The 2021 South African Cross Country Motorcycle Championship may have been Kawasaki’s comeback year, but few would have imagined that the green machines would dominate as they did as the season progressed. It started quietly and without much expectation earlier in the year, but come championship time, not only is Kawasaki hero Mike Pentecost the 2021 OR1 champion, but he also dominated the class to take all three of the final open wins in a row.
Pentecost was also the only double overall Cross Country winner of the year as he led the way on his CiT Franchise Company Kawasaki KX450X in the Virgina Trials finale at Eston KZN. D’Artagnan Lobjoit added to the delight when he made it an OR1 title 1-3 on his Pepson Plastics Motul Kawasaki KX450X, while motocross refugee Wyatt Avis impressed on his Cross Country debut, coming home fourth in Seniors in the tough KZN finale on his KX250X.
“We came, we saw and we conquered,” a delighted Pepson Plastics Kawasaki Motul team principal Iain Pepper confirmed. “Kawasaki only brought its new KX X range to market this year and we jumped at the opportunity to race the new machines. “I don’t think even I would have expected to be telling you that Mike is the national OR1 title with Dart third in our first season. “Mike has also won every race since he switched to his KX450X to make it a proper dream come true!”
“This was such a stressful week knowing Brett Swanepoel and I were tied on points and having it all to do to win the championship,” newly crowned South African OR1 champion Mike pentecost explained. “So I had sleepless nights and then I pulled number 1 in the time trail start position draw. “That made me even more nervous! “But I had a killer time trial and won, so I was even more stressed knowing I had to open a 56 km loop with long grass and very little else to follow!
“I knew when Brad Cox caught me on the first lap that I had to push, so I just went for it. “But I bogged down on lap 2 and by the time I had the bike out the mud, I had my championship rival Brett all over me. “More stress!. “So I fought back again and opened up the lead, but then I had a massive crash on the third lap and my bike was all twisted up. “Knowing it was a 10 minute DSP stop, I limped back to the pits and the guys did a great job straightening the bike.
“When I got going again, Brett was right back behind me and that stressed me out again! “So I pushed like hell to get away! “Then my exhaust broke and I had no power, a hell of a lot of noise. “I was so worried Brett would catch and pass me after all that, so I pushed like hell, worrying all the way that I’d hurt a valve. “Yet my KX450X made it through and I was still by a minute and a half ahead. “I had won the race and I am OR1 champion!
“It has been an incredible and stressful year — I came back to racing with no funds and was using old parts to keep my own bike going. “By the glory of God, however, I was picked up by the CIT Franchise Company team to ride the new Kawasaki KX450X midway through the season. “And now I am champion! “I actually have no words, besides to thank my team for an incredible opportunity. “And for Kawasaki — what a season — I am so proud to be part of it!”
“What a fantastic day and debut national season!” D’Artagnan Lobjoit admitted. “Third in OR1 in a Kawasaki 1-3 is beyond our wildest dreams, but my Pepson Plastics Kawasaki Motul team made it happen and my KX450X ran like a rocket right through the season and across the country! “We’re not done yet — there are still two GXCC Gauteng races to go so it’s eyes on that prize. “Special thanks to Iain and my incredible team — this was a national year to remember!”
Former international motocross star Wyatt Avis enjoyed a challenging Cross Country debut. “I had an absolute blast!” Wyatt admitted. “The team was awesome and so helpful, although I felt like I could have done better had I not had an issue with my helmet on lap 2. “I really appreciate the opportunity, so big thanks to Iain and the Pepson Plastics Kawasaki Motul team for making it happen!”
The trying conditions at Eston saw Pepson Plastics Kawasaki Motul OR1 man Craig Alcock end a lap down and also claimed two of the team’s title protagonists. Neither OR3 lad Kyle Mackenzie and CIT Franchise Co Senior man Deon du Toit made the distance.
“We have had an incredible season,” Iain Pepper added. “A national title in our national debut year is more than we could ever have asked for, so huge props to Mike and Dart and the whole Kawasaki Cross Country team. “That was mega! “We are still not finished though — we still have the last two Gauteng GXCC regional rounds to race and we are in a strong position there. “So it’s all eyes on Verena on 30 October. Let’s do this guys!”
“This is just the beginning!” CIT Franchise Company team owner and manager Harry Grobler concluded. “2021 is a great foundation for Kawasaki Racing’s future will be working hard together as two teams with one goal next year. “All our CIT Franchise and Pepson Plastics Motul riders will only be Kawasaki mounted in every class we take on and we are already counting down to the new 2022 national season.”