Quintin van Jaarsveld
Drive and determination drove Blake Gutzeit to a fifth-place finish in the Motul Roof of Africa.
Oslo Beach-based Gutzeit had to gut it out after dehydrating in the sweltering Lesotho heat with a worrying ways to go to finish the first of the two notorious full race days on Friday.
Growing up in a racing family – his father Des a decorated Supercar driver, brother Jade a former Roof winner and brother Shane the 2016 South African drifting champion – seemingly steeled him for a challenge like this, and he would go on to finish strong on Saturday.
“Fifth doesn’t really show how hard we actually worked but the times were so close and I missed the podium by six minutes,” the Proudly Bidvest Yamaha rider, who completed the 425km distance in 16 hours 28 minutes and one second, told eHowzit.
“Not getting lost [like he did when he veered off the track and lost time in 2014]and having a lot of positives after three days of racing, I’m happy to give my team a fifth against the world’s best extreme enduro riders.”
His technical prowess saw him finish fourth in Thursday’s time trial and everything appeared to be going according to plan on Friday, until circumstance and the 35°C heat threw a spanner in the works.
“My time trail actually didn’t feel so fast. I rode a smooth, steady pace. It was a good confidence booster because I knew my pace was good.
“Friday was the day I lost the podium. Travis [Teasdale], Scott [Bouverie] and I rode a good pace the whole day, five minutes behind [eventual winner Graham]Jarvis most of the day, then towards the end of the day, they sent us up a ridiculous pass where Travis and I teamed up and pulled each other up.
“After that, we had around an hour to go when I ran out of water. “The heat was a killer and just drained me. I dehydrated and had to slow down or I was going to crash.
“I was beyond exhausted and had to work really hard after the race on my nutrition and mind to get ready to fight the next day.”
He finished the day in fifth position but was left with having to make up seven minutes on Bouverie and three on Teasdale on Saturday to get on to the podium.
Lesser athletes wouldn’t have made it to the startline the next morning. Gutzeit did more than just that – he went out guns blazing for just over six hours to earn fifth place.
“I never left anything on the table. I rode my heart out and pushed the whole day. I made a break-up puke pass but it wasn’t enough and we all rode together to the finish.”
He added, “I didn’t have one mechanical the whole three days. My Proudly Bidvest Yamaha YZ250X was a pleasure to race and I’d like to thank my whole team for the hard hours behind the scenes to make sure our bikes are 100%.”
Photo: Blake Gutzeit celebrates with (left) Peter Wilkins (Yamaha SA General Manager) and Alexandre Kowalski (Yamaha Motor Europe Marketing, Racing and Event Manager).