Race Report: The Diamonds and Dirt Amateur Ladies Fun Race - Round 1
25 March 2014

Published with Permission
by Michelle Smith

We could not have asked for better weather to kick off the first round of the 2014 Diamonds & Dirt Amateur Ladies Fun Race Series at Chestnut Hill Motocross Park. Thanks to our amazing sponsors Enlightening Life, Rockstar Energy, Fox, 32Gi, MX SA and Liquor City Groenkloof, we are able to bring the ladies a bigger and better series in 2014.

#15 Amy-Leigh Sawyer

The first half of our day was dedicated to Motocross. A large portion of the ladies competed in both the Motocross and Enduro parts which is quite an advantage in terms of developing riding skills. After a quick practice session for all the groups, we kicked off the Junior and Beginner MX on the flat track. With long straights, some flat and small bermed corners and five very small jumps, it is the perfect place for these ladies to get started in MX.

As the flag dropped it was Junior, Emma Jennings and Beginner Juliana van Niekerk that were quickest around the first corner but 8 year old Emma started pulling away from the entire group on her little KTM 50 Mini. With the Beginner ladies it was the battle for second and third between Yolandi Hichens and Christine Fick that was most exciting to watch.
As the chequered flag dropped after 8 minutes plus a lap, it was Emma out front and Benica Phillips in second for the Juniors. A great performance was put in by Juliana van Niekerk in the Beginners, with Yolandi Hichens and Christing Fick in second and third respectively. After the second heat, the top three remained unchanged and that is how it looked with the overall results for the day in this class.
The amazing thing to see is how even raw beginner ladies push their limits and had some amazing battles with the other ladies. Even more impressive was the way riding levels improved as the day progressed.
Overall Results
MX Juniors

1. Emma Jennings 50
2. Benica Phillips 44

MX Beginners
1. Juliana van Niekerk 50
2. Yolandi Hichens 44
3. Christine Fick 40
4. Annelize Boshoff 36
5. Jessica Taljaard 36
6. Tania van der Walt 36
7. Amore Hichens 31
8. Charne Steyn 31
9. Lilian Ackhurst 28
10. Emmerencia Terblanche 26

We now moved to the main MX track for the race with our Intermediate and Advanced MX girls. A total of ten girls competed in this race and it was incredible to see them all reach the first corner at the same time. Some of the starts that the ladies pulled off were incredible. It wasn’t long and the advanced girls started edging away from the rest of the pack with regional rider Amy-Leigh Sawyer putting in some incredible laps and leaving the other girls behind. There was a good battle between Samantha Erasmus, all the way from Bloemfontein, and Enduro rider Natasha Rugani. Natasha amazed us at her MX skills and she fought hard to pass Samantha in the first heat.
In the Intermediate group, it was Belinda de Villiers that was the one to beat. The big battle in this race was right behind her between Adel Pieroni, Tanya van der Walt from Pietermaritzburg and Cathlene Roos. Adel managed to hold out to the chequered flag in heat one with Tanya and Cathlene behind her.
In Heat two, Amy once again raced unchallenged and easily took the checkers and the overall in the Advanced class for the day. This time it was Samantha that managed to stay ahead of Natasha. Natasha didn’t have a great start in heat two which left her with a lot of catching up to do but she just ran out of time to try and make the pass on Samantha who rode flawlessly.
For the Intermediates Belinda once again dominated but this time it was Tanya that managed to stay ahead of Adel.
Overall Results
MX Advanced

1. Amy-Leigh Sawyer 50
2. Samantha Erasmus 42
3. Natasha Rugani 42

MX Intermediate
1. Belinda de Villiers 50
2. Tanya van der Walt 42
3. Adel Pieroni 42
4. Henriette van Eck 37
5. Dominique Tursini 34
6. Cathlene Roos 19
7. Tharien Smith 18

Some of the ladies at Riders Briefing

The Enduro loop was quite a fun course which included the flat mx track, the outride loop, a forest section and finally a basic Enduro cross section. The Intermediate and Advanced ladies had some bigger obstacles to get over and the Junior and Beginner ladies smaller ones. For the Junior and Beginners there was the option to bypass obstacles but they were penalized on points for bypassing obstacles. This was done as an incentive to encourage them to try some of the more basic ones.

The group of over 20 girls set out in rows of five starting with the Advanced girls and working back to the Juniors who set out last. The ladies had to do as many laps as they could in the time allocated.
It was a nerve wrecking few minutes as everyone waited in anticipation for the first lady to come in after the first loop and approach the Enduro cross section. It was no surprise to see Enduro rider Natasha Rugani come flying around the corner. She breezed through the Enduro cross and set off on her next lap. The faster ladies started coming through in droves now, Adel Pieroni, Cathlene Roos, Margaret Kalis, Belinda de Villiers, Helen Squirrel Armstrong, Tharien Smith, Yolani Hichens to name a few.
Once again it was amazing to see that just about every single one of the ladies attempted and, in almost all the cases, succeeded at clearing the obstacles, sometimes just barely but they did it. It was really only our Juniors Benica Phillips and Thandazo Slaghuis that opted to skip some of them.
After a very long thirty minutes the chequered flag came out for the Juniors and Beginners. It was young Benica Phillips that took first place in the Juniors with Thandazo putting in a great ride and taking second. It was incredible to see Jenine Klette take first in the Beginners. At the end of 2013 Jenine had only had her bike for about a week when she competed in our last event. Second place went to Juliana van Niekerk and third to Tania van der Walt.
Overall Results
ENDURO Juniors

1. Benica Phillips 17
2. Thandazo Slaghuis 7

ENDURO Beginners
1. Jenine Klette 25
2. Juliana van Niekerk 20
3. Tania van der Walt 11

There was so much incredible racing between the Intermediate and Advanced ladies and by the end of the race when the flag came out after 45 minutes, the ladies were flying over the obstacles to try and get those much wanted points.
The Intermediate ladies comfortably completed the course each time and it was out of town rider Helen Squirell-Armstrong that edged ahead of local ladies Tharien Smith and Belinda de Villiers in the overall results.
It was our Advanced ladies that really excelled and showed that they are all more then capable of competing in professional racing. Natasha breezed home in first, with Adel and Cathlene behind her.
Overall Results
ENDURO Intermediate

1. Helen Squirrell-Armstrong 25
2. Tharien Smith 22
3. Belinda de Villiers 20
4. Yolandi Hichens 19
5. Laura Schoonhoven 18
6. Corinna Botha 16
7. Dominique Tursini 16
8. Katherine Otty 9
9. Lourette Slaghuis 9
10. Amore Hichens 7

ENDURO Advanced
1. Natasha Rugani 25
2. Adel Pieroni 22
3. Cathlene Roos 20
4. Margaret Kalis 19

At our fun races, we create a stepping stone for ladies that socially ride bikes and we purposefully provide race conditions for ladies based on their age and skill level to ensure that they are not placed in situations that they are not ready for. As ladies develop their skills they have room to grow and to move up to other classes and ultimately one day be skilled and confident enough to race with the top girls in the country in regional and national events.

Our format caters for MX and Enduro because so many ladies cross ride and it is important in terms of skills development for ladies to experience both scenarios. The best part of our series however is that the ladies come out to have a day of fun amongst their peers.

There are plenty of pictures posted on our Facebook page, go check it out! Diamonds and Dirt

Be on the look out for the video shot by Katherine Otty, thanks so much Katherine for taking the time to do that!

Our next event is on the 11 May. Look out for all the details in the coming weeks on our Facebook, Twitter and Web Site.

The ladies getting ready to race.

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