South African race fans have rallied up for the start of the 2019 National Motocross season. The lineup that the series has attracted is once again mouth-watering as riders prepare to battle it out for the country’s premier motocross title.
After walking away with both the MX1 and MX2 Championship in 2018, all eyes will be on Q4 Fuel Husqvarna Racing as they step into the new season.
Flying the team’s flag in the prestigious MX1 class is 22-year old Maddy Malan.The Pietermaritzburg based rider came painfully close to taking a championship title last year, but a series of unfortunate mishaps kept him from motocross glory. Having unleashed but a glimpse of his potential, Malan is preparing to pull out all the stops in 2019.
“With the team that's backing me, I know it's going to be a good year. I can't wait for it all to start on Saturday - it's time rewrite the wrongs from the last two years," said Malan.
A notable change that has been made to the team this year is the addition of rising star Nick Adams, who will be racing in MX2.
Adams’ motocross career kicked off in South Africa when he started racing at four years old. After snatching up the 85cc Championship and AMU 125cc title, he went on to gain invaluable experience on the international motocross circuit. Not only did he represent South Africa in the renowned Motocross of Nations series but managed to secure a second spot in the ADAC Championship for MX2, and a top ten finish in the Junior World Championship.
As Husqvarna’s newest recruit, the 21-year old will certainly enter the 2019 National season with a target on his back. “This is one of the best teams in the country, and now that I’m backed by the right resources the MX2 Championship is definitely the goal for me this year,” said Adams.
As he prepares to face the notorious sand of Port Elizabeth for the first race of the season, Adams added, “I lived in Lommel for 5 years, which is renowned as the toughest sand track in the world. I like riding in sand a lot, which will hopefully play to my advantage. I’ve also always done really well in Port Elizabeth, so looking forward to it.”
Rounding out the Q4 Fuel Husqvarna Racing squad is young gun Neil van der Vyver.
Having already snatched up the 50cc crown in 2017, van der Vyver is on the hunt for a new championship title. The youngster made the step up to the 65cc Class last season, and despite writing the year off a ‘learning curve’ finished on the podium several times.
With the top priority to win the championship this year, van der Vyver commented, “I’ve had an unbelievable off season - spent a lot of time on my bike and worked hard on my fitness levels. I learnt a lot from last year and can’t wait for that gate to drop in PE. With the awesome team I have behind me, I have only one goal this year and that’s to be the 2019 65cc MX Champion!”
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19 February 2019 - Honda has today announced it will restructure its global manufacturing network. This restructure comes as Honda accelerates its commitment to electrified cars, in response to the unprecedented changes in the global automotive industry. The significant challenges of electrification will see Honda revise its global manufacturing operations and focus activity in regions where it expects to have high production volumes.
As a result, Honda of the UK Manufacturing Ltd. has today informed employees of its proposal to close its Swindon vehicle manufacturing plant in the UK in 2021, at the end of the current model's production lifecycle. The plant currently produces 150,000 cars per year and employs approximately 3,500 people. Consultation activity will begin today with potentially affected employees.The global restructure will also involve Honda's automobile operations in Turkey. Honda Turkiye A.S. currently produces 38,000 units per year. The company will cease manufacturing current Civic sedan model in 2021 and intends to continue its business operations. Honda Turkiye A.S. will continue to hold constructive dialogue with Turkish stakeholders during this period.
Katsushi Inoue, Chief Officer for European Regional Operations, Honda Motor Co., Ltd., and President, Honda Motor Europe said; "In light of the unprecedented changes that are affecting our industry, it is vital that we accelerate our electrification strategy and restructure our global operations accordingly. As a result, we have had to take this difficult decision to consult our workforce on how we might prepare our manufacturing network for the future. This has not been taken lightly and we deeply regret how unsettling today's announcement will be for our people." Honda's European HQ will continue to be located in the UK. It will be focused on serving the needs of our European customers.
