Riders and followers of the National Off-road Championship for Motorcycles and Quads will travel all the way down to Tarkastad in the Eastern Cape where the 5th round of the championship for motorcycles and the 6th round for quads will...
Riders and followers of the National Off-road Championship for Motorcycles and Quads will travel all the way down to Tarkastad in the Eastern Cape where the 5th round of the championship for motorcycles and the 6th round for quads will take place on August, 1 and 2.
And although it is quite far to travel for most of the riders, it is one of those events they do not want to miss - and at the moment both championships are so tight that every result and every point can make a difference.
Leading the overall motorcycle championship and winner of the Mafikeng 500 earlier this season, is Andrew Ogden (Miller Moore/Sandton Honda), and he would like increase his lead of three points over his team- mate, Geoffrey Wolhuter. Ogden will have one advantage though - living in Port Elizabeth, this race is almost on his doorstep. He also participates in their regional championship and is quite familiar with the type of roads in the area.
But Ogden (who is also leading the 250cc Class) and Wolhuter will have the defending champion, Gray Dick (Nashua Mobile Racing/Shimwells Yamaha) hot on their heels - only six points separate these three riders. Dick, who could only manage to win the gruelling Kalahari 1000, is leading the Open Class, but is ready for another victory which will also boost his onslaught on the title. The rest of the riders are trailing the leader by 14 points and more, but if anything happens to them, they will be there to score points towards the overall as well as the different class championships.
Jade Gutzeit (Tyrolit/Cheetah KTM) has already won two events this season, but could not finish the Mafikeng 500 and is currently 4th overall in the championship followed by two more KTM riders, Clayton Enslin (Enzo Chiocchi Racing) who is sharing the 5th position with the winner of the 2002 Tarka 400, Darryl Curtis (AGA/ LG KTM).
The ever consistent Tyrolit/Cheetah KTM rider, Riaan van Niekerk, has changed his 200cc KTM and will now participate in the 250cc Class and is two points adrift of Enslin and Curtis on the overall leader board.
Grant Wheeler (Tyrolit/Cheetah KTM) is leading the 200cc Class (riders in this class could not score any points towards the class championship as enough riders did not enter for the Kalahari 1000 as well as the Mafikeng 500). Hilton Smith (Ramco Cell c Suzuki) is currently leading the 125cc Class while Wouther Mol (AGA LG KTM) is the leader in the Senior Championship.
In the category for quads, the battle for the overall championship is getting more and more furious with two Bombardier DS650 riders chasing the Ekerold Yamaha Banshee of Dallie Terblanche. Terblanche has not won an event, but has had a very consistent season so far and is 10 points ahead of the Mafikeng 500 winner, Shaun Gunther (Speed Quad Bombardier) who also finished second at the recent Hluhluwe event.
One extra event was added to the Quad Championship this season and the winner of the first event (Mini Roof of Africa), a quad only event, Charles Jonker (Speed Bike Bombardier), had a good start to the season, but could not finish two races and will go to Tarkastad filling the 3rd place in the overall quad championship - 20 points behind Gunther.
Every race so far has had a different winner and another Yamaha Banshee rider, Paul Chomse, who won the Petricon Swazi 400, but broke his collarbone and had to see his chances of increasing his points go by when he could not participate at Mafikeng, is only three points adrift of Jonker in the 4th position.
Hanru Fourie (Bombardier) finished every race so far this season and is lying 5th overall followed by Hendrik Potgieter (Speed Quad Bombardier) - whom won his first national event when he started and finished first in Hluhluwe - together with Hennie Human on the new Polaris Predator.
Although the battle between Yamaha and Bombardier is becoming very intense and more interesting, it is great to see another quad manufacturer entering the top ten.
Clayton du Plessis (Speed Quad Bombardier) finished the 2002 Quad Championship in the 4th place overall, but after a good start to the 2003 season (he finished in the 3rd place twice), he had an accident and could not participate in the last two events because of a knee injury. He is still 7th overall with Charl Wichmann (Ramco Cell C Suzuki) only three points behind.
The Tarka 400 has always been quite a rough event and at the moment the area is very dry. And while the sun is shining during the days, it is very cold - especially early in the mornings and in the evenings.
Activities will start on Friday, August 1, with a time-trail of approximately 35km, which will determine the starting positions for the main race. On Saturday, August 2, the main race will start at 08h00 when the leading motorcycle rider will leave the Tarkastad showgrounds. The race of 370km will consists of two loops -- the motorcycle riders will start on a different loop than the quad riders and the first quad rider will leave the showgrounds at 09h00.