The long-awaited return of the National Motocross Championship brought great excitement to Pietermaritzburg on Saturday. In unrelenting rain, the country’s top riders set off for the muddiest bar-to-bar battle of the season.
All eyes were on leading rider Tristan Purdon who lined-up to defend his lead in both the MX1 and MX2 Class. Aware that the muddy conditions might not play to his strengths, the rider approached the track with a specific strategy in mind. He explained, “I haven’t had the best races in the mud in the past. I knew that if I wasn’t in a position to win, then all I had to focus on was staying calm and keeping my bike alive in that crazy mud.”
After a slow start to what would be the first and only MX2 heat of the day due to the weather conditions, Purdon pushed his way through the pack to finish in third place. In what Purdon describes as “salvage mode”, he fought hard to maintain his composure in MX1 to secure second place overall.
“Even though I got a better start in MX1, my goggles let me down and I had to race without them. I knew a second and third-place finish would be good enough to hold onto the championship lead, so I stayed consistent and got to that finish line without any mistakes,” said Purdon.
Taking centre stage in the MX2 Class was Red Bull KTM teammate Cameron Durow. As a Pietermaritzburg-based rider, Durow was untouchable on the familiar track and stormed to take the victory overall. While most riders were relieved to cross the finish line, Durow was disappointed to not be able to race in another heat:
“Only one heat meant that I’d earn less points than I could have at a normal event. I’m really glad to have narrowed the gap, though, and I’m feeling super motivated as we prepare for the next three rounds of the season!”
In what has become an exciting battle between teammates, Durow and Purdon are now separated by only six-points in the race for the MX2 Championship.
Also taking top honours for the orange team was High School Class hero Jonathan Mlimi. From the moment the rider saw the weather forecast in the days leading up to the race, he describes feeling excited by the prospect of racing in the mud: “I raced pretty well in muddy conditions last season, so when I heard it was going to rain, I was actually looking forward to it – strangely enough.”
Mlimi’s confidence in the unforgiving conditions was clear from the practice lap where he set the fastest qualifying time. Carrying his winning momentum forward, the rider made his way to the front early into the main race and didn’t look back. He said: “Once I’d opened a gap, I controlled the race from the front and held onto the lead until the end!”
A cherry on the top of what was a successful day of racing for Red Bull KTM was another solid performance from Trey Cox. Things looked promising for the youngster who after qualifying first, took the holeshot in the Pro Mini race. An unfortunate tip over in the first lap set Cox back, but after regaining his composure the rider clawed his way back up the ranks to finish the day in third.
Published by: Louwrens Mahoney
Photography by: Sage Lee Voges