The gates are about to drop for the start of a brand new National Motocross season. The highly anticipated first round of the series will take place in Port Elizabeth on Saturday at the infamous Rover Raceway.
If kick starting the season on the sandy track wasn’t daunting enough, event directors have also thrown in the curve ball of longer race distances in 2019. As gruelling as this might seem, the decision will bring South African motocross events in line with international standards.
Eager to step up to the challenge is Red Bull KTM’s newest recruit Tristan Purdon, who will officially represent the orange brand for the first time this weekend. The 21-year stormed to MX1 glory in his rookie year in 2017 - a feat that will put a target on his back and deem him a favourite for the title this season.
As no stranger to the Eastern Cape’s sandy terrain, Purdon commented, “This is one of my favourite tracks of the season – it’s close to home and I really enjoy the sand. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to do my first race for Red Bull KTM, it’s going to be a good one!”
Red Bull KTM and MX1 teammate Kerim Fitz-Gerald will be another contender in the race for motocross glory.
The rider had a quiet 2018 season by his own high standards. If there was any rider capable of surprising his rivals with an epic comeback, however, surely, it’s the nine-time national champion.
South African motocross fans will be excited to discover that rising star Camden Mc Lellan will join the High School lineup this weekend.
The 14-year old motocross racer from Germiston made history when he swept up the 2018 FIM European Championship. As the first South African rider to have ever claimed a European Championship title, his pursuits internationally will be his top priority this year. “Unfortunately I will only be in South Africa for three National Motocross races as I’m overseas for most of the year. It’s always so good being home racing with my team, so I definitely plan to make the most of the time I get to compete here,” explained Mc Lellan.
Another young gun to watch out for in Port Elizabeth is reigning Pro Mini Champion Jonathan Mlimi. As the rider makes the step up to the High School Class, what many will write off as a ‘learning year’ could possibly be Mlimi’s best season yet.
“I have a lot more experience with a 125cc than what most people realise. I’m not nervous to step into a new class at all – I’m actually really looking forward to how intense the racing will be!” said a confident Mlimi.
Older brother Joshua Mlimi will fly the Red Bull KTM flag in the MX2 Class. The rider will be looking to build on the rhythm he found towards the end of last year and reinforce his status as a protagonist in the fight for a podium spot in 2019.Rounding out the team is the young Nate Mc Lellan, who will remain in the Pro Mini Class this year. Having gained invaluable experience in the competitive class, Mc Lellan will be looking to snatch up victory as defending champion Mlimi moves to the High School Class.
First testing session on the Andalusian track
for Marini and Bulega, immediately close to the fastest guys in Moto2.
Good job also for Foggia and Vietti in Moto3.
Jerez de la Frontera (Spain), February 12th 2019 - First testing session of the long way till the debut in Qatar, scheduled on next March 10th, for both Teams that have closed a very productive two-day of work in Jerez de la Frontera. In Moto2, Luca Marini and Nicolò Bulega immediately have kept the pace of the Top guys. Positive feelings also for the Moto3 couple with Dennis Foggia and Celestino Vietti among the fastest.
Luca, on track for the first time since the surgery to the shoulder of the last December, did not take long to being confident on his Kalex and after an excellent 1.41.827, signed during the Day1, he has improved his lap time till 1.41.742. Positive debut in the new category for Nicolò who has improved his best by more than 8 tenths compared to yesterday (1.42.008), best rookie.Debut also for the KTMs of Dennis and Celestino, both satisfied with the technical upgrades, whit a best laps respectively of 1.47.592 and 1.47.891. For everyone, the next scheduled event is the official IRTA test, again at Jerez de la Frontera, of the next February 20th.
It's always great to get back on the track after a long time and start the new season. We have two completely new bikes (Moto2 and Moto3) to try and we still expect a lot of work from here to Qatar. The feelings are positive, we have already tested a lot of materials and we are ready to face the official testing session.
