9 September 2013

By Michelle Smith

At the very last minute Motocross South Africa (MX SA) was approached to help arrange a South Africa ladies wild card team to compete at the FIM Motocross of African Nations event that was held on the 30 August to 1 September at Syringa MX Park in Muldersdrift.
We rallied in record time and arranged seven girls to compete at the event. In a matter of two days, together with FIM Africa and MSA, we had them registered, entered and in the case of two Bloemfontein ladies, on their way to Johannesburg to compete at the event.

The Overall winners: 1st Brittany Cuthbert, 2nd Leah Heygate (Zambia), 3rd Amy-Leigh Sawyer.

Our ladies were:
Top Women’s MX riders Brittany Cuthbert, Amy-Leigh Sawyer and Nokuthula Radebe. Top Off road rider Taye Perry and young up and coming off road Rider Anais Steenkamp. Lastly two Women’s MX riders all the way from Bloemfontein, Samantha Erasmus and Bianca Jonker, who recently competed in the massive North Vs South MX challenge there.
Our ladies went up against three very accomplished Zambia girls namely Leah Heygate, Emma Gantley and Jenna Bohlig. Unfortunately Jenna had a fall in practice on Saturday and cracked some of her ribs which sadly put her out for the rest of the competition.
It was clear that Leah Heygate was the lady who would compete with our top rider Brittany Cuthbert after the blazing pace both ladies set in practice.

Some of the SA ladies and Zambia ladies with SA MX Legend Grant Langston. (Rich Sutherland Photography)

Heat 1:
Brittany Cuthbert aka the Holeshot Queen, lived up to her reputation and was out of the gates like a bullet. Amy Sawyer was in second with Leah Heygate right behind them. Leah quickly overtook Amy and started chasing down Brittany. The pace was incredible and Brittany pushed hard to hold off and stay ahead of Leah all the way to the finish. Amy Sawyer held on to third until on the second last lap where she went down and struggled to get going again. This allowed the entire field to pass her.
We had a great battle for fourth and fifth between Taye Perry and Anais Steenkamp. Taye managed to pass Anais but sadly on the last lap Taye’s bike stalled and it allowed the Anais to pass and cross the line for third. Taye did not finish.

Heat 2:
Everyone knew that an intense battled had now brewed between Brittany and Leah. A few laps in, Brittany made a mistake in the front and went off track. This allowed Leah to take the lead and take it to the finish. Amy Sawyer had better luck and came in for third. The fierce battle for fourth and firth between Taye and Anais again ensued and this time Taye held on to take fourth and Anais fifth.

This is how close the racing was between Brittany and Leah.

Heat 3:
Everything was on the line for this one. Winner takes all! Would it be Brittany or Leah?
Straight out of the gates Zambian rider Emma Gantley went down and unfortunately it put an end to her great race day.
Leah took the lead but it was clear that Brittany had no intention of letting her get away. Four laps in and up at the top of the track Brittany had just managed to edge past Leah as they came back into view, but then Leah managed to edge back into the lead as they got to the next corner.
Now heading into the back straight Leah over jumped slightly and that seemed to effect her pace into the sand rhythm section. Brittany managed to keep great pace and the ladies passed almost side by side over the finish line jump as the last lap board came out.
Leah went wide around the next corner and Brittany saw the opportunity and took the inside line pulling away just in front of her. It was a nerve wrecking minute as the ladies went out of view at the top of the track again. As they came back Brittany was still in the lead with Leah on her tail. It was a race for the finish with only a few turns left.
At that moment Leah made a mistake and went over a low berm and off track. Brittany pulled away and made her way through the last few corners to take the win. Leah quickly got back on track but it was too late and she took second.
Amy Sawyer took third again with Taye and Anais once again in fourth and fifth respectively.

Some of the SA Ladies as well as Michelle Smith and Noleen Roome from Motocross SA
pose with Beaulah Schoeman from FIM Africa.

Overall Results:
1 - 97 Brittany Cuthbert 57
2 - 41 Leah Heygate 54
3 - 94 Amy Sawyer 38
4 - 93 Anais Steenkamp 37
5 - 95 Nokuthula Radebe 30
6 - 91 Samantha Erasmus 29
7 - 96 Taye Perry 26
8 - 42 Emma Jane Gantley 21
9 - 92 Bianca Jonker 17

This was an incredible experience for each and every lady and there was some incredible racing. Missing from the field was injured Zimbabwe rider Victoria van Breda who surely would have brought another level of excitement to the mix. All eyes will now be on the 2014 event in Zambia.

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Additional photo's courtesy of Rich Sutherland Photography. Go to our Photographers page for full contact details.

Overall winner Brittany Cuthbert. (Rich Sutherland Photography)

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