Bell 300 will challenge ridersComment on this story
This weekend's Bell 300, Round 4 of the South African Off-Road Motorcycle and Quad series, to be run from the Horn & Thorn farm just outside Hluhluwe in Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal, will challenge competitors with an unusual format.
There will be no racing on Friday; riders will tackle a 60km time trial on Saturday morning to determine the starting order for the 300km main event, due off at noon.
KTM rider Louwrens Mahoney will be out to defend his perfect record so far this season at what is something of a jinx event for him - he could only manage the time trial and about 10km of the 2011 Bell 300 before his bike went sick.
He'll be up against last year's Bell 300 winner, defoending SA champion Jade Gutzeit, and official Yamaha team mate Marc Torlage, back in action after missing the Kalahari 400 in April due to injury - each on a brand new, 2013-spec OR1 (Open Class) machine.
Also in the mix in this extremely competitive class will be Yamaha riders Kenny Gilbert and the Webster brothers, Chris and Jonathan, each of whom has already been on overall podium this season while Juan 'Bollie' van Rooyen (Kawasaki) and Mahoney's team-mate, Gray Dick, have also visited the OR1 podium and are aiming to do so again.
Altus de Wet (KTM) is the only non-OR1 rider in the overall top six - he's second behind Brother Broadlink team mate Mahoney and comfortably leads the OR2 (250cc) Class from Yamaha riders Timothy Young and Wade Blaauw.
De Wet's team mate Michael Creevy has also been scoring consistently and leads OR3 after two victories and another podium position, with Bradley van Aswegen (Yamaha) second in OR3.
Defending champion Wayne Farmer (Gas Gas) is still out of action due to injury 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 one 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 competition will be just as tough between the front runners in the four-wheeler category. André du Plessis (Suzuki) has been consistent although he has not yet won this season. He leads the overall standings, but his lead is too small for him to be comfortable.
Jurie Meyer (Yamaha), who won in the Cape, is close behind and just ahead of the winner of this race last year, Brian Baragwanath (Yamaha) who is also still looking for an elusive first win of 2012.
The order behind the top three, who are separated by just seven points, could also easily change as only a handful of points separate the next six competitors - two of whom have already won this season.
Damien Lee (Honda) won the Kalahari 400 and, although he could not finish the Cape round, he's 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 both been scoring consistently and are one and three points respectively behind Lee while newcomer John Aylward (Yamaha) will be out to produce good results in front of his home crowd and improve his seventh place in the standings.
Jacques 'Boesman' Struwig (Suzuki) is eighth, just one point point behind Aylward, while 2011 Junior National Champion, Matthew Barnard (KTM) rounds out the top 10.
An interesting name on the entry list is that of the Dubai Pro Quad DMX champion Alex MacFarlane, who'll be riding a Kawasaki. This entry will be watched with interest.
The situation in the Senior Quad Class has changed after the Kalahari 400 when class leader, Amanda Eardley (Can-Am) dropped to second as she couldn't finish the Vryburg event. She'd like nothing better than to produce a victory 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 could, however, throw a spanner in the wheels - don't even try to predict a winner.
Anything could happen in the Master Quad Class where injured class leader Kobus Visser (Can-Am), who is also leading the Q3 Utility Class, will only decide whether he's going to ride on the cut-off day, Wednesday. Former champion, Milton Thesen (Yamaha) is only eight points behind him, while defending champion Jurie Meyer is third but won't be competing, Kalahari 400 class winner Vicus Breedt (Suzuki) could overtake him in the championship standings.
Eardley could also retake the lead in the Ladies class from André du Plessis' twin sister Adi (Suzuki) who is currently leading, but won't be riding due to injury. Kalahari 400 winner Chantelle Darlow (Yamaha), who is currently third, will however be riding, and could upset the establishment.