Lightning doesn’t strike at the same place twice, the saying goes. When the lightning goes by the name of Rattray and the same place is called Southwick, however, the saying is dead wrong. It was just on a year ago that we reported on in all probability the most joyous day of Tyla Rattray’s racing career. Not only did he battle his way to overall victory in the deep sands of Southwick, but the weekend also saw the birth of his daughter. This prompted good friend and world championship timing guru Ludwig Verheyden to coin the wonderfully apt phrase “Dadtray”.
A year down the line, the South African has a good few additional victory notches in his belt, and throughout the 2011 season, he has been a serious contender for championship honours in the AMA American motocross championship series. This was on the back of a wonderfully consistent season, where regular podium finishes and overall victories were supported by results that dipped no lower than fifth. It all unravelled at the Unadilla national, where a DNF after a heavy crash dropped him to third in the standings and allowed series leader Dean Wilson to open up a sizeable points gap.
After this disappointment, Tyla’s stated intention was to focus on the remainder of his season on a race by race basis, squeezing the best possible result out of every meeting. When the championship series moved to Southwick, whose deep sand surface perfectly suits the skills he had honed to perfection during many years in Belgium and Holland, he came out with guns blazing. He guided his Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki to the second fastest time in the qualifying session, and the scene was set for another strong performance out of the Rattray corner.
Race 1 blasted off the gate and Tyla joined the fray in third position, with fellow South African and former teammate Gareth Swanepoel charging into the lead. Tyla was in a particularly determined frame of mind, and a few laps into the race, he displaced Swanepoel for the lead. He made the leading position his own, but after five laps in the lead, he suffered a setback when he stalled his bike. This allowed Swanepoel to retake the lead. Tyla got the bike going again soon enough, but just did not have enough time to recapture the lead, and he crossed the line in second position.
Tyla was seething about his misfortune, and in race two there was simply no stopping him. The holeshot went to lesser known Alex Martin, and the privateer built a handy early lead. Tyla was right there, however, lurking with intent. A few laps in, he made an easy pass to grasp the lead, and from then on, the race was all his own. He danced over the rough terrain in the manner that his fans have become accustomed to, and put several big city blocks’ worth of distance between him and his closest pursuer, teammate Dean Wilson. This time no errors would insert themselves into the equation, and for the second year in succession, the popular South African rode to overall victory at Southwick.
Tyla was understandably happy with his days’ work, particularly since it allowed him to undo some of the damage of the previous event’s troubles and move back into second position in the championship standings. “I was happy for the free weekend to recover after Unadilla,” he said. “I had a bad headache and took a few days off with just light training. I knew beforehand that the sand at Southwick would suit me. I know how to pace myself and save the bike on this surface, and it’s very pleasing to come away with the overall win again.”