Heat, dust and 360km of nailbitingly close racing provided a dramatic climax to the 2013 SA Off-Road Motorcycle and Quad championships at the weekend's Ventersdorp 400 in the North West Province.
Works Yamaha rider Kenny Gilbert notched up his third overall victory and seventh podium position of the season to clinch the overall as well as the OR1 (Open Class) titles - but only after a race-long battle with Yamaha privateer Ruan Roberts.
Roberts was slowed by dehydration towards the end of the race and had to settle for second (and second in OR1) with Altus de Wet (Husqvarna) claiming his second overall podium position for the year by finishing third (he was also third in OR1) after adopting a conservative approach to the final event of an extremely competitive season that saw most of the titles being settled at this race.
Teenager Louw Schmidt (KTM) posted his best overall result for the season, finishing just off the podium in fourth place and claiming his sixth OR4 (Under 21) class win to become the deserving 2013 OR4 title holder.
HAULING OUT THE BIG GUN
Charan Moore (Honda - OR1) posted another top-five result by finishing just behind the youngster while Schmidt's team mate, Juan 'Bollie' van Rooyen (OR1 Class) was sixth, only a minute ahead of Michael Pentecost who, having clinched the OR3 (200cc) championship at the previous round, was riding a big-bore, OR1-class Yamaha in this race.
Pentecost's team mate Timothy Young claimed the OR2 (250cc) championship after winning this class for the fourth time this season (he finished eighth overall), although each was lucky to get away lightly from a crash during the race, while Roan Lindsay (Yamaha) posted a career-best result with second in OR2 and ninth overall and Jaycee Nienaber (Yamaha) won the OR3 (200cc) Class and finished 10th overall.
Pieter Holl (KTM) already had the Senior Class championship in the bag but notched up his fourth win of the season just for good measure, followed home by Justin Broughton (Kawasaki) with Wayne Farmer (Gas Gas) third.
Brian Baragwanath (Yamaha) posted his fourth overall and Q1 victory of the season, winning the Ventersdorp 400 for the second consecutive year after a trouble-free race, but a fourth place for defending title holder, Jurie Meyer (Yamaha) after mechanical problems, was enough for him to retain the overall title as well as the Q1 championship.
Jacques Struwig (Suzuki) notched up his third podium of the season by finishing second behind Baragwanath despite battery problems (he also won the Senior Class) while André du Plessis (Yamaha) rounded off the overall podium (and took second in Q1) after a ferocious battle through the field - he'd had to fix his rear yellow light on the start line and got away stone last.
Hannes Saaijman (Suzuki) won Q2 for riders older than 28 years and finished fifth overall, but the 2013 Q2 title belongs to Justin Robert (Suzuki) whose sixth place in Q2 (14th overall) after three flat tyres and a broken chain was enough to nail down the class title.
Danie Senekal (Yamaha) posted his best result of the season, finishing a mere 36 seconds behind Saaijman in sixth, while the Senior Class championship went to Paul Chomse (Banshee) who was happy with his seventh place overall; he finished second behind Struwig in this class at Ventersdorp.
Hannes Annandale (Suzuki) was eighth overall (second in Q2) and Paul dos Santos (Suzuki) ninth (third in Q2) with Willie Roos (Yamaha) making a welcome comeback to the sport by rounding off the top 10 and the Senior Class podium.
Oz Osborne (Yamaha) who was in the running for the Q2 title but must surely qualify for the Hard Luck Award after getting lost, suffering two punctures and finally injuring himself when he rolled his quad.
Jurie Meyer Sr (Yamaha) had already clinched the Master Class title, so he left the rest to battle it out. Tony dos Santos (Suzuki) won this time for a 100 percent podium record for the year, followed by Peter Schenk (Honda) who battled with flat tyres while Ted Barbier (Yamaha) came home third.
KTM stalwart Leon Gerber won the Master Class for competitors older than 46 years for the fourth time this season, but second was enough for Martin Poole (Yamaha) to claim this title, with Willem Swiegers third.