positions belonged to Gauteng. Marcus Phelps was in incredible form winning the first 2 races comfortably. He made a mistake in heat 3 and could only manage 3rd, but was enough to win over Justin Thompson, Josh Mlimi and Marco DeVrye. The EC rider Keegan Mahoney was 5th in an impressive pro-mini debut and KZN rider Janes Van Sandwyk was 6th.

The 125 class was awesome to watch. Real kamikaze pilots. Dirco VD Westhuizen from KZN, really set the awesome Bloem track alight. He wowed a few fans and is a big prospect for the future. He rode comfortably ahead as Dylan Stokes from WC and Nicholas Phelps from Gauteng who went bar to bar holding nothing back. The aggressive nature of the 2 put them on the deck in the final heat, but both still remounted and secured 2nd and 3rd place overall, with Dylan being in 2nd and obviously Nicholas 3rd. Marco Ras from Gauteng had an awesome day to finish 4th ahead of the 2nd WC rider Alastair Cordiner.

The MX2 class was impressive. Well over 30 riders on the line and a welcome return from several top riders of yester-year. Richard Van Der Westhuizen is the reigning champion and showed us why with an impressive win for Gauteng. He was hard pressed by Tennant and Avis, but Avis suffered a mechanical and Tennant had 1 or 2 bad starts. This left the door open for the biggest surprise of the weekend, the 2 young guns, Brad Fenton, who had raw pace and Tristan Purdon, who looks so solid on his new Honda. Tennant did squeeze out Purdon for 3rd, but MX2 next year will be one to watch. Gauteng's Danny lailvaux probably deserved the team spirit award, as he rode out of his socks and above the expectations of him, to finish 5th. Truly phenomenal performance. Freestate's Tyson Engelbrecht was 6th and worth mentioning that endure rider Scott Bouverie was 7th.

The MX1 class was also stacked. Not 1 slow rider here. Once again, Richard pulled off a win, but not without having to deal with major pressure from Sacha Naude. Richard hasn't been on the bike much and suffered a little arm-pump. Sacha was able to use this to his advantage by winning heat 2. He rode hard to try and win heat 3, but Richard dug deep enough to hold him out. Ross Branch was solid on a KTM 350 and is looking good for 2014. He managed to secure 3rd and some good points for the north. Tennant showed good form on a 450 to finish 4th ahead of Lloyd Vercuil and FS's Mering Vermeulen. I have to mention that Duncan Hannan rode out his socks for EC and opened a few eyes by finishing 7th.

The MX4 ladies was awesome to watch. Brittany Cuthbert won all 3 heats, but had some pressure in heat 1 from EC's Sandy Wicks. Amy Sawyer was 3rd for Gauteng and Samantha Pead was 4th for WC. Amy Sawyer came back strong in heat 2 and 3 to secure 2nd and make it a Gauteng 1 and 2. It was awesome to see a ladies class and I have no doubt we will see at least 20 on the line in 2014.

The MX3 class was split into vets, masters and Grand masters. The racing was fierce but was dominated by the masters class and the 2 WC riders, Alec Combrink who won and Terence monk who finished 2nd. FS rider Chris Futcher was fast, but a little unfit on his return to mx. He did enough to win the vets class ahead of Nichlaas VD Linden from Gauteng. The Grand Masters was a nice big class and was won by Gauteng team Captain, Geoff Den. WC rider George Liebschen was 2nd and KZN's Rod Bergstrom was 3rd.
WC wracked up points in the MX3 classes and other provinces will have to focus here for 2014.

The event was a huge success and provinces are already talking strategy for 2014. The track was voted as one of the best in SA and no doubt it will be Bloem who hosts this event in 2014 again.

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