Vredendal - Everybody who competed in the Namaqua African Rally, a multi-stage navigational event for motorcycle and quad riders held over nine days in the Western Cape, was a winner and those who reached the chequered flag after five days of racing, became part of a little history made in South Africa.
KTM rider Brett Cummings, 31, from Witbank, a multiple Dakar Rally finisher, became the first winner of the Namaqua African Rally after he took the lead on Tuesday despite towing his biggest rival, defending SA Off-Road Motorcycle champion Kenny Gilbert, home when his Yamaha ran out of fuel.
The racing action started on Sunday with a 46km prologue to determine the starting positions for Monday. The smooth gravel roads suited the quad competitors, who raced after the bikers, perfectly and most bikers, including both Cummings and Gilbert, had to eat their dust on Monday.
A combination of racing and organisational issues complicated the day's results and the defending quad champion, Jurie 'Botter' Meyer (Yamaha) took over the lead from Prologue winner, Brian Baragwanath, also on a Yamaha quad.
But the two-wheelers struck back with solid performances and - with some bad luck and mechanical problems for a few quad riders - they retook the lead after Tuesday's stage and kept it to the end with Cummings (who also took two stage victories) finishing first overall.
Gilbert won three of the racing stages, but lost time when the mousse in the rear tyre collapsed on Thursday and he ran out of fuel. He was still happy with his result and after his first 'rally raid' event.
IT'S A GIRL THING
The battle between the lady riders continued to the end with Toni Jardine (KTM) winning after a nail-biting finish with her bike giving up on her during the last day. She still managed 17th overall and won the M1.1 Class, while tiny Taye Perry (KTM) never gave and finished 19th overall and first in Class M1.2.
Both girls recovered from multiple crashes during the rally and resultant mechanical issues - Perry raced many kilometres with bent forks after a crash and had tyre problems on the penultimate day while Jardine's KTM had oil problems - but they persevered to complete their first 'rally raid' and are now aiming for even bigger things.
Baragwanath fought an uphill battle after losing the lead on Tuesday. He not only suffered mechanical problems, he also got lost and had issues with his navigation system; yet, after starting Tuesday behind more than 40 riders, he worked his way back to finish the race as the winner of the quad category and third overall.
Quad riders took three of the top seven places with Meyer, who also had his fair share of mechanical issues and towed fellow quad rider Stefan Swanepoel for the best part of Friday's final racing section, finishing fifth overall. Roger Kane-Berman (KTM) in his maiden race (nothing like jumping in at the deep end, is there?) survived a couple of crashes to finish fourth overall.
Adrian Storm (KTM) had a consistent race and was sixth with Swanepoel seventh overall, while Botswana rider, Neil Gailey (KTM) was happy with his eighth place in preparation for his participation in the Australasian Safari later this year.
2012 Dakar Rally finisher, Greg Raaff (KTM) is also not a regular competitor, but managed a ninth place with Willem du Toit (KTM) rounding off the overall top 10.
Of the 67 competitors who started the race, 54 completed the event, including those who could not reach the finish line on one or more of the days, but took the 'bail out' choice and started the race the next day again.
They included local Vredendal winemaker, Dewald Huisamen (KTM) who had tyre problems on Thursday, but raced again on Friday to ensure he was a finisher and quad rider Hannes Saaijman whose Yamaha Raptor engine seized on Tuesday (he rebuilt it during the rest day on Wednesday and was ninth fastest on Thursday!)
Cape Town quad builder John Graham (Yamaha), who not only had to fix a problematic engine and also ran out of fuel, reached the finish on Friday and two of the three Dos Santos brothers from Hoedspruit finished despite Paul's gearbox problems.
Liezel Barnard (Can-Am) could not finish Thursday's stage due to a broken belt but started again on Friday. It was however not meant to be as the prop-shaft of her big Renegade 4x4 broke. Her husband, Banie, then decided to give up his race in support for his wife who, like the three other ladies, will all compete this coming weekend in the Bell 400 SA Off-Road championship race at Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal. Chardri Monk (Yamaha) also overcame a few small issues during the race to finish 35th overall.
Brian Bontekoning (KTM) finished 11th overall, with Garth Roberts (KTM), who was one of the six team-members who started and completed the event, 12th overall. Thorarinn Einarsson from Iceland, also KTM-mounted, finished 13th in his first race, Hennie Blignaut (Yamaha) was 14th overall and fourth in the quad category and Mark Schnaar-Campbell (KTM) rounded off the top 15.
Class M1.1 (Lites Bikes up to 250cc)
1 Toni Jardine (KTM)
2 Paul Bredenkamp (KTM)
Class M1.2 (Lites Bikes up to 250cc)
1 Taye Perry (KTM)
2 Dewald Janse van Rensburg
3 Chris Opperman
Class M1.3 (Lites Bikes bigger than 450cc and up to 1200cc)
1 Kenny Gilbert (Yamaha)
2 Kevin Thompson
3 Roger-John Faulkner-Smith (BMW)
Class M2.2 (Production Bikes up to 450cc)
1 Willem du Toit (KTM)
2 Joey Evans (KTM)
3 Simon Schimmel (KTM)
Class M2.3 (Production Bikes)
1 Adrian Storm (KTM)
2 Brian Bontekoning (KTM)
3 Peter Bosman (BMW)
Class M3.1 (Super Production Bikes)
1 Brett Cummings (KTM)
2 Roger Kane-Berman (KTM)
3 Greg Raaff (KTM)
Class M3.2 (Super Production Bikes 450cc)
1 Neil Gailey (KTM)
2 Garth Roberts (KTM)
3 Kurt Strahlendorf (KTM)
Class Q1.1 (Quads up to 450cc)
1 Jurie Meyer (Yamaha)
2 Tony dos Santos (Suzuki)
3 Paul dos Santos (Suzuki)
Class Q1.2 (Unlimited Quads)
1 Brian Baragwanath (Team Rhide SA Yamaha)
2 Stefan Swanepoel (Yamaha)
3 Hennie Blignaut (Yamaha)
Class Q3 (Shared Quads)
1 Milton Thesen / Roger Barnes (Yamaha)
1 Toni Jardine (KTM)
2 Taye Perry (KTM)
3 Chardri Monk (Yamaha)