Multiple former champion Louwrens Mahoney (Brother KTM) scored a hat-trick this past weekend when he won the motorcycle category of the Diamond Route 400, the opening round of the 2014 National Off-Road Championship that took place outside Wolmaransstad in the North-West Province, for the third time.
Former quad champion, Brian Baragwanath (Team RHIDE SA Yamaha), won the quad category of this tough 360-kilometre race.
Mahoney, who won this event in 2011 and 2012, but had to take the 2013 season off after the first two races due to a broken ankle, was in a tight battle with his teammate, Ross Branch as well as Timothy Young (Kargo Racing Yamaha) who held the lead during the first part of the race.
It is Branch’s first national off-road season in South Africa (the Botswana rider is a motocross specialist, but posted the fastest time during the Seeding Event earlier this year) and he raced with caution to finish second behind Mahoney.
Young crashed into a culvert at the end of the fourth lap (they had to complete six loops) and damaged the front wheel and bent the handle bars on his Yamaha. He lost time and positions and had to settle for sixth place.
Only three minutes separated Branch (he was also second in OR1 behind Mahoney) from Young (sixth in OR1 / Open Class) with mere seconds separating the riders in between. The defending OR1 champion, Kenny Gilbert (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha) survived a frustrating first half of the race due to brake problems, but fought back to round off the overall and OR1 podiums – he was 14 seconds behind Branch and only five seconds ahead of Dillon Inggs (Kawasaki) who competed for the first time in OR1. Inggs was again only 16 seconds ahead of the 2013 runner-up, Ruan Roberts (Yamaha).
A few furious battles continued between the rest of the pack even though these riders were somewhat further behind. Eleven seconds separated Brother KTM teammates, Tyron Miller who finished seventh overall and won OR2 (250cc) and the OR3 (200cc) winner, Louw Schmidt, who was eighth with Nicholas Pienaar (Roost KTM) in ninth place. The enduro specialist, Wesley Redinger (KTM) completed his first ever national off-road race in 10th place overall and claimed the second place in OR2.
On four wheels Baragwanath took the early lead and was in a racelong battle with Jurie ‘Botter’ Meyer (Yamaha Support) who had two flat tyres during the race. Meyer finished just over a minute behind Baragwanath with the Tzaneen teenager, Jaco Moller (Portable Shade / Extreme ATV Tzaneen Yamaha) rounding off the overall and Q1 podiums.
David Hollis, (Yamaha), who crashed at this race in 2012 and did not compete last year, made a welcome comeback by finishing fourth overall and in Q1 with Jaco Venter (Honda) rounding off the top five overall and in Q1. Hannes Saaijman (Team RHIDE SA Yamaha) won Q2 and finished sixth overall with his Yamaha Raptor that is being tested for the 2015 Dakar Rally.
André du Plessis (Yamaha) had to settle for seventh place after starting from pole position before experiencing fuel problems. The defending Q2 title holder, Justin Robert (Sign Wonder Racing Suzuki) finished second in Q2 (eighth overall). He was just under a minute behind Du Plessis and only eight seconds ahead of the Senior Class winner, Stuart Freeman (PS Diamond Trailers Racing Yamaha) after racing for just over five hours and 20 minutes. Freeman’s teammate, Russell Ferreira (Honda) started from the back of the field due to him not posting a time at the Seeding Event, but he fought back to claim the second place in the Senior Class – 16 seconds behind Freeman – and rounded off the top 10.
Only 14 Q1, Q2 and Senior Class competitors managed to complete the full race distance with Bertie Morton (Suzuki) finishing 11th; Paul dos Santos (Factory Racing Suzuki) was the third Senior Class competitor home and was 12th overall; Ted Barbier (Team RHIDE SA Yamaha) was 13th – fourth in the Senior Class – with Peter Walter (PS Diamond Trailers Yamaha) 14th and rounding off the top five in the Senior Class.
