Following a successful seven-year partnership, Mazda reluctantly ended its sponsorship of South Africa's National Mountain Bike Series, with 2008 being its final year as title sponsor.
In 2001, Mazda saw potential in the mountain biking market for its selling its all-terrain vehicle brand, so it threw its support behind the Mazda Drifter Series, which created a series out of six premier marathon-distance races at the time. The company also became the first major corporate brand to associate with mountain biking in South Africa, which at the time operated in a fragmented state in the shadow of road racing.
The Mazda National Series, as it became known, grew each year in numbers and in profile. In 2008, almost 8,000 mountain bikers participated in the 17 Mazda-sponsored National Series events throughout the country. More recently, the National Cup Series for cross-country and downhill mountain bike racing was also included in the Mazda sponsorship portfolio.
In 2008, Mazda's mountain biking properties comprised the seven-event National Marathon Series, the five-event National Cross Country Cup and the five-event National Downhill Cup, including the South African championships for each of the three disciplines. The sponsorship totaled 17 events.
"Mazda has been a very loyal sponsor and we're so grateful for its support over the past seven years," said Fritz Pienaar, former multiple national champion and now National Series Director. "Unfortunately, with the economic pressures facing the motor trade internationally, uncertainty prevails and much as the marketing people at Mazda wanted to continue to support South African mountain biking in the long term, they were restricted to a short-term budget.
"On behalf of thousands and thousands of South African mountain bikers, I'd like to thank Mazda for believing in our sport and for its support in taking mountain biking to the strong position it holds today," said Pienaar, who confirmed that a replacement sponsor has been secured and will be announced soon.