Wolmaransstad, North-West Province - Multiple former champion, Louwrens Mahoney (KTM) has won the motorcycle category of the Diamond Route 400, Round 1 of the 2014 SA Off-road Championship for a third time. Former quad champion, Brian Baragwanath (Yamaha) won the quad category of this tough 360km race.
Mahoney, who won this event in 2011 and 2012 but had to take the 2013 season off after the first two races due to a broken ankle, battled all the way with team mate Ross Branch and Yamaha rider Timothy Young, who held the lead in the early stages.
This is Branch's first national off-road season in South Africa (the Botswana rider is a motocross specialist, but posted the fastest time during the Seeding Event earlier this year) and he rode conservatively to finish second behind Mahoney.
Young crashed into a culvert at the end of the fourth of six loops, damaging the front wheel and bending the handlebars of his Yamaha. That cost him time and positions and he had to settle for sixth.
There was only three minutes between Branch, who was also second in OR1 (Open Class) behind Mahoney, and Young (sixth in both classes) with mere seconds separating the riders in between.
Defending OR1 champion, Kenny Gilbert (Yamaha) survived a frustrating first half due to brake problems, but fought back to round off the overall and OR1 podiums - 14 seconds behind Branch and only five seconds ahead of Dillon Inggs (Kawasaki), who was competed for the first time in OR1. Inggs, in turn, was again only 16 seconds ahead of 2013 runner-up, Ruan Roberts (Yamaha).
There was close racing throughout the pack, with just 11 seconds in it at the finish between KTM team mates Tyron Miller, seventh overall and winner in OR2 (250cc), and the OR3 (200cc) winner, Louw Schmidt, who was eighth overall with Nicholas Pienaar (KTM) ninth and enduro specialist Wesley Redinger (KTM) - in his first national off-road race - 10th overall and second in OR2.
Juan 'Bollie' van Rooyen (KTM) finished 11th overall and won the Senior Class in his first outing since he became eligible. Former Senior Class champion Guy Henley (KTM) was second in class with Kobus Jonck (KTM) third, having lost time after a crash damaged the radiator of his KTM.
Ian Venter (KTM) finished fourth, Robert Streak (Yamaha) fifth and another former champion, Wayne Farmer (Gas Gas) sixth. Jonck's team mate and defending champion Pieter Holl had a rough day at the office and could finish no better than seventh in class.
Competitors in the Masters and Ladies Classes have to complete 75 percent of race distance - about 300km in this race. Garth Prost (Husqvarna) won the Masters Class from Adrian Storm (KTM) with Jan Berning (KTM) third and Leon Gerber (KTM) fourth.
Baragwanath took the early lead in a race-long duel with Jurie 'Botter' Meyer (Yamaha) who suffered two flat tyres during the race. Meyer finished a little more than a minute behind Baragwanath with Tzaneen teenager Jaco Moller (Yamaha) rounding off the overall and Q1 podiums.
David Hollis, (Yamaha), who crashed out of this race in 2012 and did not compete last year, made a welcome comeback by finishing fourth overall and in Q1 with Jaco Venter (Honda) rounding off the top five in both categories.
Hannes Saaijman (Yamaha) won Q2 and finished sixth overall on the Yamaha Raptor that he's developing for the 2015 Dakar Rally.
André du Plessis (Yamaha) started from pole but had to settle for seventh after picking up fuel problems, while defending Q2 title holder Justin Robert (Suzuki) finished eighth overall and second in Q2, less than a minute behind Du Plessis and only eight seconds ahead of Senior Class winner, Stuart Freeman (Yamaha) after five hours and 20 minutes of racing.
Freeman's team mate Russell Ferreira (Honda) didn't post a time at the Seeding Event and had to start from the back of the field, but fought back to finish second in the Senior Class - 16 seconds behind Freeman - and round off the top 10.
Only 14 Q1, Q2 and Senior Class competitors managed to complete the full race distance with Bertie Morton (Suzuki) finishing 11th; Paul dos Santos (Suzuki) 12th and third in the Senior Class, Ted Barbier (Yamaha) 13th overall and fourth in the Senior Class and Peter Walter (Yamaha) 14th and rounding off the top five in the Senior Class.
Here George Twigge (Yamaha) opened his bid for the Masters Quad title with a victory over the defending champion, Jurie Meyer (Yamaha) who was followed by the Dos Santos brothers Tony (third) and Roxy (fourth) - each on a Factory Racing Suzuki team - with Peter Schenk (Honda) rounding off the top five.
The Combined Ladies National Championship for female competitors on motorcycles and quads was won by Jaco Venter's sister, Maryna (Honda) who also won the Ladies Quad Class. Nanda Swiegers (Yamaha) won the Ladies Bikes Class and finished second in the new Combined Ladies category.
Liezel Barnard was third overall and second in the quad category after crashing her big Can Am, while petite Taye Perry (KTM) finished fourth (second on two wheels) after picking up mechanical gremlins.
Karin Geldenhuys (Can-Am) finished her first national fifth overall (third in quads) while Toni Jardine (KTM) claimed valuable points in this new championship by finishing sixth (third lady on two wheels) after also losing lots of time due to mechanical problems.
The second round of the series will be run at Windsorton in the Northern Cape on 12 April and will level the playing field as it will be the first time a national off-road event will be staged there.