The Lichtenburg 400, the opening round of the 2017 South African Cross Country Championship for motorcycles and quads (SACC Moto) that took place on Friday, 31 March, was a long and tough day for competitors and if the results are anything to go by, some exciting racing and serious battles can be expected for the rest of the season.
Race day started early with a 20km time trial that determined the starting order for the second part of the race. The pressure was not only on to get a good starting position, but also to keep the race machines in one piece as there was not much time between the two racing sections for repairs. Dust played a huge role in the outcome of the results while riders had to negotiate rocks and grass typical to the racing terrain in the North-West Province.
The defending OR1 (Open) motorcycle champion, Ross Branch (Brother Leader Tread KTM) opened his scorecard with a perfect result when he claimed his first victory of the season. He beat Tim Young (Sherco Liqui Moly Racing) who made a comeback to cross country racing after winning the OR2 championship in 2013 while motocross ace, Tristan Purdon (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha Racing) rounded off the OR1 podium.
There was some bad luck for two former champions, Kenny Gilbert (Husqvarna) and Louw Schmidt (Brother Leader Tread KTM) who both had to retire due to injuries after they crashed. The defending OR3 champion, Dartagnan Lobjoit (Yamaha) finished fourth with Ruan Potgieter (KTM) fifth.
The 2015 OR3 champion, Brett Swanepoel (Pepson Plastics Husqvarna) also bagged maximum points with a victory in OR2 (250cc). Only two minutes and 19 seconds separated him from Marius Venter (KTM) who was again only 12 seconds in total faster than Ruan Smith (KTM Centurion Liqui Moly Racing). Venter and Smith were separated by a mere 12 seconds after time-trial and posted exactly the same time for the following 230 kilometre racing section. Jaycee Nienaber (Super Moose Racing KTM) finished fourth with Cameron Becker (KTM), who broke a finger earlier this year, fifth, just ahead of former champion, Louwrens Mahoney (Brother Leader Tread KTM), who scored his first points after not competing during the 2016 season.
After his recent success in the FIM SuperEnduro Junior World Championship in Europe, Kyle Flanagan (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha Racing) built on his experience by winning OR3 (200cc). Wilhelm Schönfeldt (BCR Arrow Yamaha Racing) got his season off to a good start and was second with Jarryd Coetzee (Brother Leader Tread KTM), who had to sit out the 2016 season due to knee operations, third while Charan Moore (Yamaha) was not too far behind in fourth place. Ian Rall (KTM) finished fifth.
The battle in the Senior Class has been brewing for a few years now and it seems that it will continue in the 2017 season. Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen (Brother Leader Tread KTM) has his eye on a fourth consecutive championship title and took the first victory with Bruce Viljoen (Doorzone Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) second and Wynand Kleynhans (Sherco Liqui Moly Racing) rounding off the podium. The rally raid specialist, Hentie Hanekom (KTM) was fourth with another former champion, Guy Henley (KTM) fifth. Willem du Toit (KTM) who won the Dakar Challenge in 2016 and plans to compete in the 2018 Dakar Rally could unfortunately not finish the race.
The battle in the Master Class also promises to be an interesting one. Pieter Holl (KTM) claimed the first victory with the current champion, Wayne Farmer (Doorzone Bikers Warehouse Husqvarna) second with only three minutes separating them. Faan van Deventer (KTM) was third and Justin Broughton (Sherco Liqui Moly Racing) fourth after a tough day in the saddle took its toll on the riders in this class.
It was also a tough race for the youngsters in the High School Championship where only three riders managed to complete the race. The current title holder, Stefan van Deventer (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha) took the victory with Juan-Pierre de Villiers (KTM) second and Maarten van Jaarsveld (Husqvarna) third, only 23 seconds behind the KTM rider.
There were no finishers in the 125cc Class D.
The rocks and dust added to the challenge in the quad category where former Senior Champion, Russell Ferreira (Yamaha) took the win in the Open Class. He was followed by Johan Oosthuizen (VANS Racing Division Yamaha) and Pierre van Heerden (Honda) with the Vryburg scholar, Ruan Stander (Yamaha) fourth. The defending champion, Hannes Saaijman (Q-KON EMD Basefit Racing) limped home in fifth place due to mechanical damage to his KTM while Nico du Rand lost a lot of time, but managed to finish sixth.
There was bad luck for Gideon Jacobs (KTM) who posted the fastest time after time-trial as he could not finish the race the Annandale brothers, Franco and Hannes, were also between the riders who had to call it a day.
Keenan Hammon (Yamaha) won the High School Class while Botswana’s Sidney Rankgate took the victory in the Master Class and Megan Stander (GVS Racing Vryburg) took the victory in the Ladies Class. She was the only lady who competed in the SACC Moto Lichtenburg 400 and completed this gruelling event.