A totally amazing event from start to finish with a resilient team and the support of Motorsport South Africa and the community enabled the team to experience world class racing in Vantaa Finland from the 26th – 28th August 2022.
South Africa selected their top riders in the MX 65cc, MX 85cc and MX 125cc classes to take on this gruelling challenge in Vantaa with sheer drive and passion for this global stage event. The team was always in good spirit and the team bond was phenomenal from onset to return to South Africa. Riders and parents soon acquired their code names and jokes flew in all directions from “Nev-Dawg”(team manager) to “B-Lake”(#44) to having some cheese with that whine (#37). The team kept things light-hearted among the stress and pressure of what lay ahead.
Friday 26th arrived and the riders were as excited as ever and experienced the technical scrutineering process and seeing the vast number of riders from all over the world descend on Vantaa MX track. The entire venue was packed with MX kitted campers and busses and the vibe was enthralling to see how magnificent the magnitude of MX really is across the globe.
All the teams were also advised of the Ride Green Cup and that teams would be checked and marked to ensure compliance to the Ride Green Environmental code.
The riders and mechanics took their time to walk the track and study every corner, every jump and strategise for the race weekend ahead. Nothing was left unturned as the bikes were checked and double-checked, bolts torqued to spec, spokes tightened and tyre pressures checked for what proved to be the ride of their life.
Saturday morning arrived and like normal the buzz of Motocross was in the air and the smell of high-octane fuel and two-stroke oil permeated the air…..it was indeed time to RACE! The jittery edge on the riders was apparent and final words from coaches and mechanics and even the moms to simply Keep Calm, you got this!
The morning started with a free practice warm up session where riders got to feel the flow of the track. Most riders got good lap times in but sadly Luke Grundy on 125cc had engine failure in the first part of free practice. He managed to regroup for the qualifying session thankfully. First time out on this soil at Vantaa for our SA riders was to determine the build-up to the qualifying race later Saturday. Whilst it is no measure of qualifying when doing free practice, it is a guide on what to expect.
Play time was over and one could feel the seriousness take over as riders and mechanics, coaches and moms had now experienced that thrill of the beast that lay ahead on the track, it was now or never to give it all you have got.
The classes lined up for qualifying as the heat started making its mark down on the team. Very little could prepare anyone for what lay ahead in qualifying as many had poured their hearts and much more into being at this event to represent South Africa.
They launched for qualifying and with rider and machine, mechanic to guide, preparations and plans, heart and breathing control in place and the buzz of machines as they took the 1st lap with ease. Lap 2 was time to find their feet with mechanics taking stress as the timing boards in the pit lane kept on malfunctioning. It was now only experience to guide you through this blaze of bikes launching and bouncing through the landmine of braking bumps (which had braking bumps) and obstacles. It’s an onslaught of the best in world demanding the best out of everything you can give and when there is nothing left, take another check and dig even deeper as there might just be some more left to give. Simply amazing to watch all 3 classes go out to qualify for the official race day on Sunday. Even more spectacular was to witness the South African flag flying high for this event among the countries represented. Goosebumps to see OUR team, OUR riders, OUR sport on this platform in Vantaa, Finland.
Only those who attended this event could describe in some way how demanding and challenging this really was. Looking from afar or from social media, one doesn’t get the full impact and all the emotions running wild simply by being there, let alone taking part as a competitor.
Our riders pushed their limits to the extreme and although some did not qualify, every single rider in our team is a World CHAMPION just by representing. Those who didn’t qualify went into Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) to push that limit once again. An inspiring photo taken of the 3 x 125cc riders after LCQ will always remain dear to the team. The passion put into this sport is in abundance, their last attempt of pushing the extreme and then dealing with their own expectations after LCQ. From left to right, Kyle Townsend #89, Blake Young #44 and Luke Grundy #450 captured the essence of every single riders’ strife in this one photo. Blake held extremely strong for most part of the LCQ and managing to be in that top 4 of LCQ but suffered arm pump sadly, could not clinch that top 4 slot in LCQ at the end.
To emphasise the competitiveness in all 3 classes at this event, something you don’t see back home in South Africa yet is having the top 20 riders all pacing milliseconds apart placing this sport in the same arena as Formula 1. The pack is not 2 or 3 seconds spacing of riders, the results show milliseconds in lap times. Tough does not begin to describe how great this was to experience.
The entire team supported and motivated each other to such a degree that those riders who did not manage to qualify to race on Sunday were out there shouting and screaming for our South African riders in the 65cc and 85cc class.
Our stars were shining on Sunday no doubt, and the adrenalin was pumping at 5 bar for sure as the pressure mounted for our qualifiers.
First to engage was the 65cc riders but for Sunday there was no track prep. Only the faces and landings were touched for safety. Extreme sport had arrived, and they launched out the gates with the South African team full tilt on the throttle.
Trent Valsecchi finished overall 37th with Kabelo Ledwaba behind him at 39th, and Trenton Kretzmann at 40th in the 65cc overall for Sunday.
In the 85cc class, Neil van der Vyver clinched a 31st position with Jordan van Wyk right behind him at 32nd, and Trey Cox at 37th.
Every rider in the team went out there to give their utmost and a truly inspiring performance for the entire team. Congratulations to every single rider taking on this challenge.
We did not walk away empty handed as the South African team took glory in the prestigious Ride Green Cup, we went to Finland to make a mark and we surely did.
The entire team glory goes to these young riders and to make special mention of each one is apt. These riders need to know the respect and honour bestowed upon them to represent our wonderful country in the sport we love.
- Trent Valsecchi #300
- Evan Frost #5
- Trenton Kretzmann #94
- Cruz Martin #202
- Kabelo Ledwaba #280
- Neil van der Vyver #18
- Jordan van Wyk #747
- Mathew Correia #200
- Christian Berrington-Smith #141
- Trey Cox #37 ( Team Captain )
- Luke Grundy #450
- Blake Young #44
- Kyle Townsend #89
As team manager (Neville Townsend), thank you to all the parents and team supporters in South Africa for making this dream a reality for our riders and specific appreciation to Motorsport South Africa for supporting this team in 2022. Thank you to each parent and sponsor enabling support to the riders and allowing our riders to be a part of this unbelievable amazing dream ride. Thank you to Trey Cox (#37) as team captain for supporting the team during the event.
We look forward to our preparation for the FIM Junior Motocross World Championship Cup in 2023 in Romania and that Motorsport South Africa will continue to enable future world champions.