In the Senior Class of the motorcycle category, Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen (Brother KTM) claimed his first victory and finished 11th overall. Former Senior Class champion, Guy Henley (KTM) was second in this class with Kobus Jonck (Bert Smith All Stars Racing Powered by RAD KTM) third after he lost time when he crashed and damaged the radiator on his KTM. His team-mate and defending champion, Pieter Holl, was seventh in the class with Ian Venter (RAD MOTO KTM) fourth; Robert Streak (Yamaha) fifth and another former champion, Wayne Farmer (Gas Gas) sixth.
The rest of the top 20 consisted of the current OR3 champion, Jaycee Nienaber (Manhand Ridgeway Yamaha) who finished 12th overall and third in OR2; Bernard McGee (McGee Yamaha Lydenburg) who was second in OR3 (*Bert Smith Racing’s Taki Bogiages was third in this class) and 13th overall; Wade Blaauw (Yamaha) who finished 14th overall and Jonathan Webster (Yamaha) who was 15th. Marc Torlage (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha) finished 16th after not competing in off-road racing for a while and Carl du Toit (KTM) was 17th after his first national off-road in many years. Du Toit finished only 15 seconds ahead of Charan Moore (Kargo Racing Yamaha) with Jono van Wyk (Brother KTM) 19th overall and a mere eight seconds ahead of Darren MacLeod (Manhand Ridgeway Yamaha) who rounded off the top 20.
Competitors in the Master and Ladies Classes had to complete 75% of the race distance (about 300 kilometres at the Diamond Route 400). On two wheels Garth Prost (Cargo-Tac Husqvarna Factory Racing) won the Master Class (his teammate in OR2, Altus de Wet, experienced engine problems and could not finish) and was followed by Adrian Storm (Automation Racing KTM) with Jan Berning (RAD MOTO KTM) third and Leon Gerber (Bert Smith Racing KTM*) fourth.
It seems more riders older than 46 years of age are competing in the Master Quad Class than on two wheels. Here George Twigge (Yamaha) opened his bid for the title with a victory over the defending champion, Jurie Meyer (Yamaha Support) who was followed by the two Dos Santos brothers, Tony (third) and Roxy (fourth) – both are in the Factory Racing Suzuki team. Peter Schenk (Honda) rounded off the top five.
The Combined Ladies National Championship for female competitors in both the motorcycle and quad categories, was won by Jaco Venter’s sister, Maryna (Honda) who also won the Ladies Quad Class. Nanda Swiegers (Yamaha) won the Ladies Bikes Class and finished second in this new Combined Ladies National Championship. Liezel Barnard (Barnard Vervoer Can-Am) was third (second in the quad category) after crashing with her big quad while Taye Perry (*Bert Smith Racing KTM) finished fourth (second on two wheels) after experiencing mechanical problems.
Karin Geldenhuys (Abacus DIVISIONS Racing Can-Am) finished her first national off-road race in the fifth place overall (she was third of the quads) while Toni Jardine (KTM) claimed valuable points in this new championship by finishing sixth (third lady on two wheels) after also losing lots of time due to mechanical issues.
The new High School Class Championship (motorcycles) produced tough competition with Brendon Fourie (Kawasaki) taking the first victory after a huge crash. Cilliers Fourie (Honda) finished in a close second place while Alastair Drennan (Roost KTM EC Security) was only a few more seconds behind in third place and only a second ahead of Eduan Bester (NUTS Racing / Century Civils Yamaha). Brendan Swanevelder (KTM) rounded off the top five. All 13 entrants completed the race.
On four wheels Wilmarie Moller (Portable Shade / Extreme ATV Tzaneen Honda) took the victory ahead of Ramon Lopez (Sign Wonder Racing Honda). Karl Rost (Honda) won the Silver Class Challenge on four wheels and was followed by Moller’s teammate, Marcell Coetzee (Yamaha) while Craig Wishart (PS Diamond Trailers Husqvarna) took the victory on two wheels. He was followed by Byron McNeil (Yamaha) with Paul Calitz (McGee Yamaha Lydenburg) rounding off the podium.
The second round of the 2014 National Off-road Championship will take place on 12 April at Windsorton in the Northern Cape and will level the playing field as it will be the first time a national off-road event will be staged here.