A very positive first testing session even if I am not at 100% and after 4/5 laps I started to struggle a bit, but the pain in the shoulder is not excessive. Despite that, I was able to be fast and I did a great job with the Team on the new bike for the official test. I confirmed the feelings of last November, I'm happy and I hope to make another step with the shoulder for the IRTA test.
I'm happy to be back on the bike after a long time and have done a good job with the Team. A pity for the two little crashes, but we were able to complete our schedule and this has allowed us to improve the lap time done here last November. I can not wait to get back on track.
An intense two days of work: we did a lot of laps, tried many things and we found a good compromise. Even with the strong wind, this afternoon, I was fast and we found the standard steup from which will start again for the IRTA test. In the last run I was a bit tired, but the feelings are positive. We are on the right way.
CELESTINO VIETTI RAMUS
I needed to resume the pace and yesterday I have started not at 100% for learning how to manage the new KTM. We made some small changes, this morning we came back on track with a slightly different base and I immediately found a good feeling. I was really in harmony with the bike and I am satisfied with what I did with the Team.
After a buoyant period of testing, development and preparation, Yamaha Motor Europe N.V. is poised for success with two high profile MXGP teams and four exceptional riders spearheading its 2019 MXGP World Championship campaign.
Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP will lead the challenge with Romain Febvre and Jeremy Seewer at the helm of the advanced YZ450FM. Following a two month break at the end of 2018, Febvre has had an incredible off-season and is feeling fit, fast and strong as he enters his fourth consecutive year inside the premier class with the Michele Rinaldi led team. With 12 Grand Prix wins to his credit and 32 podium finishes, the 26 year-old Frenchman looks to return to the same form that saw him win his first MXGP world title back in 2015.
Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP's newest recruit, Seewer, made a successful team debut back in October last year with a silver-medal finish at the final round of the All Japan Championship in Sugo. The talented Swiss rider looks forward to entering his second season on the 450cc bike with the support of the Factory team where he hopes achieve the same sort of success he attained on a 250cc where he stood on the podium 26 times, five of which were Grand Prix wins. Strengthening Yamaha's 2019 crusade, Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha MXGP has retained Arnaud Tonus for a third season. In addition, the team has welcomed a familiar name back to the Yamaha Family in the form of Gautier Paulin. Both Tonus and Paulin are experienced Grand Prix racers with an honorable list of achievements that includes a combined total of 63 podium finishes and 13 Grand Prix wins. Having finished inside the top-three in the MXGP Championship on three occasions, 53 of those podium achievements belong to Paulin who has topped the box 12 times.
After a solid off-season where both riders have regularly trained together on the bike and off, the dynamic duo have reaped the benefits of working together and are likely to put their YZ450F motorcycles on the podium this season.
Both teams will travel to Argentina at the end of February where the first round of the nineteen round MXGP series will commence on March 2nd and 3rd.
Yamaha Motor Europe is delighted to announce its official line up for the 2019 FIM Superbike World Championship. The Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team will once again lead the way as Yamaha's reference team, but this year they'll be joined on the grid by the GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK Team, who step up to the premier production class for the 2019 season.
2019 marks the fourth year for the partnership between Yamaha and Crescent Racing and both parties are keen to build on the success of the 2018 season, during which the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK riders, Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes, secured three race wins and a total of 14 podium finishes between them. Van der Mark and Lowes remain with the team for the coming season, with both keen to add to their tally of wins as they look to challenge for the championship in 2019.
Having achieved everything possible in WorldSSP, including winning the World Championship crown in 2017, GRT Yamaha face a new challenge in 2019, as the team step up to contest the FIM Superbike World Championship for the first time. Former 250cc World Champion and WorldSBK race winner Marco Melandri is joined at GRT Yamaha by the reigning WorldSSP Champion Sandro Cortese, who swaps last year’s title-winning YZF-R6 for the race winning Yamaha YZF-R1 WorldSBK machine this season.
The Pata Yamaha and GRT Yamaha teams are currently testing in Europe, but in February both teams will head south of the equator to test and then race at the iconic Phillip Island Circuit in Australia, venue for the opening round of the 2019 FIM Superbike World Championship.
