Swazi 400 competitors' preview

Motorbike and Quad Riders Ready For First Off-Road Action in Swaziland The Orion Piggs Peak 400, the opening round of the ATV Powersport ITP Off- road Motorcycle and Quad racing championship that takes place this weekend (February 4-5) in...

Motorbike and Quad Riders Ready For First Off-Road Action in Swaziland

The Orion Piggs Peak 400, the opening round of the ATV Powersport ITP Off- road Motorcycle and Quad racing championship that takes place this weekend (February 4-5) in Swaziland, promises lots of action and serious racing with a few new teams, some new bikes and a route that will be a real test for man (and the women.) and their racing equipment.

The last time an off-road motorcycle race took place in the Piggs Peak area in the northwest of Swaziland, was in 1987, and the Orion Piggs Peak 400 will be a "new" race for most of the almost 300 competitors. This weekend, the winners of last year's Swaziland off-road, the 2004 champion, Darryl Curtis (Cheetah Tech/AGA LG/Trade Solutions KTM) who won the motorcycle category and Jacques "Boesman" Struwig (Southern Yamaha YFZ450), who won the national quad category, will have to fend off lots of victory-hungry competitors while racing mostly in plantations on a route that can be very tricky after good rains recently.

Curtis won the 2004 title after he won four of the eight events and he will be chased hard by runner-up, Gray Dick (Shimwells Yamaha/Panasonic Car Audio) and Alex Vowles (The Roost KTM) in the Open Class. And, back from Dakar, Alfie Cox (Natro Freight/Red Bull KTM), will also be competing. He won the last race in the Piggs Peak area in 1987 and although he is still suffering from a knee-injury and does not expect to win, Cox might just be the man to beat.

In the national quad championship, Hendrik Potgieter (Bombardier Speed Quad) will have to defend his title against an onslaught of capable competitors on Yamaha, VLS, Polaris Predator and Lonestar quads. His team- mates, Carl Wichmann and Cornel de Villiers, will participate without the 2003 champion, Shaun Gunther, who will be concentrating on his career this year. Stefan Coetzee, who finished second overall and was the only rider to win two events last year, will yet again be a force to be reckoned with on his Dutch VLS fitted with a 525 KTM engine.

Struwig, fourth in the 2004 championship, will be accompanied by other Yamaha YFZ450 riders like Zane Davidson (Perry Yamaha) who finished third overall and the 2004 Noodsberg 400 winner, Ricky da Silva (5th overall). Tiaan Reynecke won the Vilagama 400 and will also be a factor on the EMD Racing Yamaha Raptor.

The competition in the 250cc Class of the motorcycle category, will be extremely stiff and riders in this class are also possible race-winners. The 2003 and 2004 class-champion, Geoffrey Wolhuter, will now be racing a Sadiba Russell Champbell Kawasaki and can expect serious competition from Clayton Enslin who, like Wolhuter, also swopped his KTM and will be racing for EPH (Enzo Plant Hire) Shimwells Yamaha. Enslin has suffered from a back- injury last year, but has fully recovered and is ready to remind everyone how he won seven of the eight events in 2001 on a Yamaha.

Other riders to look out for, is Spencer Kriel (Alfie Cox Adventures/Natro Freight KTM); Andrew Ogden who has recovered fully from a wrist-injury and will be Wolhuter's team-mate; Wayne Farmer (The Roost KTM) and Bernard Johnstone (Ramco Suzuki). It will also be interesting to see how the winner of the 125cc Class in 2004, Hylton Smith (Ramco Suzuki) as well as the runner-up, Louwrens Mahoney (AGA LG Trade Solutions KTM) will shape in this class.

Gavin Louw is the defending champion in the 200cc Class and will once again be the rider to beat on his Shimwells Yamaha 250cc four-stroke. Riaan van Niekerk (Cheetah Tech/AGA LG/Trade Solutions KTM) was the 2004 runner-up and can hopefully get rid of his spate of bad luck. The motocross-rider, Ian Topliss, will be one of the dark horses. Topliss have five national motocross titles and Protea Colours behind his name, but this will be his first off-road season.

In the 125cc Class, the doors will be open to riders like Tjaart Coetzee (AGA LG/Trade Solutions KTM) and EPH Shimwells Yamaha team-mates, Kenneth Gilbert, Shannon Frost and Kyle Poppleton as well as Bryce Adams (Sadiba Russell Campbell Kawasaki); Terry Waters (The Roost KTM) and Ramco Suzuki riders, Deon Enslin, Malcolm McCann, and Wynand Delport.

There are a few outsiders in the national quad category to watch out for - Brendan Badenhorst (ATV Powersport Belcherbuild S8 Lonestar 450) won the Vodacom Lesotho Sun Roof of Africa and was second in Swaziland in 2004 while Dallie Terblanche (CIT Auto Products Honda) finished second in the 2003 championship. The Polaris SA Racing team will consist of Kiri Oberholzer, Danie Coetzer and Carl Benecke and they are expected to finish in the top ten with the new and improved 05 Polaris Predator.

In the Senior Pro Championship for motorcycle riders, the 2003 champion, Johnny Lochner (Shimwells Yamaha) are back and will compete against the 2004 champ, Kobie van Breda (The Roost KTM) and the 2002 winner, Tom Classen.

Hennie Michau (Bombardier) is the defending Senior national quad champion and his closest rival, Christo van der Merwe, is now racing for Bombardier Speed Quad Nelspruit.

There are a few new classes in the quad category and only the Open, Senior and Sportsmans Classes are counting towards the national championship. There are also a non-championship classes like the Masters Class (competitors over 46 do only 75% of the race); a Ladies Class where women only have to complete half the race and 30 Plus Class for yuppie riders and social weekend riders who do not compete that often and only need to finish 75% of the full distance.

The Orion Piggs Peak 400 starts on Friday, February 4, with documentation and scrutineering at the Orion Piggs Peak hotel just outside the small village of Piggs Peak in Swaziland. At 10h00, competitors can start on the 60km time-trial. The time-trial will determine the starting positions of the main race on Saturday where all national bike and quad competitors have to complete the 60km and 120km loops twice.

The first quad rider will start the 120km loop of the main race at 08h00 while the motorbikes will be off on the 60km loop at 08h30. They will then change loops until they have finished both loops in the plantations twice. The winners are expected to finish at the Orion Piggs Peak hotel at 13h00. The start and finish as well as the changing of loops will take place at the Orion Piggs Peak hotel while the service point will also be there. Spectating are limited and the service crews and spectators will not be allowed in the forests.

-msa/et-

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Series Other rally
Drivers Alfie Cox