GIRL POWER: The female racers who competed in the first Combined Ladies championship of the 2014 SA Off-road Nationals. Image: AxleImages
Congratulations to all the female competitors in the first Combined Ladies championship, part of the 2014 SA National Off-road Motorcycle and Quad championship.
If it were not for each of these brave female competitors who raced bikes or quads in the 2014 series, the crowning of the first National Combined Ladies champion would not have been possible.
Unfortunately, there are insufficient female racers to have their own championship.
In an effort to grow the sport and female participation in off-road racing, the Combined Ladies championship was created for bikes and quads. Riders are tasked with racing a motorcycle or quad over 300km in rugged terrain.
A handicap system was used to score the female competitors after each event and for this new class to ‘qualify’ as a championship an average number of entrants was required.
In the quad category, Carletonville businesswoman Liezel Barnard (Can-Am) and graphic designer graduate Chardri Monk (Yamaha) from East London, competed in each event while Toni Jardine (Yamaha) fitted the National events in between her participation in international enduro events (she had to miss one local event) and continued a tooth-and-nail battle with Pretoria rider Taye Perry (KTM).
Quad rider Maryna Venter (Honda) only competed in the first event (and won the Combined Ladies Class championship) while Nanda Swiegers (Yamaha) and Pretoria student Anaïs Steenkamp (Kawasaki) only participated in one or two events.
At the front mother-of-three (Barnard), who competes with a 1000cc Can-Am, took the lead after the second round in Windsorton in the Northern Cape, which she won, but she was chased to the end by Perry who finished on the podium on various occasions.
Jardine won the Combined Ladies Class at three events and did not give up the fight even though she could not compete at Stella as she was competing in a round of the World Enduro championship in Europe.
MORE ENTRANTS NEEDED
Towards the end of the season it became clear that the new championship would need more entrants to start the final event so, to ensure that the required number of entrants was being reached, a huge effort was put in by all and the most ladies yet seen on the start line (25) tackled the Rysmierbult 200, the final race of the season, near Ventersdorp in North-West.
Jardine won and took second behind Barnard, the latter becoming the first Combined Ladies Class champion. Perry finished only one point behind Jardine to round off the podium with Monk, who recently claimed the Ladies Class in the FIM Africa series (Southern Off-road Challenge) – fourth after crashing at the penultimate event and not being able to score points.
A few ‘newcomer’ racers did quite well and claimed their first points. These include veteran motocross and supermoto rider Cindy Porobich (KTM), who finished second in the Ladies Motorcycle Class at the Rysmierbult 200; Edwina Lutch (Yamaha) who was fourth; Tanya Koyikas (KTM) who finished fifth; regular competitor in the GOC Series, Elaine de Sa (KTM) who claimed sixth place and Dayna Nienaber (Yamaha) who crashed but still managed to finish the full 180km race distance to finish seventh.
Barnard won the Ladies Quad Class at the Rysmierbult 200 event and was followed by Monk and 16-year old Wilmarie Moller (Honda) with three ‘new’ riders also finishing the event – Kim-Leigh Ferreira (Honda) was fourth with Annelien Jansen van Vuuren (Polaris) fifth and Ruchell Kriel (Yamaha) sixth on the day.
According to the first champion, Liezel Barnard, it would be great If many more ladies competed in off-road racing, not only in the National series but at club and regional level.
PRIZE MONEY UP FOR GRABS
Barnard said:“As far as we know, it is the first time that a lady off-road competitor has won a championship and it will be great to see this new Combined Ladies Class championship grow.”
All races in the 2015 National series will consist of 360km, of which the competitors in the Combined Ladies Class Championship will have to complete 300km – five of the six 60km loops. This might sound like quite a long distance but the ladies are quick to defend the distances as they enjoy the racing.
Barnard, Monk, Jardine and Perry all competed in (and finished) a ‘rally-raid’ event earlier this year in the Western Cape. This event stretched over six days and more than 1500km and they all enjoyed it tremendously.
As a motivation, the ladies won prize money at each of the National events. The Combined Ladies Class championship is also supported by MSA’s Women in Motorsport.