Team Shimwells Yamaha is confident that they can do it - at the Caledon 400, the 6th round of the National Off-road Championship for Motorcycles that will take place on September 26 and 27 in the Dewetsdorp area, they will try their utmost to get within reach of the overall championship lead while they will attempt to take the lead in the 125cc Class and the Senior Championship.
The defending champion, Gray Dick, also racing in the colours of Nashua Mobile Racing, won the Caledon 400 last year and after winning the Kalahari 1000 earlier this season, he is determined to win this race in the Free State again. Although Dick experienced some bad luck at the recent Tarka 400 when mechanical problems prevented him from completing the race, he is confident that his luck has turned and that he can win the Caledon 400, his favourite race on the off-road calendar, again this year.
Dick, who just came back from a week's off-road riding in the Transkei where the terrain reminded him of the gruelling Roof of Africa event, is currently 5th in the overall motorcycle championship - only one point behind Clayton Enslin with seven points separating him from another Open Class rider, Jade Gutzeit, in the 3rd position. It would not be possible to take the overall lead yet seeing that 23 points separate him from the leading rider (Andrew Ogden) and the most points he can possibly score at the Caledon 400, is 20 for an overall victory. But with three races to go, Dick will fight to keep his Number 1 position. He participated in two regional events since the Tarkastad race and won the Open Class at both events - he won the Nigel Harescramble overall and was the 3rd overall motorcycle rider home at the Carousal event.
And with no Open Class teammate as backup - Brian Capper is still recovering from four operations and will not participate in the Caledon 400 - Dick will be fighting the rest of the bigger manufacturer's teams for an overall victory.
There is also another class championship within easy reach - Gavin Louw was leading the 125cc Class Championship earlier this season, but lost his lead after the Mafikeng 500. Louw, who joined Team Shimwells Yamaha at the beginning of the season, is trailing the leader, Hylton Smith, by seven points. He won this class back to back this season - at the Kalahari 1000 and the Mafikeng 500 - and finished second at the Hluhluwe Queen Pineapple Off-road Spectacular. But scoring points after each event kept his championship hopes alive and with only three races to go, Louw is within reach of the 125cc Championship title.
In the extremely competitive 250cc Class, the Pretoria Technikon student from Pongola, Bernard Johnstone, has also had a good season and scored points after event. This put him in the 5th position in this class, but the 4th place is in reach with Wayne Farmer only four points ahead of him.
Unfortunately, Johnstone had a slight crash 5km after the start of the recent Carousal Harescramble, a Regional event, and torn the ligaments in his left foot. He is still indecisive as to race the Caledon 400 or not - if he races, the chances of injuring his foot again, is quite high and that would mean that he might not be able to participate in one or both the remaining events and he is really looking forward to do the Roof of Africa (the last event of the sesason) on his 250cc Yamaha.
Newcomer to Team Shimwells Yamaha, Juan van Rooyen, started the year as a privateer in the 250cc Class and is currently 10th in this class. Just before the Hluhluwe event, he became part of Team Shimwells Yamaha and participates in the 200cc Class. After scoring points at both the following two events, he will go to the Free State in the 9th position in this class. But he will be able to move up the point's ladder if he finishes and scores points as a mere six points separate the riders from 6th to 9th place.
Also participating in the 200cc Class is the scholar Zac Botha, who will start with exams a week after the event. He is 7th in this class after scoring points at three of the five events. He is only four points ahead of teammate Van Rooyen, but can also move up in this class to enter the top five - there are only two points between him and the rider in 5th place (Craig Arnoldi).
Mike Whitehouse, in the colours of Nashua Mobile Racing and Shimwells Yamaha, did not participate at Tarkastad, but scored points in the 200cc Class at each of the other four events and fills the 6th place in this class. This brings the tally for Team Shimwells Yamaha's in the 200cc Class' top ten to three and each one of them is within reach of moving into the top five.
Team Shimwells Yamaha is also in a comfortable position in the Senior Championship where the defending champion, Johnny Lochner, is chasing the leader (Tom Classen) from his second place overall. Lochner would like to move closer to Classen to have a championship countdown at the Roof of Africa and would be satisfied if he can get at least three points closer to the leading senior rider. He is currently six points adrift of Classen with Wouter Mol five points behind him in third place.
Three races to go and there are four championship titles within reach of Team Shimwells Yamaha - one of the smallest off-road teams, but with an extremely competent rider line-up.
The Caledon 400 starts at 10h00 on Friday, September 26, when riders will start the 50km timetrial from the Dewetsdorp Showgrounds. This will decide the starting order for the main race on Saturday, September 27, which will consist of two laps of 185km. Lots of excellent spectating points will make this race one of the most spectator-friendly races on the calendar.