Andrea Dosoli: Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Manager
“We are pleased with the way the Yamaha Motor Europe racing program has progressed. We saw a clear improvement in 2018, with not just our YZF-R1 reaching maturity but also our racing operation at the track and our operation in the factory. For this reason I’m very happy to confirm our relationship with Crescent Racing as our reference team in WorldSBK will continue for the 2019 season, with Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes as the riders once again. I truly believe that continuity is critical for success in motorsport. If we can continue to work in the same way as we did in 2018 and strive to achieve the consistency that was maybe missing last year, I am confident we can make a further step in the right direction. The 2019 season will be a strategic one for us. The arrival of GRT Yamaha in WorldSBK means we now have four riders on the grid, which gives us a good opportunity to speed up development of the bike, but it’s also the final piece in our rider development program. We now have a program in place for young riders that starts with the Yamaha bLU cRU project and extends all the way to WorldSBK with a competitive machine and a competitive team. So I’m pleased to welcome GRT Yamaha to WorldSBK with Marco Melandri and Sandri Cortese, with the latter, having won the 2018 WorldSSP Championship aboard a Yamaha, being a clear example of the rider development program in action.”
South Africa’s National Cross Country Champion Ross Branch has been crowned the fastest Rookie at the 2019 Dakar Rally in Peru. After 10 of the most gruelling stages the desert race has ever seen, Branch finished amongst the world’s best in 13th overall.
Having replaced his entire engine on stage two, navigated through unfamiliar South American terrain like ‘fesh-fesh’, and acquired new navigational skills unique to the Dakar; the rider from Botswana crossed the finish line on 17 January.
Branch has dreamed of conquering the Dakar since he was six years old aftering watching riders pass through Namibia, and vowed that he would someday be one of them. He has since spent the last 26 years refining his skills as both a Motocross and Cross Country rider.
While he is affectionately known as the ‘Kalahari Ferrari’, even those deserts couldn’t prepare Branch for the sheer enormity of the dunes in Peru.
“The dunes are honestly like nothing I have ever seen before. There were some scary moments out there – I don’t think spectators could ever fully comprehend how big they are from TV,” said Branch.
To place in the top 20 at what was described by 2019 Dakar winner Toby Price as the “toughest rally he’s ever done” is an incredible feat. Dakar Rally director Etienne Lavigne explained, "We built more technical and difficult stages this year because of the type of geography of sand and dunes in Peru."
This is hopefully the start of a long-term career in Rally racing for Branch, who has done everything he possibly can to potentially secure a factory deal.
“I honestly can’t put into words what this moment means to me – riding across the finish line of the Dakar Rally as the first Rookie! It took so much to get here, but this moment makes everything worth it,” enthused Branch.
KTM South Africa’s Managing Director, Franziska Brandl, gives a closing comment after supporting Branch in Peru for the past ten days: "Seeing Ross cross the finish line of the 2019 Dakar Rally was a truly special moment. When Ross came to me with the idea of racing Dakar two years ago I gave him my full personal support. He worked extremely hard towards this and rewarding us and himself with a 13th place overall and win in the Rookies category is more than what we ever could have asked for. He rode a smart race and rubbed shoulders with the world’s best. Rally is sure something that could prolongue his racing career and best of all, although it was hard work all along, he truly enjoyed every second of this experience which makes it even more rewarding. To say I am proud is an understatement and knowing that the whole of Botswana and South Africa supported him all along still gives me goose bumps. Thank you to everyone that helped him reach his dream, from moral support to all the sponsorship received. This sport is something truly special and a race with the magnitude of Dakar shows us how closely knit this community is. I salute you all!"
Glendale, AZ – January 12, 2019 – Following his stellar win at the Monster Energy AMA Supercross season opener, Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing’s Colt Nichols rode a smart race to hold onto his championship lead with a solid second-place finish at State Farm Stadium.
