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Bikes and quads to continue their cross country title battles at Harrismith 400

Bikes and quads to continue their cross country title battles at Harrismith 400
  • Penultimate round of the 2017 SACC Moto championship promises to provide nail biting racing action

Exciting racing action can be expected at the Harrismith 400, the penultimate round of the 2017 South African National Cross Country Series Championship for Motorcycles and Quads (SACCS Moto) that takes place on Friday, 28 July from the Eeram Farmers Complex at Harrismith in the Free State.

The Harrismith 400 will form the fifth round of the SACCS Moto and although it might look like the frontrunners have a stronghold on the various championships, anything can still happen and if they put a foot wrong, the chasing packs are close enough to walk away with the spoils. Crews, supporters and spectators might experience scenarios where the leaders will play it safe while still aiming for more victories. The rest have nothing to loose and will go for the maximum amount of points to better their current standings.

Riders will have to complete the 20 kilometres Super Pole early on Friday morning to determine the starting order for the second racing section. Racing section two consists of another 360 kilometres for competitors who have to complete the full racing distance.

The overall championship title is at stake and although the Botswana motorcycle rider, Ross Branch (Brother Leader Tread KTM) has a fairly comfortable lead ahead of Brett Swanepoel (Pepson Plastics Husqvarna Racing), he will have to protect his lead as he is not far enough ahead to be safe. Swanepoel is in the same boat, but he is being chased by two riders with the same amount of points – Kenny Gilbert (Liqui Moly Racing Husqvarna) and Kyle Flanagan (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha Racing) with former multiple champion, Louwrens Mahoney (Brother Leader Tread KTM) close on their heels. They all stand a chance to walk away with the Number One plate at the end of the season.

It is, however, not only about the overall championship as the various class championships are also up for grabs. Branch, Swanepoel and Flanagan are leading the OR1 (Open), OR2 (250cc) and OR3 (200cc) championships respectively and although they have scored four victories after four events this year, they are still not home safe yet.

Branch will aim for a fifth OR1 and overall victory, but the motocross ace, Tristan Purdon (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha Racing) is getting more comfortable in his first cross country season and will be happy with more podium results. He is second in OR1, but not too far ahead of Gilbert who will work hard not only to get his second place back, but to get even closer to Branch. Tim Young (Sherco Liqui Moly Racing) dropped off the podium after mechanical issues prevented him from scoring points at the third round and he will go all out to make up for lost points. Ruan Potgieter (KTM) is now ahead of him in fourth place.

In OR2 Mahoney, who moved to the second place, will breath down Swanepoel’s neck while Ruan Smith (KTM Centurion Liqui Moly Racing) will defend his third place with all his might. Jaycee Nienaber (Super Moose Racing KTM) and Cameron Becker (Q-KON EMD Basefit Racing KTM) were in the top five before the Botswana events, but did not compete in these two rounds and dropped down the leader board. Marius Venter (KTM), Gareth Cole (KTM), Roan Lindsay (KTM Centurion Liqui Moly Racing) and Clayton Allem (KTM) are now all ahead of them and they will have to work hard if they want to get their positions back.

Flanagan leads OR3, but he will have second-placed Wilhelm Schönfeldt (BCR Arrow Yamaha Racing) to look out for as well as third-placed Charan Moore (Live Lesotho Yamaha) who trails Schönfeldt by only one point. Ian Rall (KTM) and Haydn Cole (KTM) are respectively fourth and fifth and as not many points separate Schönfeldt, Moore, Rall and Cole, the standings can look totally different after the Harrismith 400.

The Senior Class also has a Brother Leader Tread KTM rider, Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen, in the front, but he will have to keep an eye on the standings behind him that changed after the two Botswana events. Hentie Hanekom (Husqvarna) is a seasoned Rally Raid rider and is now second, but third-placed Bruce Viljoen (Doorzone Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) is not too far behind in third place and an intriguing battle can be expected. Bruce May (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha) will still have his focus on the podium as he is within striking distance in fourth while Willem du Toit (Husqvarna) would like nothing better than a good result to put on his racing CV before taking on the Dakar Rally 2018.

In the High School championship, Stefan van Deventer (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha Racing) has his eye on a fourth national title, but the youngster will still have to play it safe. Juan-Pierre de Villiers (Q-KON EMD Basefit Racing KTM) and Maarten van Jaarsveld (Doorzone Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) are hungry for victory as is fourth-placed Ryan Pelser (KTM) who missed scoring points in this class at the opening round as he was competing in the 125cc Class before being moved to the High School championship. Barend Pretorius (KTM) is fifth and will do his best to stay in the top five.

Who will be the Master Class victor at the Harrismith 400? This is the big question as the current class leader, Pieter Holl (KTM) and the defending champion, Wayne Farmer (Doorzone Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) are separated by a mere two points after both scored two victories this season. Stefan van Deventer’s dad, Faan (Yamaha) is keeping a steady pace and is third.

The Silver Class Interprovincial Challenge can change easily as new competitors decide to tackle the racing and the results of the Harrismith 400 can play a role in the podium standings before the final event of the season.

The standings in the quad category have changed drastically during the season. The defending champion, Hannes Saaijman (Q-KON EMD Basefit Racing VLS) leads both the overall and Open Quad championship ahead of Pierre van Heerden (Suzuki) who is close enough to pick up the spoils if Saaijman fails to produce the goods. Hannes’ brother and team-mate, Attie (Yamaha) is fourth overall and third in the Open Quad class, but he did not intend to participate at national level except competing in Botswana – and he won both rounds in the desert. Keenan Hammon (Yamaha), who was injured earlier this year, has scored a few podiums so far, and can overtake Van Heerden and edge closer to Saaijman. He has the potential to move up quite a few places in the Open Quad championship to better his sixth place.

Regular competitor, Stef Bester (Yamaha) will cling to his fourth place in the Open Quad class or aim to better it while Russell Ferreira (Yamaha), who won the opening round, but missed the Botswana events, will be back in action and can throw a spanner in the works. The Can-Am Side-by-Side vehicles of Werner Mostert and Dean Bradbury are both in the top ten in the Open Quad championship and if the track suits these vehicles, they have a chance to score good points.

The Super Pole for the Harrismith 400 will start on Friday, 28 July at 07:00. Competitors will then tackle the first of three 120km loops at 10:00. Spectators are invited to view the action from various vantage points along the route as well as from the central service point at the Eeram Farmers Complex where the Start/Finish will be located. Entry to these points will be free of charge. 

There is ample parking at the Eeram venue while the local community will offer visitors a variety of food and drinks during the weekend.

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