South Africa’s National Motocross season kicked off with a sandstorm in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. The country’s motocross titans lined up at the infamous Rover Raceway track for what proved to be an action-packed start to 2019.
Looking to lay down an early season marker was multiple national champion Kerim Fitz-Gerald. The Red Bull KTM rider has signed up for both MX1 and MX2, which will be particularly demanding in 2019 with the addition of longer race distances and ultimately shorter rest time between motos.
It’s no secret that a sandy track is not Fitz-Gerald’s terrain of choice, but despite this he managed to secure a third place in both MX2 motos to take third overall. “PE has always been a tough event, so taking third place here is as good as a win for me,” said Fitz-Gerald.
With three demanding motos behind him, tell-tale signs of fatigue began to set in as Fitz-Gerald attempted to race the final heat of the day.
“I didn’t expect the track to get as rough as it did, and I was just exhausted to be honest. You need enough energy to ride on top of the sand here, and I was just hitting every hole out there. I never ended up finishing the moto, but I’d rather make it home safe than throw it all away in the first race,” explained a disappointed Fitz-Gerald.
Stepping in to fly the orange flag high in MX1 was teammate Tristan Purdon.
It was Purdon’s first race for Red Bull KTM, and after a recent wrist injury his third place overall exceeded expectations.
Despite a crash in the first moto, Purdon defied the odds to claw his way back up the ranks in the second heat. He later enthused, “I had a better start in the second heat, but I faded a bit in the middle of the race. Towards the end I gave one last push to finish second and ultimately ended third overall. I’m really happy to get some good points on the board for the championship and can’t wait for Cape Town!”
Adding to Red Bull KTM’s silverware on the day was rising star Camden Mc Lellan, who snatched up second overall in the High School Class.
With a full international season ahead of him, the youngster was intent on making the most of every opportunity he has to race in South Africa. After storming to victory in the first moto, Mc Lellan narrowly missed the top step of the podium with a second place in the final heat.
Ironically, the Port Elizabeth race played out similarly for younger brother and Red Bull KTM teammate Nate Mc Lellan. The Pro Mini rider opened the day of racing with a win, and after a slower start in the final heat finished second overall.
“It felt really good to be back out there – I really enjoyed how gnarly the racing was! I’m a bit disappointed that I never managed to hold onto the win overall, but today has given me a lot of confidence for the season going forward,” said younger Mc Lellan.
Rounding out the orange squad at Rover Raceway were the Mlimi brothers.
MX2’s Joshua Mlimi was off to a solid start for the 2019 season with a fifth place overall. “This result was a massive improvement from the Port Elizabeth race last year! I’m really happy to start out the year this way – there’s still a lot of time left to chase the championship,” said Mlimi.
It was a big day for his younger brother Jonathan Mlimi, who made his debut in the High School Class. The day turned out to be a massive learning curve for the 2018 Pro Mini Champion, who battled through the testing terrain to finish 15th overall.
“I crashed a few times and fell off the pace. This wasn’t how I hoped to start the season, but I just need to keep my head up and put all my energy into preparing for Cape Town,” said the young Mlimi.