The defending SA national off-road championship title holder and OR1 (Open Class) Champion, Kenny Gilbert, returned from the six-day long Namaqua African Rally ‘Rally Raid’ in the Western Cape where he finished second overall to claim a solid second place at the BELL 400, the third round of the National Off-road Motorcycle Championship that took place in dry and dusty conditions outside Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal.
Gilbert, who started the race from the front row together with three other frontrunners on an extremely dusty route in the plantations and surrounding areas outside Vryheid, had to race strategically and safely while aiming for the maximum amount of points. At the end of the first of six 60 kilometre loops, Gilbert was just under a minute and a half behind the race leader (Ross Branch), but he got into rhythm and made up time to be much closer when the race reached the halfway mark.
The second loop was more technical and opened up by the quad competitors. Dust still played a major role while the front runners also started catching up with the slower riders who they were lapping. As the championship has reached the halfway mark and some of the competition experienced mechanical problems, Gilbert kept his cool and settled for a runner-up position behind Branch with his Yamaha WR450 not putting a wheel wrong. This result moves him to the second place on the overall standings – nine points behind Branch – while he kept his third place in the OR1 Championship where only nine points separate the top three.
There were more victories and good results for Yamaha as seven Yamaha riders finished on the podium in the various class championships in the motorcycle category. Jaycee Nienaber (Team Manhand Ridgeway Yamaha) claimed the OR2 (250cc) victory and finished seventh overall while Kargo Racing Yamaha riders, Tim Young and Charan Moore finished fifth and ninth respectively (third and fourth in the OR1 Championship).
Bernard McGee (McGee Yamaha Lydenburg) was third in the OR3 (200cc) Championship; Robert Streak finished second in the Master Class Championship while Eduan Bester claimed the runner-up position in the extremely competitive High School Class Championship for riders between the ages of 14 and 16 years of age where four of 11 young entrants chose Yamaha as their machine of choice. Bradley Nortje (Manhand Ridgeway Yamaha) rounded off the Silver Class Challenge podium.
Yamaha quads also cleaned up in the quad category by claiming the top two places on the overall standings where Brian Baragwanath won the quad race (this was his third consecutive victory this year) with his Yamaha Raptor 700 with David Hollis finishing second overall and in the Q1 Championship with his YFZ450.
Lady rider Chardri Monk won the Ladies Quad Class while George Twigge took his second victory in the Master Quad Class – both are competing with Yamaha Raptor 700s – as Marcell Coetzee won the Silver Class Challenge.he 2014 National Off-road Championship will enter its second half on 14 June with the Vryburg Stella 400 that will take place from Stella in the Northwest Province. This race will be the last of the longer 360 kilometre events and two 180km Sprint Events will round the season off in August and September.