‘A CHANGE IS AS GOOD AS A HOLIDAY’ – DIRT BIKERS READY TO RACE!
The 2013 National Off-road Championship for dirtbike motorcycle and quad competitors has started and if the Seeding Event held earlier this year is anything to go by, the season’s opening event, the Vogelstruispan 200 that takes place on Saturday (2 March) in the Bela Bela area in the Limpopo Province, will not only produce extremely competitive action, but will form the platform of an exciting 2013 season.
The format of the national off-road championship changed somewhat and the series now consists of some shorter sprint-type events as well as a few longer races and a ‘double header’ that will take competitors back to Botswana for the desert race marathon. The time-trial system has been abandoned and the results of the Seeding Event, held on 26 January in the Bronkhorstspruit area, will determine the starting order for the Vogelstruispan 200 event this weekend.
The Vogelstruispan 200 will be a sprint-type race where 180 kilometres will test the fitness and concentration of competitors as the route, designed by the Gauteng Off-road Club’s Hannes Saaijman, will be demanding and testing with close racing action from start to finish.
The first round of the 2013 national championship has attracted the largest amount of entries in recent years with about 130 motorcycle and 72 quad competitors who will compete on national level. A total of about 380 motorcycle riders and 111 quad riders will however be in action as this event will also form the second round of the Northern Regions Championship as well as the second round of the PS Portable Shade GOC Series.
First off on the sandy route, will be the four-wheelers who will tackle the race in pairs. Three Polokwane riders finished at the top of the leader board last year and they will continue their battle this season. Brian Baragwanath (Lonestar PEP EMD BB Motorsport Yamaha) posted the fastest qualifying time and will start next to André du Plessis (Evolution Racing Suzuki) with the defending champion, Jurie Meyer (Yamaha Support) just behind him next to John Aylward (Yamaha). Also in the top ten are three former Junior National Championship competitors, Mike Wagner (Team Sabcool KTM), Jay-Zet Potgieter (X35 Energy Racing Suzuki) and Jaco Moller (Suzuki) while Danie Erasmus (Suzuki) and Stefan Swanepoel (Quad Revolution Honda) and round off the top ten.
The entry list brims with talented riders who have put in a lot of effort into their racing and anything can happen. Both the Senior and Master Classes have also received a healthy amount of entries and this promises some good competition. Jacques Struwig (Boesman Racing Suzuki) has moved to the Senior Class Championship and has posted the fastest qualifying time (he will start in the top ten) with Russell Ferreira (Diamond Trailers Honda) just behind him while the former champion, Paul Chomse, will aim for the title again on his trusted Yamaha Banshee.
In the Master Class for riders over the age of 46 years, Vicus Breedt (Suzuki) will lead the field, but he will be aware of the two former champions, Jurie Meyer (Yamaha Support) and Milton Thesen (Thesens Generators Yamaha) as well as Thesen’s team-mate, Peter Schenk, who finished second in the Senior Class championship last year, who will be amongst those chasing him. There will be a three-way battle in the Ladies Quad Class where Adi du Plessis (Evolution Racing Suzuki); Chardri Monk (Thesens Generators KTM) and Liezel Barnard (Can-Am) will aim for victory while strong competition can also be expected in the Silver Class Challenge.
Talking about anything that can happen – and it can happen in the motorcycle category as well. It seems the current champion, Louwrens Mahoney (Brother Broadlink KTM) is on a mission to keep his title, but those behind him is on their mission to give him a run for his money. They will start eight abreast and the front row looks pretty impressive. Kenny Gilbert (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha) was the fastest at the Seeding Event and will start shoulder to shoulder with Mahoney, who posted the second fastest time, while the rest will all have their eye on the holeshot and the victory.
Nicholas Pienaar (C3 Roost KTM Expert Sol) was third fastest and has already showed that he means business while Husqvarna SA’s Altus de Wet would like to give his new sponsors a good result. They are all competing in OR1 (Open Class) and will share the front row with two members of Team Kargo Racing Yamaha – Michael Pentecost (fastest in OR3 / 200cc) and Timmy Young (OR2 / 250cc) – as well Dillon Inggs (Roost ECS KTM – OR2) and Mahoney’s new team-mate, Louw Schmidt OR4 Under 21) who is the winner of the 2012 Silver Class Challenge.
After some shuffling at the end of the 2012 season, some of the teams now look totally different. The 2012 OR2 champion (De Wet) and OR4 champ (Michael Creevy) are both competing under the Husqvarna SA banner while Bollie van Rooyen has swopped his Kawasaki for a place in the Brother Broadlink KTM team together with Jonathan van Wyk who has recovered fully after losing his index finger during a race last year. The enduro specialist, Marc Torlage (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha) will also be back in action as well as the Webster brothers from Queenstown, Chris who finished overall runner-up behind Mahoney last year, but who will start a bit further down due to a problematic Seeding Event and Jonathan (Micks Motorcycles Yamaha). The Dakar Rally heroes, Riaan van Niekerk (Brother Broadlink KTM) and Brett Cummings will again be in action.
It will be risky to predict a race winner or even class winners as the new race structure and the different challenges it presents, can make a difference in the results. It will however be safe to predict that one can expect an exciting race.
Like the quad category, both the Senior and Master motorcycle classes have received enough entries to make for a healthy championship again. One can keep an eye on the battle between the multiple former champion, Wayne Farmer (LCP Gas Gas) and the defending champ, Guy Henley (Kawasaki) while a gaggle of new names and riders can cause an upset in this class. The Master Class championship might see a new champion as the name of the current champ, Neil Gailey, does not appear on the list. Jan Berning (KTM) who finished second last year will be in action again.
The new Ladies Class for female motorcycle competitors has attracted five entries and it will be interesting to keep an eye on these results while the Silver Class Challenge for novice and younger riders will again produce its share of the excitement.
Organised by the Gauteng Off-road Club (GOC), the Vogelstruispan 200 starts at 8:00 when the quad competitors tackle the race while the bike race will kick off at 12:00. Spectators can take the R516 from Bela Bela (Warmbaths) to Thabazimbi. Approximately nine kilometres out of Bela Bela town centre, turn left at the Vogelstruispan dirt road and continue for about 12km. Enter the farm Aliwal on the left and follow the dirt road to the pits. (GPS co-ordinates: S 24° 58’ 40.37” E 28° 06’ 44.39”) For updates on Twitter, go to @GOCRacing or @OffroadBikeQuad.