Achieving a lifelong dream, South African Blake Gutzeit proved himself one of the best in his sport by winning the 2017 SuperEnduro World Championship.
Clinching the title in a nail-biting end to the four-round series in France on March 18, 22-year-old Gutzeit put his Yamaha on the top step of the podium to secure a debut world crown after just three years of trying.
After a mixed start to his SuperEnduro journey during 2015, Gutzeit saw his 2016 title ambitions cut short with a serious knee injury. After a long and arduous recovery, he team with Yamaha for the 2017 and quickly stepped up his game.
A debut race win at round one in Poland was followed by a debut overall win next time out in Germany. Backing that up with another victory in Spain put him firmly in the driving seat for championship honours at the series finale in France, where he ultimately got the job done…
Congratulations Blake on winning the 2017 SuperEnduro Junior World Championship!
Blake Gutzeit: “Thanks so much. It feels crazy when you say that, world champion. I think it’s going to take a bit of time to get my head around that. It’s great though, you know to come from South Africa and race is one thing, so to win it is huge for me.”
How were the nerves coming into the final round in France?
“It was certainly a nervous time. I don’t think I slept properly since Wednesday night. Although I felt confident in my riding, so many little things were playing on my mind — the sort of stuff that never really bothers you until the pressure mounts.”
You certainly made it interesting. A win in heat race one but then a bunch of crashes in the next two races kept us all on our toes. What happened?
“Yeah, it got a little too wild for me. Race one was great, I got a perfect start, got out front and stayed there for the win. In races two and three I was boxed in off the start and that just made it really hard to get anywhere. I crashed about eight times in race two.”
The rock garden certainly grabbed you a bunch of times too!
“It was chaos there most races. I think because the track was so tight everyone stayed bunched up. The rock garden was four metres wide and not the regulated five metres, so when you put 14 people on the track at the same time then things get loose.”
Overall, with race wins at every round and two outright victories plus the title it’s clear to see you stepped your game up this year. What made the difference this season?
“A bit more experience and a bit more confidence I think. I was better prepared coming into the championship and knew more of what to expect. I panicked less when things went wrong. You just got to accept things will go wrong in SuperEnduro and I dealt better with that this year. I’m enjoying being with Yamaha too. My team built a great bike and I love riding it. The chassis is so stable, the power smooth and the suspension is perfect for me.”
Rewinding back to round one in Poland and you had a big crash in the water pit, you were lucky to escape from that one right?
“Yes, it was a close call. I rolled the water pit because the guys in front were rolling it but the guy behind must not have seen this and jumped it. I felt this huge thud as he landed on me and I crashed big. I was lucky to shake that one off, my season could have ended there.”
Of course the title was a huge highlight to the season but Germany and Spain were pretty good too?
“Germany was my first ever overall podium. It was great to do that there. My team is German and I’ve a lot of support in Germany so to repay them with a win was great. The track was awesome too. with a bunch of overtaking lines and lot of flow. Spain was the opposite. Much more of a technical track but I think coming off a win kept me strong in the mind and I pulled off another win. A big thanks to everyone who’s helped me along the way, this title is as much for them as me.”