The Toyota Desert Race (TDR) that forms the third and the fourth rounds of the SA Cross Country Championship for Motorcycle and Quad competitors (SACCS Moto) and takes place in the Botswana desert (23 to 25 June) lived up to its reputation as being enjoyable, but tough and with more than 400 kilometres done and dusted for the third round (Saturday, 24 June), another 420 kilometres await them for the next round tomorrow (Sunday, 25 June).
The 45 kilometre time-trial on Friday determined the starting order for Saturday’s racing section.
The Botswana rider, Ross Branch (Brother Leader Tread KTM) made his home crowd proud when he came out tops in the motorcycle category and walked away with the overall laurels as well as the win in the OR1 (Open) championship. The experienced South African, Kenny Gilbert (Liqui Moly Racing Husqvarna), who finished second overall and in OR1, was sandwiched by Botswana riders as he was followed by Dartagnan Lobjoit (Yamaha) who rounded off the overall and OR1 podium.
The OR1 top five was rounded out by Branch’s team-mate, Louw Schmidt, and the motocross champion, Tristan Purdon (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha Racing) who completed his first desert racing experience. There were problems for another local Botswana rider, the Dakar Rally hero Vincent Crosbie (Yamaha) who had to settle for 12th place in OR1 after starting well while Tim Young (Sherco Liqui Moly Racing) spent the day fixing his bike after the engine seized during the time-trial resulting in him not being able to participate in round three. He will, however, be in action for the fourth round.
Brett Swanepoel (Pepson Plastics Husqvarna) got rid of the monkey on his back and took the OR2 (250cc) victory putting his dismal 2016 visit to the Botswana desert, when he could not finish any of the two rounds, behind him. He was followed by the desert racing legend, Louwrens Mahoney (Brother Leader Tread KTM) who made a comeback to racing this year and moved to the second place behind Swanepoel in the OR2 championship. Gareth Cole (KTM) was third followed by Marius Venter (KTM) with Roan Lindsay (KTM Centurion Liqui Moly Racing) fifth.
Like Branch and Swanepoel, the OR3 (200cc) championship leader, Kyle Flanagan (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha Racing) also scored his third victory this season and claimed his first win in the desert. He was followed closely by Charan Moore (Live Lesotho Yamaha) who also jumped a few places in the championship standings with Taki Bogiages (KTM) rounding off the OR3 podium in the desert. Wilhelm Schönfeldt (BCR Arrow Yamaha Racing) kept his second place in the OR3 championship with a fourth place while Ian Rall (KTM) completed the top five.
The defending Senior Class champion, Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen (Brother Leader Tread KTM) scored a hat trick by taking a comfortable victory with the Rally Raid expert, Hentie Hanekom (Husqvarna) finishing second after beating Bruce Viljoen (Doorzone Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) by a mere 35 seconds. Bruce May (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha Racing) had a disappointing time-trial, but managed a fourth place, 34 seconds behind Viljoen with Kobus Jonck (KTM), who tackled the national series for the first time this season, not too far behind in fifth.
It looked like the battle in the High School championship would be between class leader and defending champion, Stefan van Deventer (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha) and Maarten van Jaarsveld (Doorzone Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna), but Van Deventer claimed a rather comfortable win – his third this year – with Van Jaarsveld having to settle for another runner-up result. Juan-Pierre de Villiers (Q-KON EMD Basefit Racing KTM) was third; Barend Pretorius (KTM) finished fourth and Frans Kock (KTM) fifth.
In the Master Class, the Farmer vs. Holl battle continued with the defending champ, Wayne Farmer (Doorzone Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) beating Pieter Holl (KTM) by the skin of his teeth as less than two minutes separated them. Faan van Deventer (Yamaha) was third, Trevor Hills (Yamaha) finished fourth and Iain Pepper (Pepson Plastics Husqvarna) fifth in this class for riders older than 46 years.
Dayna Nienaber (KTM) won the Ladies Class while Matt Coetzee won the Silver Class Interprovincial Challenge.
In the quad category, the Open Quad championship leader, Hannes Saaijman (Q-KON EMD Basefit Racing KTM) had to settle for second place after starting the race from pole position. He lost time with a leaking fuel tank and ran out of fuel just before the end. Luckily his brother, Abraham (Q-KON EMD Basefit Racing Yamaha) supported him to reach the finish for a one-two result for the Saaijman brothers. Hennie Michau (Yamaha) rounded off the podium.
Youngster Keenan Hammon (Yamaha) was not too far behind in fourth place while Gideon Jacobs (KTM), who posted the fastest time on the first of the two laps, but lost time during the second lap, rounded out the top five.
Michau’s father, Hennie Sr (Yamaha) used his desert racing experience and showed the younger riders that he means business by finishing sixth.
Peter Walter (Can-Am) was the first Side-by-Side vehicle home in seventh place and a mere 27 seconds behind Michau Sr and only 24 seconds ahead of Andries Bester (Yamaha) who again finished just ahead of his father, Stef Bester (VANS Racing Division Yamaha) with the latter now aiming to move up a notch or two on the championship standings.
Dean Bradbury (Can-Am) rounded off the top ten with his Side-by-Side vehicle with another Can-Am in the hands of Werner Mostert just outside the top 10 in 11th place.
Ashley Bradbury’s Can-Am was the last vehicle in this category, just behind lady rider, Melanie Swanepoel (Yamaha) who finished behind Paul dos Santos (Yamaha) 13th and the adventurer, Hamish Horrell (Yamaha) who plans to compete in the Dakar Rally in the future, in 12th.
There were unfortunately no results and no points this time for Ruan Stander (GVS Racing Vryburg); Pierre van Heerden (Honda) who was second in the championship standings and will have to fight back during the fourth round in the desert and Nico du Rand (Polaris) who will all aim for some points before returning from Botswana. Junior Vardy (Yamaha) won the Silver Class Challenge.
Stiff muscles and blisters on the hands will have to be ignored when riders tackle the final day of the TDR in Botswana on Sunday (25 June) when 420 kilometres await most of them.
All the action will take place from the Jwaneng Sport Complex where the Start/Finish as well as the central service and refuel point will be.