Format change to tough Bell 300
AMANDA EARDLEY: The Vryheid businesswoman would like nothing better than to win on home soil.
The format of the Bell 300, round four of the 2012 SA National Off-road championship for motorcycle and quad competitors scheduled for July 7 near Hluhluwe in Zululand, kwaZulu-Natal, will differ from the usual and test competitors aiming for maximum points.
The Bell 300, organised by Zululand Motorsport SA which won Best Off-road Event 2011, will take place only on the one day - no racing on Friday - with competitors doing a 60km time-trial to determine the noon start order for the race. Total race distance will be 300km.
Out to defend his clean sweep in the motorcycle category will be Louwrens Mahoney (KTM) who could only complete the time-trial and about 10km of the 2011 event before having mechanical problems. The battle at the front will be interesting with the return of title-holder and winner of the 2011 event, Jade Gutzeit (Yamaha). His team mate Marc Torlage, who missed the 2012 Kalahari 400 through injury, will also be in action and each will be on a brand-new bikel in OR1 (Open Class).
With Mahoney, Gutzeit and Torlage in this extremely competitive class will be Kenny Gilbert (Yamaha) and the Webster brothers, Chris and Jonathan (Yamahas) who have all been on the overall podium this season while Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen (Kawasaki ) and Mahoney’s team mate Gray Dick have also visited the OR1 podium and would like to do so again.
The competition will be just as tough between the front-runners in the quad category. André du Plessis (Suzuki) has been consistent but hasn't won in 2012. He's leading the standings - but nor comfortable - with Jurie Meyer (Yamaha), who won the Cape event, close behind and followed by 2011 winner Brian Baragwanath (Yamaha) who is also still looking for a win this season.
The order behind the top three, who are separated by only seven points, can easily change as only a handful of points separate the next six competitors of which two have already won this season – Damien Lee (Honda) at the Kalahari 400 and, although he could not finish the Cape event, he is still fourth on the overall standings, while Giacomo Antiga (Can-Am), who won the season-opener, suffered some setbacks and is ninth.
Stefan Swanepoel (Yamaha) and Leonard dos Santos (Suzuki) have each scored consistently and are one and three points respectively behind Lee; newcomer John Aylward (Yamaha) will want good results in front of his home crowd and improve his seventh place.
Jacques Struwig (Suzuki) is eighth and one point behind the Kokstad rider while the 2011 Junior National champion, Matthew Barnard (KTM) rounds off the top 10. An interesting name on the entry list is that of Dubai Pro Quad DMX champion Alex MacFarlane who will compete on a Kawasaki. This entry will be watched with interest.
On two wheels Altus de Wet (KTM) is the only non-OR1 rider in the overall top six (between Mahoney; Chris and Jono who are third and fifth respectively; Van Rooyen who is fourth and Gilbert who is sixth). He has also been on the podium and is second behind his team mate but leading OR2 (250cc) where there is some breathing space between him and Timothy Young (Yamaha) with Wade Blaauw (Yamaha) third in class.
Young is seventh overall followed by De Wet’s team mate Michael Creevy, who has also been scoring consistently and leads OR3 after two wins and a podium position. Bradley van Aswegen (Yamaha) is second in OR3.
The battle in the Senior (motorcycle) Class changed earlier in the season when defending champion and class leader, Wayne Farmer (Gas Gas), was injured. He's still out of action and his arch rival, Guy Henley (Kawasaki) is leading the class. Behind Henley things can change again as second-placed Steve Landman (Yamaha) is also injured. This leaves the door open for third-placed Albert Hintenaus (KTM), who is only a point behind Landman, to move into second although he will have to watch out for Jaco du Toit (KTM) who is only three points behind him in fourth.
The situation in the Senior Quad Class has also changed since the Kalahari 400 when class leader Amanda Eardley (pictured) (Can-Am) dropped to second as she could not finish the event. The Vryheid businesswoman would like nothing better than to win on home soil and to take the lead back from the consistent Peter Schenk (Honda). Roxy dos Santos (Suzuki) is third with Kalahari 400 winner Russel Ferreira (Honda) fourth. Former champion and local Mtubatuba businessman Paul Chomse can, however, throw a spanner in the works and a winner cannot be predicted.
A change is also possible in the Master Quad Class where injured class leader Kobus Visser (Can-Am), who is also leading the Q3 Utility Class, will only decide on his participation at the cut-off date (July 4). Former champion Milton Thesen (Yamaha) is only eight points behind him. Defending champ Jurie Meyer is third but will not race and Kalahari 400 class winner Vicus Breedt (Suzuki) can pass him on the championship standings.
The battle in the Master (motorcycle) Class will again be between defending champion and class leader Neil Gailey (KTM) who has made a clean sweep so far this season and Jan Berning (KTM).
Junior National championship competitors Louw Schmidt (Suzuki) and Adriaan Uys (Kawasaki) will defend their respective leads in the Silver Class Challenge for motorcycle and quad competitors but can expect stiff competition. In the Ladies Quad Class, Eardley can take back her lead from André du Plessis’ twin sister, Adi (Suzuki) but she was also injured in an earlier event and is not competing yet.
Kalahari 400 winner Chantelle Darlow (Yamaha), currently third, will also be in action.
The event will take place from the Horn & Thorn farm just outside Hluhluwe. Spectators are welcome to view the action when motorcycle and quad competitors compete on two separate 60km loops on July 7.