Off-Roaders line up for 180km sprintComment on this story
Reitz, Free State - With only the two 180km sprint races left in the 2014 Off-Road Motorcycle and Quad series, it may be too late to prevent the 'official' KTM squad from annexing the titles in four of the six motorcycle classes.
And the first of those sprints will be the GOC National Off-Road - to be run on Sunday 24 August in the Frankfort/Reitz area of the Free State, instead of Saturday as originally scheduled, so as not to clash with the Red Bull X-Fighters Finale season finale at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
The riders will have just three laps of a 60km course to make their challenge stick, meaning that strategy and tactics will take a back seat to fitness, concentration, commitment and a reliable machine.
Botswana KTM rider Ross Branch is leading OR1 (Open Class) championship as well as the overall standings and will aim for a hat trick, chased by team-mate and the winner of the first two races of the season, Louwrens Mahoney - who has dropped to the third place in OR1 and overall after a disappointing outing at the Bell 400.
Defending OR1 champion and overall title holder, Kenny Gilbert (Yamaha) is sandwiched between Branch and Mahoney and will be pushing to try to retain his No.1 plate.
Three more 'works' KTM riders are lined up behind Mahoney - Louw Schmidt, Tyron Miller and Juan 'Bollie' van Rooyen, each of whom is leading his class - the OR3 (200cc), OR2 (250cc) and Senior Classes respectively. Charan Moore (Yamaha) is seventh overall while Dillon Inggs (Kawasaki) rounds off the top 10.
Jaycee Nienaber (Yamaha) has tasted victory in OR2 this year and will be chasing Miller while keeping a close eye on Hein van Niekerk Junior (KTM) who is too close for comfort.
Schmidt has a comfortable lead in OR3, but second-placed schoolboy Taki Bogiages (KTM) and third-placed Wilhelm Schonfeldt (Yamaha) will each be chasing a maiden victory.
Defending Senior Class champion, Pieter Holl (KTM) beat Van Rooyen in the previous race and it's Game On for the three front runners with another former champion, Guy Henley (KTM) still within striking range in third.
Master Class rider Adrian Storm (KTM) has quite a comfortable lead ahead of Jan Berning (KTM), but both can expect a run for their money from Leon Gerber (KTM) who has not competed regularly this season.
Q1 and overall leader, Brian Baragwanath (Yamaha) has been unstoppable, winning each of the previous four events. Bethlehem rider David Hollis (Yamaha) is hanging on to second overall and in Q1 after an up-and-down season and needs a good result at his 'home' event, while schoolboy André Park (Yamaha) has moved into third overall and in Q1, despite not competing in the season opener.
There are only seven points between Senior Class leader Russell Ferreira (Honda), who is fourth overall (three points behind Park) and Jaco Moller (Yamaha) in ninth - expect mayhem.
Hannes Saaijman, who will take on the 2015 Dakar Rally together with Team Rhide SA team-mate Baragwanat, has reclaimed the Q2 lead and is fifth overall (only one point behind Ferreira) while defending Q1 champion Jurie 'Botter' Meyer (Yamaha) trails him by two points after a disappointing season in which he had to drop out of two races.
Ferreira's team-mate Stuart Freeman (Yamaha) is still aiming for the Senior Class title even though he is five points behind Ferreira and two points behind Meyer in sixth.
Defending Q2 title holder, Justin Robert (Suzuki) is probably the 'biggest loser' after dropping from the overall top three earlier this season to eighth after failing to finish the recent Stella race due to mechanical problems. He's tied with Moller, two points behind Freeman, while two DNFs have pushed André du Plessis (Yamaha) down to 10th overall.
The season-long battle between Master Class leader George Twigge (Yamaha) and defending champion, Jurie Meyer Senior (Yamaha) with Twigge only six points ahead after taking three wins to Meyer's one. Peter Schenk (Honda) is third after consistent results with Tony dos Santos (Suzuki) fourth after dropping out of the Bell 400.
Quad rider Liezel Barnard (Can-Am) is still leading the Combined Ladies Championship for female motorcycle and quad competitors but motorcycle rider Taye Perry (KTM) is now only four points behind. Then there's quite a gap to quad rider Chardri Monk (Yamaha), but she will have to keep an eye on biker Toni Jardine (Yamaha) who trails her by a mere two points after having to miss an event due to her international racing commitments.
WHERE AND WHEN
The GOC National Off-Road Sprint will start on Sunday 24 August at 8am in the Roadside area about 16km off the N3, when quad riders will be flagged away. Two-wheelers will tackle the same course at noon.