The defending OR1 (Open Class) motorcycle champion, Ross Branch (Brother Leader Tread KTM) and current Open Quad champion, Hannes Saaijman (Q-Kon EMD Basefit Racing VLS) were the respective overall winners of the Battlefields 400, the second round of the SA Cross Country Moto Championship that took place on Friday (12 May) outside Dundee in an icy cold and rainy KwaZulu-Natal.
Riders tackled the 300 kilometre route after a short 20km Super Pole that determined the starting order for the race and had to face the wintery conditions as the first snow of the season fell in the province. In OR1, Branch was followed by Kenny Gilbert (Husqvarna) who scored his first points and finished third overall. Tim Young (Sherco Liqui Moly Racing) put the third manufacturer on the OR1 podium and finished sixth overall.
Like Gilbert, the first points are now also on the scoreboard for Louw Schmidt (Brother Leader Tread KTM) who has recovered from a shoulder injury earlier this season and claimed fourth place in OR1 with motocross ace, Tristan Purdon (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha Racing) rounding off the top five.
Like Branch, there was a second victory for Brett Swanepoel (Pepson Plastics Husqvarna) who won OR2 (250cc Class) after a battle with former champion, Louwrens Mahoney (Brother Leader Tread KTM) who made his comeback to the competition this year. Swanepoel finished second overall. Jaycee Nienaber (Super Moose KTM) lost time during time-trial, but managed to finish third and was closely followed by Cameron Becker (Q-KON EMD Basefit Racing KTM) who had Marius Venter (KTM) on his rear wheel in fifth place.
Kyle Flanagan (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha Racing) recovered well from his operation after an injury while recently competing in Romania to take his second victory in OR3 (200cc). Jarryd Coetzee (Brother Leader Tread KTM) posted the fastest time after time-trial, but injured himself during the race and finished second with Wilhelm Schönfeldt (BCR Arrow Yamaha) rounding off the podium. The rest had some catching up to do with Ian Rall (KTM) claiming fourth place and Haydn Cole (KTM) rounding off the top five of this big class.
There was no catching the defending Senior Class champion, Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen (Brother Leader Tread KTM) who continued his winning streak. He had a comfortable lead ahead of Hentie Hanekom (Husqvarna) with Bruce Viljoen (Doorzone Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) third. KZN rider, Bruce May (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha Racing) kept the flag high for his province by finishing fourth with Willem du Toit (Husqvarna), like Hanekom also a Rally Raid specialist, fifth.
After a tough start to the season where only three riders finished the first event in the High School Class, all the young entrants finished this time. Stefan van Deventer (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha Racing) added another victory to his win earlier this year with Maarten van Jaarsveld (Doorzone Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) second ahead of Juan-Pierre de Villiers (KTM) who was third. Ryan Pelser (KTM) was fourth and Nardus Rabe (Sherco Liqui Moly Racing) fifth with four more riders all claiming their first national points.
Competitors in the Master Class only had to complete the 100km loop twice with Pieter Holl (KTM) taking his second win of the season albeit by a mere 16 seconds ahead of Justin Broughton (Sherco Liqui Moly Racing). It was all about banging bars at the front with the current champion, Wayne Farmer (Doorzone Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) having to settle for third place with only 48 seconds separating him from Broughton. Just under three minutes separated Farmer from Faan van Deventer (KTM) with Robert Streak (Sherco) completing the top five.
Patrick Moore (Live Lesotho) won the Silver Class Challenge while Marc Liebenberg (KTM) won the WOW Class (non-championship) ahead of Alex Scheuer (KTM).
The route proved to be quite challenging to the quads and only half the field managed to receive the chequered flag. Saaijman, the 2016 champion and 2015 Dakar Rally finisher, experienced electrical problems during time-trial, but managed to solve it to take his first win of the season. The Can-Am SidexSide of Werner Mostert was second with Stef Bester (VANS Racing Division Yamaha) stepping onto the third step on the podium. His team-mate, Johan Oosthuizen, could unfortunately not finish after he fell and broke his shoulder while another team-mate, Melanie Swanepoel, could also not complete her first national attempt.
Durban rider, Juan-Pierre van Wyk (Suzuki) tackled the national series for the first time and finished fourth with Pierre van Heerden (Honda) in fifth place.
Between the unfortunate quad riders who had to call it a day, were the Annandale brothers, Franco (Suzuki) and Hannes (Can-Am); Keenan Hammon (Yamaha) who crashed and the first round’s winner, Russell Ferreira (Yamaha).
Competitors will now prepare themselves for the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race that will takes place from 23 to 25 June in Botswana.