BOTSWANA’S ‘KALAHARI FERRARI’ BIKER, ROSS BRANCH, SCORED A HAT-TRICK OF DESERT WINS
The Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race (TDR 1000), the third and fourth rounds of the SA Cross Country Motorcycle Championship, that took place from 22 to 24 June over a distance of a thousand kilometres from the Jwaneng sport complex, was dominated by the local Botswana rider Ross ‘Kalahari Ferrari’ Branch (Brother Leader Tread KTM) who claimed a hat-trick by winning the motorcycle category for the third consecutive year overall in the desert.
Branch posted the fastest time after the 35 kilometre time trial on Friday that determined the starting order for Saturday’s race and he was again the fastest two-wheeler after almost 450 kilometres of racing. On Sunday he did so again and won in front of his home-crowd to take the victory for rounds three and four of the SA National Cross Country Championship as well as the overall win and the overall victory in OR1 (Open Class).
Branch’s arch rival, Kenny Gilbert (Pepson Plastics Husqvarna) finished as the runner-up on the overall standings as well as in OR1 after two solid results. Both Branch and Gilbert used the TDR 1000 as preparation for their participation in the 2019 Dakar Rally where they will be racing for two weeks in South America.
The third place belonged to Jaycee Nienaber (Holeshot Husqvarna) who also claimed the final podium spot in OR1 after a fourth and third place. The route for this year’s desert race was not only fast, but also tight and tricky and it seemed to benefit the bigger motorcycles.
Fourth overall and winning OR2 (250cc), was Gareth Cole (KTM Durban) who battled it out with Taki Bogiages (Pepson Plastics Husqvarna) for the best place on the overall standings as well as for the OR2 crown. After three days and almost a thousand kilometres, Bogiages, who took the class on Saturday, had to settle for the runner-up result in OR2 and the fifth place overall as a mere 73 seconds separated him from Cole who had a victory and a runner-up result behind his name.
The second Botswana rider in the top 10, was former OR3 (200cc) champion, Dartagnan Lobjoit (Yamaha) who now also competes in OR1. A solid result consisting of a fifth and a third on his home turf meant lots of points on the scoreboard and a happy home-crowd. The battle for the best overall position between Lobjoit and the Brother Leader Tread KTM team-mates, Louw Schmidt and Jarryd Coetzee, was extremely tight as they were covered by a blanket of only 1 minute 52 seconds after the three days. Schmidt finished a minute and a half behind Lobjoit and was fifth in OR1 while Coetzee trailed his team-mate by a mere 22 seconds to clinch the OR3 victory for the first time this season. He won the class on both days.
He had to look over his shoulder for Wynand Delport (Trax KTM) who made a come-back to off-road racing after not competing since 2009. Delport rounded off the OR2 podium and finished ninth overall, only a minute and 29 seconds behind Coetzee. Ian Rall (KTM) had a good race and finished 10th while he was second in OR3 after two runner-up results.
There is just no stopping the three times Senior Class champion, Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen (Brother Leader Tread KTM) who showed the younger riders how to tackle the Botswana desert by winning his class on both days and finishing 11th overall. He had a healthy gap to Hentie Hanekom (Husqvarna) who took the runner-up result in the class after finishing third each day. Hanekom was 14th overall, only a minute and 27 seconds ahead of Bruce Viljoen (Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) who filled the final step of the Senior Class podium and rounded off the top 15.
In between the more senior and experienced riders, were younger competitors who are still building on their desert race experience. Former High School champion, Stefan van Deventer (Motul Alfie Cox KTM) finished third in OR3 and was 12th overall while his team-mate, Bradley Cox, who is following in dad Alfie’s footsteps and competed in his first desert race, had to settle for fourth in OR3 after he experience gearbox problems. He was 13th overall.
Also in the top 20 were Hein van Niekerk (Holeshot Husqvarna) who finished 16th overall and fourth in OR2, only 62 seconds behind Viljoen; Maarten van Jaarsveld (Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) was 17th and fifth in OR3; Wilhelm Schönfeldt (Yamaha) was 18th overall and sixth in OR3; Travis Gehlig (Pepson Plastics Husqvarna) finished 19th and fifth in OR2 and former desert race quad winner and champion, Hannes Saaijman (Q-KON EMD Racing KTM) posted the 20th fastest time and finished fourth overall in the Senior Class.
A total of 30 riders completed the full race distance with Kirsten Landman (Brother Leader Tread KTM) the only lady rider to do so. It was an emotional event for Landman who ended in hospital five years ago when she crashed at this event. She finished 10th in OR3.
The High School Class was won by Frans Kock (KTM) who was 24th overall. He was also the only High School competitor who managed to complete both rounds of the national championship in Botswana. There was some bad luck for the championship leader, Nardus Rabe (KTM) as well as Storm Viljoen (Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) and Ryan Pelser (TRP RAD Moto KTM) who won on Saturday, but they all bagged some points for their efforts in Botswana.
In the Master Class, multiple champions, Pieter Holl (Berth Smith All Stars Racing KTM) and Wayne Farmer (Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) continued their ongoing battle with Hall pipping Farmer by a mere 1 minute 33 seconds in the desert. Holl won on both days followed closely by Farmer. Chris Opperman (Husqvarna) rounded off the Master Class podium after two solid third places with the track car racing driver, Iain Pepper (Pepson Plastics Husqvarna) fourth and Bert Smith (Bert Smith All Stars Racing KTM) fifth overall after a tough three days in the saddle for these ‘older’ riders.
Patrick Moore (Live Lesotho Yamaha) won the Silver Class Interprovincial Challenge followed by Kyle Schutte (KTM) and Eugene Bierman (Q-KON EMD Racing KTM).
Some of the riders who experienced problems at the TDR 1000 and could not complete the full race distance over three days but managed to score some points towards the SA National Cross Country Championship, included former desert race winner, Louwrens Mahoney (Brother Leader Tread KTM) who could not finish the race on Saturday, but managed a fifth place overall and second in OR2 on Sunday. Charan Moore (Live Lesotho Yamaha) was also unlucky although he finished and scored points on Saturday. Two more riders who are eyeing the 2019 Dakar Rally, Ryan Bland (KTM) and Stuart Gregory (KTM) took on the Botswana desert with Gregory finishing 28th overall while Bland only finished on Sunday.
The event also formed rounds two and three of the Botswana Motorsport National Off-road Championship (BMS) while the TDR 1000 Desert Adventure Race, ideally for quad riders, but also for motorcycle riders who did not compete in the SA National Cross Country Championship, also attracted entries. Three of the five quads completed the full race distance with Paul dos Santos (Yamaha) winning followed by Riaan Dique (Yamaha) and lady rider, Carly Botha (Yamaha). Izak van Wyk (Husqvarna) won the Senior Class (bikes) while Marcel Breytenbach (KTM) won the Master Class. John Kelly (Kawasaki) won the BMS Championship overall as well as OR1 followed by Allan Ryan (KTM) who also took the Senior Class with Boineelo Rantao (Kawasaki) third overall and taking OR3.