NATIONAL CROSS-COUNTRY MOTORCYCLE AND QUAD CHAMPIONS EMERGE AFTER TOUGH BATTLES
Tough battles and close racing characterised the 2016 SA National Cross-Country Motorcycle and Quad Championship and the various class champions had to work hard for their crowns. It was, however, not only at the front where the challenges continued race after race as the competition further down the ranks was as nerve-racking for the crews, supporters and sponsors.
After six events across the country including three days of racing in Botswana, competitors can look back at a testing season and hard earned points. Most championships went down to the wire after various ding-dong battles.
In the motorcycle category, two Botswana riders claimed their crowns (Ross Branch and Dartagnan Lobjoit) with both winning a SA national cross-country title for the very first time. Branch (Brother Leader Tread KTM), a multiple SA motocross champion, took the OR1 (Open Class) title ahead of the defending champion, Kenny Gilbert (Kargo Racing Husqvarna) with a mere five points separating them. Altus de Wet (BCR Arrow Yamaha Racing) rounded off the podium with Michael Pentecost (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha), who took the early lead in the class after winning the first two rounds, fourth after a double dose of trouble in Botswana.
Branch’s team-mate, Louw Schmidt, defended his OR2 (250cc) title successfully despite an early scare and another at the final round. He claimed four victories during the rest of the season. Cameron Becker (KTM Centurion Liqui Moly Racing) lead the class during the first half of the season and finished second with Brendon Fourie (Sherco SA Racing) finishing third ahead of former champion, Jaycee Nienaber (Super Moose Racing KTM) fourth after an up and down season and Deon du Toit (KTM) fifth.
The Botswana rider, Dartagnan Lobjoit (Yamaha) walked away with the OR3 (200cc) crown after a nail biting season that included two victories in his home country. He was followed by Eduan Bester (KTM Centurion Liqui Moly Racing) who moved up after winning the High School championship for the past two seasons with the defending OR3 champion, Brett Swanepoel (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha) third. Swanepoel took the first two victories of the season and won at the last two races again, but could not finish in Botswana. Calvin Wiltshire (Droomers Yamaha) just missed the podium after his first national season with Willem Schönfeldt (BCR Arrow Yamaha Racing) having to settle for fifth place after being second and fighting for the title when a broken leg kept him from competing in the final event.
The Senior Class title was on a knife’s edge the whole season before the defending champion, Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen (Brother Leader Tread KTM), whose season started dismally, claimed it for the third year consecutively. The early class leader, Wynand Kleynhans (Yamaha), was a model of consistency and finished as the runner-up six times. Only four points separated him from Van Rooyen whose five consecutive race victories ensured him the title. Lodewyk Jansen van Vuren (KTM Centurion Liqui Moly Racing) was third; Bruce Viljoen (Doorzone Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) finished fourth with Bruce May (Agrisales Peak Yamaha) fifth.
Like the Senior Class, the youngsters in the High School Class also had a battle on their hands. Adriano Catalano (D&H Engineering Works Yamaha) took the early lead by winning the first two events, but it was the 2016 Junior Champion, Stefan van Deventer (Alfie Cox Junior KTM Racing) who took the title after being victorious at the next four races – mere seconds separated them most of the time – and Catalano finished in a consistent second place each time. Only four points separated them. André Basson (Yamaha) was third, only three points ahead of Maarten van Jaarsveld (Doorzone Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) who was only two points ahead of Troy Sullivan (KTM).
There was a fifth SA National Championship title for Wayne Farmer (Doorzone Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) who made his debut in the Master Class this year. It was, however, not plain sailing as his arch rival, former Senior Class champion, Pieter Holl (KTM), was breathing down his neck. Holl won three times to finish second followed by Justin Broughton (Sherco SA Racing) with Lyle Roebert (Husqvarna) fourth and Harry Grobler (Yamaha) fifth.
In the new 125cc Class, scholar Ryan Pelser (KTM) showed what he was made of by claiming three victories after a problematic start to the season that saw him not finishing the opening round. He took the title ahead of another scholar, Janco Pienaar (KTM) with the experienced Izak Mans (Droomers Yamaha) third after winning the opening round before ending the season off in the Master Class.
Mans’ wife, Riki (Droomers Yamaha) battled it out with scholar Karen Jansen van Vuren (KTM) to take the title in the Ladies Class with Yanke Pieterse (KTM), who won three times, third. Riaan Prinsloo (Yamaha) took the Silver Class Inter Provincial Challenge title ahead of SJ Bester (VANS Racing Division KTM) with Hume Schönfeldt (Yamaha) third.
KTM won the coveted Manufacturer’s Award ahead of Yamaha (second); Husqvarna (third); Sherco (fourth after their first season); Kawasaki and Honda.
In the quad category, two former Dakar Rally participants won national titles. Hannes Saaijman (Yamaha), who finished in the top ten in the Dakar Rally in 2015, took the National Quad Championship title despite missing the opening round. He was followed by Johan Oosthuizen (VANS Racing Division Yamaha), who made his debut in the national series this year with André Park (Yamaha) rounding off the podium after winning the opening round, but then experiencing some problems during the season and could not finish two events.
Gideon Jacobs (KTM) also won once and finished fourth with the defending champion, Brian Baragwanath (Proudly Bidvest Yamaha) fifth after only competing twice before an elbow injury in Botswana resulted in him having to call it a day to the rest of the season.
George Twigge (Yamaha), who made the halfway mark at the Dakar Rally earlier this year, added a third Master Quad Class Championship to claim a hat trick of national titles. Stef Bester (VANS Racing Division Yamaha) scored five podium positions to finish as the runner-up after his first national season with another newcomer to the national series, Pierre van Heerden (Honda) third. Motsumi Lekone and Milton Thesen, both on Yamahas, finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Morné Jansen van Vuren (Yamaha) took the High School title ahead of the defending champion, Keenan Hammon (Yamaha), who was injured halfway through the season while Megan Stander (Yamaha) was third.
Yamaha is the winners of the Manufacturer’s Award followed by Honda and Suzuki.
Images: Zoon Cronje and Andrew Dry
Ross Branch (Brother Leader Tread KTM)
Branch’s team-mate, Louw Schmidt, defended his OR2 (250cc) title successfully
The Botswana rider, Dartagnan Lobjoit (Yamaha) walked away with the OR3 (200cc) crown
Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen (Brother Leader Tread KTM)
Stefan van Deventer (Alfie Cox Junior KTM Racing)
Wayne Farmer (Doorzone Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna)
Ryan Pelser (KTM)
Riki Mans (Droomers Yamaha)
Hannes Saaijman (Yamaha)
George Twigge (Yamaha)
Morné Jansen van Vuren (Yamaha)
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