The Caledon 400, the 6th Round of the National Off-road Championship for Motorcycles and the 7th Round for Quads that took place at Dewetsdorp in the Free State, saw second season victories for both the 2002 National Off- road Motorcycle Champion, Gray Dick (Nashua Mobile Racing/Shimwells Yamaha) and the Cape Town quad rider, Shaun Gunther (Speed Quad Bombardier).
It was a tough race and the riders had to fight the dry and windy conditions and while some of the top riders could not make it to the finish and with only two races on the 2003 off-road calendar to go, both the motorcycle and the quad championships are now looking totally different.
Dick, who won this race last year as well, started the race in the second place, only 22 sec behind the leading motorcycle rider, Barry Kriel (Tyrolit/Cheetah KTM), but after 50km he took the lead when Kriel stopped to refuel his KTM while the bigger Open Class Yamaha YZ450F still had enough fuel. From then on, it was a clean road for Dick who was not really challenged until the finish when he took his second victory of the season.
Two more Open Class riders followed Dick home - Jade Gutzeit (Tyrolit/Cheetah KTM) and finished just over six minutes behind Dick while Darryl Curtis (AGA LG KTM) had a trouble free race and took the third place. Both Curtis and Riaan van Niekerk (Tyrolit/Cheetah KTM) spend a lot of time at the side of Clayton Enslin (Enzo Chiocchi KTM) who crashed and broke some ribs.
It was a nailbiting battle in the Open Quad Category with Gunther (Speed Quad Bombardier) leading the race from start to finish, but it was Jacques Struwig (Southern Yamaha Raptor) who gave him a run for his money when he started the race in the 6th place - 1 min 54 sec behind Gunther. After 50km Struwig was already filling the 2nd place and with 50km to go before the end of the race, he closed the gap to 7 sec. But a flat tyre 30km before the finish saw Struwig losing some some time to Gunther and he had to settle for the second position, 1 min 31 sec behind the winner.
Hendrik Potgieter (Speed Quad Bombardier) started the race just ahead of Struwig in 5th place after experiencing gearbox problems during the time trial. These problems gave him trouble during the race and he finished in an excellent 3rd place, just over 12 minutes behind Struwig.
The Caledon 400 provided the riders with typical off-road terrain with rough as well as fast sections, but some of the top riders fell by the wayside. In the Quad Category, Charles Jonker (Speed Bike Bombardier) experienced a torrid time after starting the race in the second place. After the first few kilometers, he already repaired a flat tyre and two more damaged tyres cost him a lot of time and after a wheel came loose, he had to call it a day and he also slipped down on the championship ladder.
A healthy Yamaha/Bombardier battle was raging again and Paul Chomse (Sally's Yamaha Banshee) was the fourth quad to cross the finish line. Another Speed Quad Bombardier rider, Clayton du Plessis, followed him home. Then it was the Ekerold Yamaha rider, Dallie Terblanche, on the new Yamaha YFZ450, who endured a lot of pain because of a collarbone injury only three weeks ago. But he fought back and scored some points towards the overall championship.
Some of the top riders including the motorcycle championship leader just before the Caledon 400, Andrew Ogden (Miller Moore/Sandon Honda), did not see the finish of the race. Ogden crashed and broke his wrist while Enslin broke some ribs. Kriel, who started first, won the 250cc Class after finishing in the 4th place followed by Ogden's teammate, Geoffrey Wolhuter, who now moved into the overall motorcycle championship lead.
The winner of the 125cc Class, Gavin Louw (Shimwells Yamaha) caused a stir when he finished in an excellent 6th place overall and kicked some dust in the eyes of the bigger 200cc, 250cc and Open Class riders. The second 125cc rider, Louwrens Mahoney (AGA LG KTM), who was the first rider in this class to start the race and was leading until he fell just before the finish, was the 9th rider home.
Alex Vowles (Miller Moore/Sandton Honda) finished the race in the 7th place with the first Eclipse/Russell Campbell Kawasaki rider, Wayne Farmer, taking up the 8th position. Vowles' teammate, Stephan van Pletzen, rounded off the top ten and was the first local (Free State) rider home. Wynand van der Linde (The Roost KTM) won the 200cc Class followed by Juan van Rooyen (Shimwells Yamaha) and Glen McDonald (KTM) was the winner of the Senior Class followed by the current championship leader, Tom Classen (Miller Moore/Sandton Honda) and Kobie van Breda (The Roost KTM).
In the Quad Category, Bombardier riders filled the 7th, 8th and 9th places - the 2001/2001 champion, Cornel de Villiers, was testing a standard Bombardier he will be using during the 2004 Dakar race and had more fuel on board causing him not to stop as often as the other riders. This is only the 2nd race he finished this year and he did so in fine style in the 7th position followed home by the scholar, Richard Daneel and Hanru Fourie also on Bombardier DS650's. Rudolf Muller rounded off the top ten on a Yamaha Raptor with the Ramco/Cell C Suzuki of Carl Wichman 1 min 8 sec outside of the top ten in the 11th place. Wichman had a quicker race than Muller, but had a bad time trial when he got stuck in the mud and had to start the race in the 20th position.
Denis van der Merwe (Southern Yamaha Raptor) won the Senior Quad Class followed by the current championship leader, Geoff Osche (Speed Quad Bombardier).
With only two more races to go, including the unpredictable Roof of Africa, Gunther (93) has now taken the lead in the National Off-road Quad Championship leading Terblanche by four points followed by Chomse (66) and Potgieter (65). Wolhuter and Gutzeit have the same amount of points in the National Off-road Motorcycle Championship (75) followed by Ogden (74) and Dick (71).
The next race is the Carousal 400 that will take place on October 24 and 25.