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Jaco_Moller_3rd_in_Q1__Photo_by_ActionInMotion_.jpgA combination of extreme weather conditions; a new format for the TOTPAK National Off-road Championship and a route that took competitors through diamond diggings and farms in the Rysmierbult area outside Ventersdorp in the North-West Province, resulted in an excellent first round of the junior* and senior off-road motorcycle and quad racing season this past weekend (21 February).

Riders from all the corners of South Africa and from as far as Swaziland and Botswana travelled to Rysmierbult where they caught the tail-end of a scorching heatwave, something the route-markers and organisers of the Barnard Vervoer Rysmierbult National Off-road had to endure the week(s) prior to the event. Competitors were excited about the new racing structure (an early morning time-trial to determine the starting order and a race where the *Raslouw Academy Junior National Championship was included) while new teams and quite a few new faces were noticed.

With no rain (yet), the dust was hanging as the 150 odd riders went out to tackle the time-trial on the two separate 60km loops.

In the motorcycle category, Botswana rider, Ross Branch (Brother Leader Tread KTM) posted the fastest time and was followed by his team-mate and defending OR1 champion, Louwrens Mahoney with Kenny Gilbert (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha) third; Cameron Becker (VAN’s Racing Division KTM) was fourth and leading the OR2 class ahead of the current OR3 champion, Louw Schmidt (Brother Leader Tread KTM) who is now also competing in OR2.

On four wheels the defending Q1 champion, Brian Baragwanath (Yamaha) was leading the way ahead of Stefan Swanepoel (Yamaha) who made a come-back to the sport after taking off a few years with Gideon Jacobs (Honda) rounding off the top three and leading the Q2 Class.

Then things change. Like Gilbert said afterwards: “It was like having three races in one day!” It started raining – not pelting down, but enough to to keep the dust down although certain rocky sections became quite slippery...

It rained on and off and when it stopped, the humidity made for yet another change. Together with the changing weather conditions, riders faced a tough route and really had to concentrate and work!

After the 350 kilometre race (the total race distance included the time-trial), Branch took the first OR1 (Open Class) victory of the season (Mahoney crashed just after the halfway mark while leading the race and could unfortunately not finish) with Gilbert 2min 23s behind him. Jonathan Webster (Yamaha) made a great come-back after his injuries and finished third followed by Michael Pentecost (Kargo Racing Yamaha) and rally-raid specialist, Hentie Hanekom (KTM).

The competition in the OR2 (250cc 2-stroke / 300cc 4-stroke) Championship was as tough. Here Schmidt took the victory ahead of Jaycee Nienaber (D&H Engineering Works Yamaha) – he stopped to attend to Becker who crashed – with the defending OR2 champion, Tyron Miller (Brother Leader Tread KTM) third. Nicholas Pienaar (Husqvarna) was fourth with Nienaber’s team-mate, Roan Lindsay, rounding off the top five.

What a class the OR3 (200cc 2-stroke / 250cc 4-stroke) turned out to be! It was the biggest class at the first round of the TOTPAK National Championship with 19 riders on the start line and a new face on the podium – Brett Swanepoel (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha), who claimed a second place in the 2014 Roof of Africa, won the class albeit by only 1min 39s ahead of Jarryd Coetzee (Brother Leader Tread KTM) with Bernard McGee (McGee Yamaha Lydenburg) in a close third place. Coetzee’s team-mate, Swaziland rider Jono van Wyk, moved from OR2 to OR3 and finished fourth with Wilhelm Schonfeldt (Yamaha) rounding off the top five in this class. One can expect some serious handlebar banging in this class right through the season as many young, talented as well as experienced riders are competing in this class.

Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen (Brother Leader Tread KTM) started his defence of the Senior Class Championship title on a positive note with a victory ahead of Wayne Farmer (Roost KTM / ECS Security) – he lost time when the mousse in his rear tyre collapsed – while  Kobus Jonck (Bert Smith All Stars Racing Powered by RAD KTM) rounded off the podium.

The Master Class received a healthy amount of entries with Ian Venter (KTM Centurion Liqui Moley Racing) taking the first win. After not racing for many years, Wade Miller (KTM) – Tyron’s dad – racec again took second in this class with Martin Poole (Yamaha) third.

The defending High School champ, Eduan Bester (KTM Centurion Liqui Moley Racing) took his first national victory of the year, but former Junior National Champion, Dean Lindsay (D&H Engineering Works Yamaha) was a mere 14 seconds behind him! Another former Junior Off-road Champion, Brendon Fourie (Kawasaki) claimed the third spot.

The Silver Class was won by Gerhard Grove (Yamaha) with Lodeyk Jansen van Vuuren (BaseFit Racing KTM) second and Nicholas Mauerberger (Barnard Vervoer Yamaha) third.

Shakira Vawda (KTM) competed for the first time on national level and was the only lady in the motorcycle category to finish the race.

Despite the ‘difficult times’, 30 quads entered the Barnard Vervoer Rysmierbult National Off-road and it was good to see riders who took a year or two off, in action again.

With a rebuilt engine after problems at the previous weekend’s race, Baragwanath (Raptor) went on to win Q1 with Swanepoel (Raptor) second and Jaco Moller (Raptor) third. Damien Lee (Honda) is back and claimed fourth place followed by André Park (YFZ450) who was fifth after he ran out of fuel close to the end of the race.

Former Q2 champion, Justin Robert (Sign Wonder Honda) is the first Q2 winner for the year while Jacobs and Dakar Rally hero, Hannes Saaijman (Suzuki) experienced problems and could not finish the race.

The Senior Class winner, Stuart Freeman (Yamaha) described the race as ‘the most difficult national off-road he has ever done’. Paul dos Santos (Suzuki) finished second in the Senior Class with Ted Barbier (Yamaha), who has also just recovered from injuries, third. Defending class champion, Russell Ferreira (Honda) had to call it a day due to gearbox problems.

The current Master Class Champion, George Twigge (Raptor) won this class followed by Team Thesen’s Generators team-mates from East London, Milton Thesen (Yamaha) and Roger Barnes (Polaris), the eldest competitor and 69 years of age.

The High School Class was won by Keenan Hammon (KTM) who was followed by Yamaha riders, Ryno Trichardt and Ruan Stander. The 2014 Ladies Champion, Liezel Barnard (Barnard Vervoer Renegade) won a great battle with scholar Wilmari Moller (Honda) – Jaco’s little sister – who had to settle for second place in the Ladies Class. Another young lady from Richard’s Bay, Jade Schutte, was third after her first ‘senior’ national event. TJ dos Santos (Yamaha) won the Silver Class Challenge.

The second round of the TOTPAK National Championship, the Swazi Cowboys 400, will take place on 21 March in Swaziland. Find all the information on www.dirtracing.co.za

More information and news: www.dirtracing.co.za / Dirt Racing (Facebook) / Follow @DirtRacingSA (Twitter)

*Separate media release / review about the Raslouw Academy Junior National Championship



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