2014 SA NATIONAL OFF-ROAD MOTORCYCLE & QUAD CHAMPIONSHIP
RAIN TURNED NATIONAL OFF-ROAD SEEDING EVENT INTO AN MORE CHALLENGING AFFAIR
Heavy rain during Friday night resulted in the Seeding Event for the 2014 SA National Off-road Motorcycle and Quad Championship held on Saturday (1 February) outside Bronkhorstspruit in Gauteng being turned into a wet and muddy affair and it was especially the quad competitors who had to face deep river crossings early on a dark and cloudy raceday.
The area received a total of only 20mm rain the week prior to the race, but between on Saturday morning, houses in the area were flooded when 40mm of rain fell in two hours. There was yet another obstacle the organisers – the Gauteng Off-road Club (GOC) – had to face. Although they (GOC) had permission from local authorities to host the event, there was a high visibility of police as riots broke out in town two days before the race. Local police and GOC then discussed the continuation of the event at the highest level and final permission to proceed was eventually granted at about 22h00 on Friday night.
The weather cleared during Saturday and about 300 off-road riders from all over South Africa competed without incident in the Seeding Event to determine the starting order for the opening rounds of the national and Northern Regions championships as well as the PS Portable Shade GOC Series.
The quads had to negotiate the muddy and slippery route first and this resulted in some unfortunate 'quad drownings'. In the end it was four Q1 Class riders who posted the fastest times with André du Plessis (Yamaha) claiming pole position with a fastest lap time of 38min 04,689s. He was 2min 47sec faster than fellow Polokwane rider and defending title holder, Jurie Meyer (Yamaha). Meyer was just three seconds faster than former Junior National Champion, Jaco Moller (Portable Shade Extreme ATV Tzaneen) with another Polokwane rider and former champion, Brian Baragwanath (Yamaha) just over half a minute further behind.
Jacques Struwig (Boesman Racing Suzuki) posted the fifth fastest time and was the fastest in the Senior Class with Charles Lee (Signwonder Racing Suzuki) second and Stuart Freeman (PS Diamond Trailers Yamaha) third in this class. Hannes Saaijman (Suzuki) finished sixth overall and was the leading Q2 Class rider. Leonard dos Santos (Q2 – Suzuki) started his season better than he finished the previous one and was seventh fastest (only four seconds behind Saaijman) while Damien Lee (Honda) was eighth quickest. Bethlehem rider, David Hollis (Yamaha), made a comeback after taking off a year and was ninth while Franco Annandale (Q2 – Suzuki) rounded off the top ten.
The 2013 Dakar Rally quad hero, Sarel van Biljon (Can-Am) was back in action although he experienced a few problems. He was 29th while two Senior Class competitors, Russell Ferreira (PS Diamond Trailers Honda – he drowned his quad) and Willie Roos (Yamaha) could unfortunately not post any times.
It seems as if the Master Class battle will again be between defending champion, Jurie Meyer Snr (Yamaha) and Tony dos Santos (Suzuki). The latter beat the champion this time albeit by 43 seconds. Org Geldenhuys (Abacus DIVISIONS Racing Can-Am) was third. Org's wife, Karen (Can-Am) was the fastest lady on four wheels with Maryna Venter (Honda) second. They will however have to face more ladies at the first round of the national championship as a few entrants in the Ladies Class could not attend this event.
Not too many quad competitors between the ages of 14 and 16 entered in the new High School Class and Jaco's sister and team-mate, Wilmari Moller, hope to have more competition during the year. Karl Rost (Honda) won the Silver Class Challenge.
The track dried out somewhat during the day before it was time for the motorcycle riders to tackle the 33 kilometre loop that included some rocky sections and river crossings. There was a new name on the entry list and while all eyes were on the current and former champions, the Botswana motocross and off-road rider, Ross Branch (Brother KTM) clinched pole position. He was however a mere 26 seconds ahead of defending OR2 champion, Tim Young (Kargo Racing Yamaha) who was again just seven seconds ahead of the defending title holder and OR1 champion, Kenny Gilbert (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha) who lost time when water got into his bike. Competitors had more than one opportunity to tackle the loop, but the route deteriorated and although Gilbert did another lap, he had to settle for the time posted during his first problematic lap.
It was the first off-road event for Louwrens Mahoney (Brother KTM) after he crashed and broke his ankle last year, but the former champion was just three seconds behind Gilbert. Gilbert's team-mate, Marc Torlage, had to give up the final races of the 2013 season due to a back injury, but the former off-road and enduro champion is back and rounded off the top five – 13 seconds behind Mahoney.
There was not much difference between the riders and a blanket of just over a minute and a half covered the top ten. Ruan Roberts (Yamaha) was sixth fastest with Dillon Inggs (Kawasaki) seventh and Young's team-mate, Charan Moore eighth. All eight riders compete in the OR1 (Open Class) and Altus de Wet (Cargo-Tac Husqvarna Factory Racing) claimed the best time in OR2 while he was ninth overall. Darren Pienaar (Base Fit Racing KTM) was second in OR2 (12th overall) with Jono van Wyk (Brother KTM) rounding off the OR2 podium and finishing just behind Pienaar in the overall standings.
Van Wyk's team-mate, Louw Schmidt, was the third Brother KTM rider in the top 10 (he was 10th overall). He was the fastest OR3 rider. Also on the OR3 podium was Bernard McGee (McGee Yamaha Lydenburg) who finished 14th overall and the 2013 Silver Class Challenge winner, Mauritz Meiring (VANS Racing Division KTM).
Another Brother KTM rider, Juan 'Bollie' van Rooyen, who has moved to the Senior Class Championship, finished just outside the top 10 – he was 11th overall and the quickest rider in his new class. Van Rooyen beat his closest opposition, Kobus Jonck (Bert Smith Racing All Stars Powered by RAD KTM) by just over three minutes – Jonck was 28th overall – while Justin Broughton (Kawasaki) rounded off the podium of this extremely competitive class championship.
There are a few new names in the Master Class championship where Garth Prost (Cargo-Tac Husqvarna Factory Racing) posted the fastest time. Jonck's team-mate, Leon Gerber, was second in this class followed by Iain Pinkerton (KTM). It was a tough track for female competitors where the 2013 Ladies Class Challenge winner, Toni Jardine (KTM), beat Gerber's team-mate, Taye Perry. It seems that the 2013 title battle between these two girls will continue this year.
The new High School Class received a healthy amount of entries (17) and the Ladybrand rider, Reghardt van Nieuwenhuizen (KTM) took the victory. A motocross race earlier the same day did not tire Brendon Fourie (Kawasaki) out and he posted the second fastest time while Alex O'Donnell (Manhand Ridgeway Yamaha) was third fastest.
Youngster Craig Wishart (PS Diamond Trailers Husqvarna) was the fastest in the Silver Class Challenge.
Competitors in the National Off-road Championship have five weeks to prepare the first round of the season that will take place on 8 March in the Wolmaransstad area in the North-West Province.