Nichols got the night off to a great start with a heat win aboard his Yamaha YZ250F. He was hoping to repeat that in the main, but the track conditions tested a rider’s patience and the 24yr old made a few mistakes trying to push for the win. At the end of the day, Nichols was rewarded with an important point haul, giving him a five-point lead in the 250SX West title chase.
Unfortunately for his teammate Dylan Ferrandis, the challenging conditions made for a disappointing round two. The Frenchman started the day looking like the man to beat, showing a lot of speed and topping the time charts in qualifying. Ferrandis got a decent start but had a big crash that ended his hopes of a repeat podium finish. Still, he never gave up and fought his way back to sixth to score valuable championship points.The Monster Energy/Star/ Yamaha Racing team returns to Anaheim, California, next Saturday, January 19, for round 3 of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship at Angels Stadium of Anaheim.
As the world’s toughest stage race officially reaches the halfway mark, Ross Branch will be using every minute he can to rest at the Dakar Rally today. After coming off a gruelling marathon stage, riders are now recovering on rest day. A day that does not usually foresee any riding will however see riders tackle a 177km liaison stage to shorten the following race day. The racing action will then continue tomorrow back to San Juan de Marcona.
With a current 22nd provisional place overall, Branch has long abandoned the nerves of being a Dakar Rookie and instead describes “having the time of his life”.
He has faced some hair-raising challenges that had the potential to put his Dakar journey to a halt at times. But the joy of living out his Dakar dream has clearly surpassed them all.
We used rest day as an opportunity to catch up with the rising desert star:Physically, what does your body feel like right now? How demanding have the last five days been on your body?
My body is feeling good, surprisingly enough. I made it to rest day in one piece! The last five days have been hectic on my body, especially with the added weight on my back that I needed to carry. Other than that, though, I’m feeling healthy and strong and ready for week two!
How have your goals changed now that the first few stages are behind you?
My goals haven’t changed at all actually. One of the goals was to get into the top 20 overall, which I’ve proved is within reach. I’m just going to take it day by day though, and make sure my bike and my body stays in one piece! If I can keep up my navigation at the speed that I’m going, then I’m happy.
How has the first half of fulfilling your Dakar dream lived up to your expectations?
Experiencing the Dakar is truly living my dream - it’s everything I wanted it to be and more. I didn’t expect to be having so much fun on my bike, even on the long stages. I’m honestly having the time of my life!
What has been the most challenging stage that you've faced so far and why?
Stage five was the hardest stage I’ve ridden, I could write a book about it! The terrain changed so much, and the navigation was really tough. There was also a lot of fesh -fesh (powdery sand), which is something we’re not used to back home. The dunes were massive – I don’t think people can comprehend how big they are on TV. If that wasn’t challenging enough, I also had a crash and burst my fuel tank! I nursed it back home, but I lost a lot of time.
As South Africa's fastest Cross-Country rider, it's not often you ride in someone else's dust. What's it been like to follow the best riders in this sport?
The guys are unbelievably quick, even faster than what we thought they would be. To ride with the best Dakar riders in the world is really quite something. Yesterday morning I was lucky enough to break into the top 20, so I got to line up with some previous Dakar winners. It was an incredible experience! I realised I’ve got a bit of homework to do on the navigational side of things and need to work on my dunes. But I also saw that my pace is there – now everything else just needs to come together.Going into the next five stages, what are you focusing on to be even more successful in the second half?
The next five stages I’ll be focusing on navigating and trying go a bit quicker. It depends on the stage though because some days the terrain suits me and other days it takes me right out of my comfort zone. The main thing is to just keep my head down and stay out of trouble, and then hopefully get faster every day.
Take us a through a specific highlight that you've experienced in the last five days.
The first day started off slow, but then I saw big improvements and began moving up places. I’ve been getting better and better at navigation and pushed the pace more with each stage. So I guess the highlight is experiencing those improvements, and getting to tick off the goals I had set for myself.