Heavy rain on Friday night turned Saturday's Seeding Event for the 2014 SA National Off-road Motorcycle and Quad Championship outside Bronkhorstspruit into a wet and muddy affair - especially for the quad competitors who had to face deep river crossings early on a dark and cloudy morning.
The weather cleared during Saturday, however, and about 300 off-road riders from all over South Africa competed without incident in the Seeding Event to determine the starting order for the opening rounds of the National and Northern Regions championships as well as the Gauteng Off-Road Club Series.
The quads had to negotiate the muddy and slippery route first and this resulted in some unfortunate 'quad drownings'. In the end four Q1 Class riders posted the top times as André du Plessis (Yamaha) claimed pole position with a best effort of 38min04.689.
He was 2min47 faster than fellow Polokwane rider and defending title-holder, Jurie Meyer (Yamaha), who in turn was just three seconds faster than former Junior National Champion, Jaco Moller (Extreme ATV) with another Polokwane rider and former champion, Brian Baragwanath (Yamaha) just over half a minute further behind.
Jacques Struwig (Suzuki) posted the fifth fastest time and was the fastest in the Senior Class with Charles Lee (Suzuki) second and Stuart Freeman (Yamaha) third in this class.
Hannes Saaijman (Suzuki) finished sixth overall and was the leading Q2 Class rider. Leonard dos Santos (Q2 Suzuki) started his season better than he finished the previous one and was seventh fastest (only four seconds behind Saaijman) while Damien Lee (Honda) was eighth quickest. Bethlehem rider, David Hollis (Yamaha), made a comeback after taking a year off and was ninth while Franco Annandale (Q2 Suzuki) rounded off the top 10.
2013 Dakar Rally quad hero, Sarel van Biljon (Can-Am) was back in action although he experienced a few problems and qualified 29th while two Senior Class competitors, Russell Ferreira (who drowned his Honda) and Willie Roos (Yamaha) failed to post any times
It seems as if the Master Class battle will again be between defending champion, Jurie Meyer Snr (Yamaha) and Tony dos Santos (Suzuki). The latter beat the champion this time - if only by 43 seconds.
Org Geldenhuys (Can-Am) was third while his wife Karen (Can-Am) was the fastest lady on four wheels with Maryna Venter (Honda) second.
They will however have to face more ladies at the first round of the national championship as several entrants in the Ladies Class could not attend this event.
The track dried had dried out somewhat by the time the motorcycle riders tackled the 33km loop, which some rocky sections and river crossings. While all eyes were on the current and former champions, however, Botswana motocross and off-road rider, Ross Branch (KTM) clinched pole position - just 26 seconds ahead of defending OR2 champion, Tim Young (Racing Yamaha) himself a scant seven seconds ahead of the defending title holder and OR1 champion, Kenny Gilbert who lost time when water got into his Yamaha's engine.
Most competitors tackled the loop more than once, but the route deteriorated rapidly and, although Gilbert did another lap, he had to settle for the time posted during his first problematic lap.
It was the first off-road event for Louwrens Mahoney (KTM) after he crashed and broke his ankle in 2013 but the former champion was just three seconds behind Gilbert. Gilbert's team mate, Marc Torlage, had to miss the final races of the 2013 season due to a back injury, but the former off-road and enduro champion was back, rounding off the top five, 13 seconds behind Mahoney.
Competition among the two-wheelers was extremely tight; little more than 90 seconds covered the top 10.
Ruan Roberts (Yamaha) was sixth fastest with Dillon Inggs (Kawasaki) seventh and Young's team mate Charan Moore eighth. All eight riders compete in the OR1 (Open Class); Altus de Wet (Husqvarna) put up the best time by an OR2 rider to qualify ninth overall. Darren Pienaar (KTM) was second in OR2 (12th overall) with Jono van Wyk (KTM) rounding off the OR2 podium and finishing just behind Pienaar in the overall standings.
Van Wyk's team-mate, Louw Schmidt - 10th overall - was the fastest OR3 rider.
Another KTM rider, Juan 'Bollie' van Rooyen, who has moved to the Senior Class, qualified 11th overall and quickest in his new class.
The conditions were very tough for the ladies, where the Ladies Class Challenge winner, Toni Jardine (KTM), narrowly beat Taye Perry (also KTM-powered) It seems that the 2013 title battle between these two girls will continue this season.