Stella, North West Province - Botswana off-road star Ross Branch (KTM) and Pretoria quad champion Brian Baragwanath (Yamaha) became the first winners of the inaugural Vryburg Stella 400 off-road race at the Youth Day weekend.
It was Branch's second consecutive victory of the 2014 National championship season while Baragwanath has won the quad cateogry at all four rounds.
The dry and dusty 360km race proved to be a challenge, with tight battles in the various class championships - and seemed seemed to be just a few kilometres too long as motorcycle competitors Tim Young (Yamaha), Nicholas Pienaar (KTM) and Bruce Viljoen (Husqvarna) all had problems on the last of the race's six 60km loops and had to call it a day.
Young was running in the top five when a sharp object put a hole in his Yamaha's radiator and forced him out of the race while Pienaar, who has not been racing for several months due to injuries, experienced possible fuel pump problems about 30km from the finish.
For Branch, the race included something of everything and riders could not afford a lapse in concentration. Behind him his team-mate, Louwrens Mahoney, lost time when he picked up wire he had to remove from his bike.
Mahoney then got into a race-long battle with defending champion, Kenny Gilbert (Yamaha) who had to settle for third when he crashed twice on the last lap. Mahoney then chased Branch and eventually finished only six seconds behind the leader; he was also second behind Branch in the OR1 (Open Class) with Gilbert picking up third in OR1.
Brother KTM team-mates, Tyron Miller, who crashed early and lost his helmet's peak, and Louw Schmidt picked up the OR2 (250cc) and OR3 (200cc) class victories and finished fourth and sixth respectively, with OR1 rider, Dillon Inggs (Kawasaki) fifth overall between them.
Only 10 seconds separated Charan Moore (Yamaha) in seventh from Roan Lindsay (Yamaha), who took second behind Miller in OR2, while Hein Junior van Niekerk (KTM) rounded off the overall top 10 and took third in OR2. Bernard McGee (Yamaha) was ninth overall and second in OR3 with Taki Bogiages (KTM) rounding off the OR3 podium and the top 10 overall.
Defending champion, Jurie 'Botter' Meyer (Yamaha), who could not complete the previous two nationals, was the thirteenth quad off the start line, but he hunted Baragwanath down and finished second (two minutes 19 seconds down) despite a flat tyre and removing wire from his quad.
Fellow Polokwane rider, André du Plessis (Yamaha) was riding hard in second, but had to call it a day due to a broken frame. Tzaneen teenager Jaco Moller (Yamaha) puit in a steady ride to claim his second podium result this season.
Baragwanath, Meyer and Moller also finished as the top three in Q1.
André Park (Yamaha) fought his way up to fourth place overall (he was also fourth in Q1) with David Hollis (Yamaha) rounding off the overall and Q1 top five, Stuart Freeman (Yamaha) finished only 15 seconds behind Hollis to claim his third Senior Class victory with his team-mate and the Senior Class leader, Russell Ferreira (Honda), finishing second in the class and eighth overall.
Jaco Venter (Honda) missed the previous two Nationals but made up for it by finishing seventh overall (sixth in Q1) with Paul dos Santos (Suzuki) ninth overall and third in the Senior Class and Hannes Annandale (Suzuki) 10th overall and the Q2 winner.
The Combined Ladies Class Championship was won by Liezel Barnard (Can-Am) who also claimed the victory in the Ladies Quad Class. Chardri Monk (Yamaha) was second on four wheels and in this new championship with Maryna Venter (Honda quad) third. Taye Perry (Bert KTM) won the Ladies Class in the motorcycle category with the schoolgirl Anais Steenkamp (Kawasaki) second; they were classified fourth and fifth respectively in the Combined Ladies Class Championship where the results calculated by a handicap system.
The fifth and penultimate round of the series will be run on 23 August in the Frankfort / Reitz area of the Free State.