Gem of race to open off-road year
The Diamond Route 400 to be raced over February 24/25 in the Wolmaransstad area of North-West – the first of six rounds - will open the 2012 National Off-Road Racing season for motorcycle and quads.
RIAAN VAN NIEKERK
The race was a new event on the 2011 National calendar and, even though the organisers had to make last-minute adjustments to the route after heavy rain, still took third in the annual Best Event standings. This year the Verwes Club has vowed to make it even better for competitors.
Comparing entry list with the 2011 points standings, it seems there’ll be more Big Battles in the Bush this year. Defending title holder and OR1 (Open Class) champion Jade Gutzeit (Yamaha) will want a third consecutive overall title but will have to work hard. Former team mate Louwrens Mahoney, now racing for Brother Broadlink KTM, won this race in 2011 but finished second overall in the championship.
A knee injury towards the end of 2011 kept him from training.
The rest of the Broadlink team will be out in full force, among them Gray Dick (second in 2011) and defending OR2 and OR4 champions Riaan van Niekerk and Tyron Miller. Defending OR3 champion Marc Torlage (Yamaha), who finished 2011 fourth overall, will now add more spice to OR2.
JOHAN VAN STRUWIG.
Most of the regular top 20 riders will be in action – Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen (Kawasaki) will have the No.3 plate in OR1 again whle battling Ruan Roberts (Yamaha) and the Webster brothers Jonathan and Christopher (Yamaha). Other Yamaha riders will be regular top 10 finisher Wade (OR2); Mark Garland (OR1) and team mates Bradley van Aswegen (OR3) and Timothy Young (OR2).
Jonathan van Wyk will be back in OR2 on a KTM and Laurie Murton, Philip Mayhew and CJ Blackman will put their Hondas on the OR1 grid.
Other interesting entries include Kenneth Gilbert (KTM), back in SA after competing in the US for a few years; off-road regular Dillon Inggs (KTM); Michael de Beer (KTM), 2011 winner of the Silver Class Challenge; Charan Moore (Yamaha); Darren Macleod (Yamaha) who was third in the 2011 Silver Class Challenge, and female Roof of Africa competitor Toni Jardine (Gas Gas) who has entered in the OR4 Under-21 Class.
Only National level entrants in OR3 and OR4 will be combined in a new OR3 Class.
Senior Class champ Wayne Farmer (Gas Gas) and runner-up Guy Henley (Kawasaki) will again lock horns. 2011 Dakar finisher Albert Hintenaus (KTM) and enduro specialis Steve Landman (Suzuki) could upset things.
Although Senior competitors only do 75% of the full race (plus the time-trial), the competition has been very strong between the riders older than 38. Botswana’s Neil Gailey (KTM) will again defend his Master Class title for riders older than 46 who do 50% of the race distance.
The Silver Class Challenge teems with talented junior off-road competitors, among them Roan Lindsay (KTM) who finished second in class in 2011; Brandon Youell (KTM); Blake Gutzeit (Yamaha); Jaycee Nienaber (Yamaha); Louw Schmidt (Suzuki) and Karel Hattingh (Yamaha). Warren Marshall (Kawasaki) was fifth in this class in 2011 year - predicting a winner will be risky.
QUADS: Former champion and overall runner-up the last two seasons, Brian Baragwanath (Yamaha) will have to fight off former junior champions Jacky Antiga (Can-Am) who started the Diamond Route 400 last year from the back of the field after drowning his quad during the time trial and eventually finished seventh overall as well as KTM’s Michael Wagner and Matthew Barnard (2011 champion).
More competitors from 2011’s junior series, among them Dino do Amaral (KTM) and Tinus Bredenkamp (Can-Am), have also moved to the senior series where they will compare notes with experienced riders.
BACK FROM THE US
They will have to stand strong against regular top 10 riders such as André du Plessis (Suzuki) and Jacques Struwig (Suzuki) who finished respectively second and third last year; Cornel Kannemeyer (Kawasaki); Hannes Saaijman (Suzuki) and David Hollis (Yamaha) as well as Leonard dos Santos (Suzuki); Eric Williams (Honda); Freddie Taljaard (Suzuki); Damien Lee (Honda) and Stefan Swanpoel (Yamaha) who have been competing regularly.
Danie Senekal is returning to the sport and 2011 Silver Class Challenge winner Henk Seevinck (Suzuki) will now also compete in Q1 and Jurie Meyer (Yamaha) is now competing full-time in South Africa after racing in the US in 2011.
The regulars are all back in the Master Class where Jurie Meyer Sr (Yamaha) will defend the title he has earned the last two years while Kobus Visser (Can-Am) will go for the Q3 Utility Class title again, but the entries in this popular class have grown and the competition will be tough.
COME ON, LADIES!
The Ladies’ Class hopes more will join them. 2011 runner-up, Chardri Monk (KTM) will aim for the title with former class winner Amanda Eardley (Can-Am) who is also competing in Q3, and André du Plessis’ twin-sister Adi (Suzuki).
The Diamond Route 400 will start on Friday (February 24) with a time trial to determine the grid and times for the race the next day when the motorcycle and quad competitors will tackle the race on separate loops from 8am. National full-distance competitors will have to complete their loop twice before switching to the other loop after a 15-minute de-control and will have finished the race if they have completed the second loop twice as well.
All the activities will be based at Rietkuil farm about 12km from Wolmaransstad.