NAMAQUA AFRICAN RALLY: 25 April to 3 May 2014 (Vredendal – Cape West Coast, South Africa)
The first three days of the Namaqua African Rally, a multi-stage navigational event for motorcycle and quad competitors as well as riders of Adventure bikes that is taking place over six days from Vredendal in the Western Cape, produced yet another new overall leader with Dakar Rally hero, Brett Cummings (KTM) taking over the lead after Tuesday’s stage.
Two of South African’s best quad riders, Brian Baragwanath (Team Rhide SA Yamaha) and Jurie Meyer (Yamaha Race Support) led the field on Sunday and Monday respectively, but Cummings, a Rally Raid specialist who finished the Dakar Rally earlier this year and in 2013, is now the new leader. He leads the defending off-road motorcycle champion, Kenny Gilbert (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha) by 1min 40s. Gilbert ran out of fuel about three kilometres before the finish of the second Special Stage with Cummings showing real sportsmanship by towing his ‘rival’ to the finish!
The current national off-road quad champion, Jurie ‘Botter’ Meyer (Yamaha Race Support) started the day in the lead, but was caught by the faster two-wheelers. He managed to keep his lead and is currently third overall. Roger Kane-Berman (KTM) crashed twice, but he made it home and now leads the Vredendal winemaker, Dewald Huisamen (Namaqua Wines KTM) by a mere second.
It was a long, dusty day in the saddle for competitors who enjoyed the 341 kilometre route. Most riders have never raced using a navigation road book system where they have to follow their GPS and a scrolling system, but they are now getting into the ‘swing of things’ and are appreciating this scenic race.
Baragwanath was leading after Sunday’s Prologue, but then got lost and experienced a few mechanical issues that resulted in him starting the day in 45th place overall. He fought his way through the dust and carefully passed competitors to make his way up to sixth place overall and is now second in the quad category (about six odd minutes behind Meyer) and less than a minute behind Huisamen.
The three riders behind them – quad rider Stefan Swanepoel (Yamaha); Dakar Rally finisher, Greg Raaff (KTM) and Adrian Storm (Automation Racing KTM) – will chase hard as only a few seconds separate them from each other. Botswana rider, Neil Gailey (KTM), who is using this event to gain experience for his first attempt at the Australasian Safari later this year, rounds off the top ten.
There was some bad luck for Baragwanath’s team-mate, Hannes Saaijman, who could not complete the day due to a seized engine as well as biker Dillon Inggs (Kawasaki) who crashed into a gate. Both riders as well as John Graham (Yamaha – quads) who also experienced engine problems have chosen the ‘bail-out’ option and they will start the race again.
Thomas Eich (Omega KTM) will have his eye on an overall top ten position as only one minute keeps him from the top ten and in 11th place. He will however have to keep an eye out on the riders behind him as two minutes 18 seconds separate him from Juan Ballester (KTM) with Hanco Janse van Rensburg (Kawasaki) only 38 seconds behind. The rider from Iceland, Thorarinn Einarsson, has worked himself into the top 15 and is 14th overall with Garth Roberts (Roberts Racing Rallye KTM) in 15th place. Roberts, who has been racing for years and has competed the Australasian Safari last year, assisted a fellow rider who fell, but he enjoyed the rest of the racing in the Knersvlakte.
The female motorcycle rider, Toni Jardine (KTM) is the only female rider in the top 20 and despite a crash, she finds herself in 16th place while Mark Schnaar-Campbell (KTM) is just over half a minute behind her. The five riders between the 15th and 20th place are being separated by just over two minutes and these results can easily look different after the next racing section.
Upington’s Willem du Toit (KTM) is 18th overall followed by Hanco’s brother, Johan (KTM) and quad rider, Hennie Blignaut (Yamaha) who is 20th overall (fourth of the quads) after a consistent race. Baragwanath’s team-mate, Ted Barbier, rounds off the top five in the quad category.
All four the female riders are still going strong although Taye Perry (Bert Smith All Stars Racing Powered by RAD KTM) crashed and had to race with a damaged bike. She slipped back to 24th place overall while quad riders Liezel Barnard (Barnard Vervoer Can-Am) and Chardri Monk (Thesens Generators Yamaha) are respectively 38th and 45th overall, but enjoying their first ever ‘rally raid’.
Riders are impressed with the speedy and professional service at the various fuel stops where Brent Oil (Big Enough to Deliver, Small Enough to Care), the official fuel supplier to the Namaqua African Rally, have been filling their bikes and quads during the race – and when they are running low on fuel, they cannot wait to see the blue Brent Oil signs that welcome them at the fuel stop.
The riders in the Adventure Class as well as the Rally Raid category are enjoying the experience of riding their motorcycles in an area where most have not been before. They do not feel the pressure of the race as they have entered to experience the Namaqua African Rally the ‘scenic’ way – by just riding their bikes leisurely in Namakwaland.
The program has changed and today (Wednesday 30 April) was declared a Rest Day. Competitors will then tackle the final two days of the race on Thursday and Friday before returning to Cape Town on Saturday morning to participate in the ceremonial podium finish at the V&A Waterfront.
Spectators are welcome to view the racing action tomorrow in the Nuwerus area north of Vanrhynsdorp just off the N7. Spectators and visitors are invited to rub shoulders with competitors at the Vredendal show grounds at the race ‘bivouac’ where they can also enjoy the hospitality of Namaqua Wines.
The organisers of the Namaqua African Rally would like to acknowledge and thank their sponsors for their support – Namaqua Wines, Brent Oil, Mitsubishi Motors SA, Junior Smith Trucking, Selftrack and KTM – for their support.