After five days of rain, the sun finally came out in Pietermeritzberg, South Africa just in time for the race action to kick of at stop one of the 2011 UCI Supercross series. With time trials and the new addition to the series, the Super Final, run on Friday, Saturday's race was packed out with tight running action, and live commentary from Pete Dylewski on Freecaster.tv being broadcast with the support of Swatch.
Coming in hot from her win in the Superfinals on Friday, French rider Manon Valentino proved that she would be a force to be reckoned with. After winning her first moto, she fell in motos two and three but still managed to transfer out, barely scrapping by. In the semi main event, Valentino stepped up her game and took a solid win with Aussie rider Caroline Buchanan chasing her the whole length of the track. Come main event time, Valentino proved to the world what she had, taking a commanding lead from start to finish, finishing with 1.1 seconds over Maria Gabriela Diaz out of Argentina and being the first rider to win both the Superfinal and main event. Another favorite to win, New Zealand's workhorse Sarah Walker, rounded out the podium with the third spot.
Rolling into South Africa, the Elite Men's class was stacked with top riders, with Marc Willers and Sam Willoughby being the front runners. In the motos, Willers and Willoughby were shredding, as was David Herman, who came into South Africa with food poisoning, and dropped 10 lbs. between leaving Chula Vista and his first moto today. Also in the lineup was Corben Sharrah, French rider Joris Daudet, and Raymon Van Der Biezen. Beyond that, there were a some of wild cards thrown in such as Donny Robinson, who was hitting his first Supercross race since being injured at the first race of last season and Afro Bob DeWilde, the oldest rider out there, turning 34 at the end of this month.
Out of the motos, there were a handful of riders with flawless perfects (winning all three motos). As expected, Willers and Willoughby hadn't lost a lap, Sharrah and Brian Kirkham (Australia) were perfect as well. Beyond them, David Herman won all but one moto, where he came in a close second to Josh Meyers. Canada's Tory Nyhaug was fifth in line for the low points with two seconds and a win, leaving these five with optimum gate choice for the quarter main events.
Rather than talk about who made it out of the quarters, I'd like to point out the riders who went out fighting for a transfer spot in a couple of the more exciting races. With a solid ride in his motos, Sylvain Andre went down in the hip/S turn second of the track while in a transfer spot. With him went Donny Robinson and two other riders. Aussie Brian Kirkham battled it out, but the old, but good, Afro Bob De Wilde got the best of him. snatching the transfer spot, Kirkham would settle for sixth just ahead of Nic Long in seventh. With some of the best riders in the world not transferring out, it is truly anyone's race at any time.
In the first of two semi main events, everything went just the way it should. Corben Sharrah lead the lap start to finish with Joris Daudet in second and Khalen Young trailing for third, all sitting pretty. The fight was for the final transfer spot between two American riders, David Herman and Josh Meyers. Meyers wanted it a bit more than Herman, which would unfortunately leave him laid out on the last straight, going down in the fight. In the second main event, the race was over in the first turn. Marc Willers had the holeshot, but behind him, Willoughby, Nyhaug, Jelle Van Gorkom and Michael Robinson all blew up together in a spectacular wreck. Coming out of the carnage for easy transfer spots was Raymon Van Der Biezen, Afro Bob De Wilde and Andres Jimenez, making up the second half of the main event.
At main event time, Corben Sharrah (GT/USA) had the first gate pick, choosing gate one, Willers (Speed/New Zealand) with the second pick took gate two and it seemed like that would be the race to the first turn. Corben took the holeshot, with Willers and Khalen Young close in tow. Through the corkscrewed second turn, Sharrah kept his commanding lead and Young was ahead of Willers. This is the point where Willers hit eject, sliding out and taking himself out of a podium position. Ready to jump on it and pick up his scraps, Joris Daudet gunned it and kept himself in third for a solid podium finish at the line. Although he suffered from food poisoning, David Herman managed to stay up and grab a seventh spot in the main event.