Round 1 of the SA National Off-road Motorcycle & Quad championship, March 8 2014 (Wolmaransstad, North-West).Competition in the 2014 SA National Off-road championship for motorcycles and quad will be extremely tough and the country’s finest competitors will be in action this weekend at the season-opener, the Diamond Route 400 at Wolmaransstad in North-West.In 2012 race was the close runner-up in the Best National Off-road Event awards; thought the Verwes Off-road Club did not host a National event in 2013 it will host this popular race for the third time on Rietkuil farm where the locals will do their utmost to make visitors feel welcome.The Diamond Route 400 will have two 60km loops; bike and quad competitors will tackle different loops from 8am on Saturday (March 8) the swop after completing it three times to eventually cover about 360km.FAST BOTSWANANThe start order was determined from seeding event near Bronkhorstspruit earlier in 2014 where it became quite clear that an action-packed season can be expected. Competitors from as far as the Cape, East London and Port Elizabeth, KZN, Hoedspruit and Limpopo have entered.Botswanan motocross and off-road rider, Ross Branch (KTM) surprised by posting the fastest time, 26sec faster than defending OR2 (250cc) champion Timmy Young (Yamaha) with the current OR1 (Open Class) champion and title holder Kenny Gilbert (Yamaha) third but only seven seconds behind Young. These times will not mean much, however, as they will start in pairs.Branch’s team mates, Louwrens Mahoney – double Diamond Route winner – and 2013 OR4 (Under-21) winner Louw Schmidt; ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen (fastest Senior rider at the seeding event); Jono van Wyk and Tyron Miller all finished within the top 20 in that same event and will hope to start their season on a high note.Gilbert and Marc Torlage will also aim to build on their top five seeding results; he, Ruan Roberts (sixth fastest), Young and Charan Moore will add support to the Yamaha camp....AND THE QUADSThe three Polokwane quadders who dominated 2013 filled three of the four top places in seeding. André du Plessis (Yamaha) was fastest, title defender Jurie ‘Botter’ Meyer (Yamaha) was second and Brian Baragwanath (Yamaha) fourth. Jaco Moller (Yamaha) was sandwiched between Meyer and Baragwanath with Jacques Struwig (Suzuki) fifth and leading the Senior Class.He, however, will be on two wheels in the Argus Cycle Tour.Regulars might again lead the pack but behind them the field will have a new look: quite a few competitors who finished the 2013 season in the top 10 have not entered the Diamond Route 400. Three fairly ‘new’ names have already appeared in the top 10 at seeding – Hannes Saaijman (Yamaha) has not competed regularly for two years but posted sixth fastest (and fastest in Q2 for riders older than 28) while David Hollis (Yamaha) has made a return to the championship after serious injury and was ninth.Franco Annandale (Suzuki), who competed in Q2 in 2013, rounded off the top 10.ANYBODY CAN WINSenior Class competitors in both categories (as in 2013) must complete the full race (like OR1, OR2 and OR3 in the motorcycle category and Q1 and Q2 in the quads) but also score overall points. On two wheels Van Rooyen, who only started competing in the Senior Class in 2014, can expect competition from current champion Pieter Holl and his KTM team mate Kobus Jonck while Justin Broughton (Kawasaki), who finished second in 2013, and former champion Wayne Farmer (Gas Gas) will chase hard.On four wheels anybody can win, as Struwig, second in 2013, as well as defending champion Paul Chomse are out. Charles Lee (Suzuki) posted the second-fastest time in seeding with Stuart Freeman (Yamaha) third – his team mate Russell Ferreira (Honda) could not post a time and will have to fight his battle from the back of the field.Banie Barnard and Oz Osborne (Yamaha) will also be in the mix of riders older than 35 in this class.Competitors in the Master Classes will now have to complete 75% of the race distance (five laps). Tony dos Santos (Suzuki) was fastest in the quad class and the battle will continue between him and the multiple champion Jurie Meyer Snr (Yamaha) while a newcomer such as Org Geldenhuys (Can-Am), who was third fastest, can upset the apple cart.The new High School Class (14-16) has received 12 entries in the motorcycle category but only two quads.SILVER CLASSThe new Combined Ladies Class for bikes and quads will be implemented for the first time. 2013 winners Toni Jardine (KTM) on two wheels and Liezel Barnard (Can-Am) on four will be in action.The Silver Class Challenge will continue in both the categories though few quad entries were received. Competitors in this class must do five laps.The Diamond Route 400 will also form the first rounds of the Northern Regions championship as well as the Platinum Club Series. Action from 8am on Saturday morning. Competitors have to pass through the pits after each 60km lap at Rietkuil Farm (GPS: S27 12.888 E25 49.849) will experience all the action up close.