Pepson Plastics Husqvarna Racing starts its South African National Cross Country and Enduro campaign with a three-bike attack at the Eshowe SA Cross Country Opener Saturday 3 March.
Big news for 2018 is the arrival of multiple national Cross Country Moto champion and off-road legend Kenny Gilbert to spearhead the Pepson Plastics Husqvarna Racing attack on the open OR1 class. Gilbert, who unusually only started riding motorcycles at 14 years old, rapidly became a household name in the South African Cross Country racing, but by the age of twenty, Kenny already had two national championships under his belt when he left to race in the US for a few years.
Kenny returned to South Africa to sweep up three consecutive overall National Cross Country championships and has ended second overall for the past two seasons. “I feel comfortable and I’m looking forward to chasing another title for Pepson Plastics Husqvarna Racing in 2018,” Kenny admitted. “The championship isn’t won in the first few races — it’s how you finish the entire season that matters so this season, – the plan is to build into it…”
Gilbert will be joined by Travis Gehlig in the OR2 class this season. Gehlig was first exposed to dirt riding when his father put him on a motorcycle for the first time at the tender age of four, since then his relentless pursuit of success in the sport led to the chance for him to race for Pepson Plastics Husqvarna Racing last season, but an early season crash and two cracked vertebrae put paid to progress.
Travis kept motivated, recovered and returned to the saddle mid-season to snatch up an OR2 podium to the delight of the team. “Coming into 2018 I’ve really changed my approach to training,” Travis explained. “I have spent a lot of time riding with my teammates Iain and Kenny and I’m excited to battle it out for the OR2 championship with my Husqvarna FX350 — let’s do this!”
Iain Pepper needs little introduction — the former motocross racer who moved over to circuit car racing in the ‘80s, has won several national championships and runs a leading team in the Engen Volkswagen Cup. Pepper, who doubles as team sponsor through Pepson Plastics, returned to his first love of racing dirt bikes initially just for the fun of it in 2016, but soon ended up entering the occasional Cross Country race when time permitted last year.
This year however sees old man Pepper competitively back in the saddle for a full season of Masters class Cross County Moto racing aboard a Pepson Plastics Husqvarna Racing FX350. “It feels so good to be training like this again!” Iain admitted. “I would really like to step onto that podium a few times this season and I am looking forward to being part of a great team this year.”
“We have a strong Pepson Plastics Husqvarna Racing line-up for the 2018 season,” Husqvarna South Africa brand manager Fred Fensham confirmed. “Kenny Gilbert brings an incredible pedigree to the team. Travis Ghlig is ready to bounce back and our senior member Iain Pepper has been working hard in preparation for his effort to follow a four-overall championship on the racetrack up with a two wheeled title on the dirt. “Best of luck to our guys — here’s to a great season ahead.”
Pepson Plastics Husqvarna Racing will however start the season without star rider Brett Swanepoel, who was injured in a crash at a regional event, ruining plans for Brett to start his National Cross Country OR2 title defence and attack the National Enduro E2 championship. “I am devastated for Brett,” Fred Fensham rued. “He has worked so hard and was truly on top of his game, the best I’ve seen him. “We are going to miss him but we are keeping Brett’s seat warm!”