The Caledon 400, the 6th round of the SA National Off-road Championship for Quads that takes place in the Tweespruit area in the Free State on September 24 and 25 will be the ultimate test a number of championship contenders. Only nine points separate the first four riders while the rest of the riders in the top ten are also knocking on the door for the overall title.
After an MSA Court of Enquiry followed by a Court of Appeal regarding an accident during the Mafikeng 400 in which the current championship leader, Hendrik Potgieter (Bombardier Speed Quad) as well as Stefan Coetzee (VLS Africa), who is currently lying second, and Nico Harris (Ekerold Yamaha) were involved.
Potgieter eventually kept his five-point lead over Coetzee after both riders were first disqualified from the Mafikeng 400 and then later reinstated in the results. The consistent Potgieter has not won an event so far this season while Coetzee scored full points on the last two events on the VLS fitted with a KTM 550 engine.
Jacques Struwig (Southern Yamaha YFZ450) could only manage to win the opening round of the championship and did not score points at the Noodsberg 400. Struwig is three points behind Coetzee in third place followed by Carl Wichmann who will again be racing in the yellow colours of Ramco/Cell C Suzuki. Wichmann won the gruelling Kalahari 1000 and even though he did not score points in two events, he is only three points behind Struwig.
Only two points separate the riders in fifth, sixth and seventh positions with Zane Davidson (Perry Yamaha YFZ450) moving into the 5th place overall after scoring his first podium finish at the last event. It is Davidson’s first season in national off-road racing and the rough terrain will suit him, as he likes the more technical races. One point behind Davidson is the Despite a bad season to date reigning champion, Shaun Gunther (Bombardier Speed Quad) trails Davidson by one-point and is still in the running for the championship. Gunther won the Caledon 400 last year after a battle with Struwig and would like to end his winless streak this season with another victory in the Free State. Gunther is being chased by Ricky da Silva (Yamaha YFZ450) from KwaZulu-Natal who finished on the podium twice this year and on both occasions in events in his home province.
The rest of the top ten riders have some breathing space between them, but all are within reach of their closest rivals. Charles Jonker (Bombardier Speed Bike) is four points behind Da Silva after not scoring points on the last two events while the 2004 Dakar Champion, Cornel de Villiers (Bombardier Speed Quad) has a lot of ground to make up if he wants to catch the front-runners. De Villiers, together with his teammates, Potgieter and Gunther, recently participated in the 12 Hour Pont de Vaux race in France and finished 29th out of 120 teams.
Tenth placed Hennie Michau (Bombardier DS650) has participated in four of the five events so far this season and has won the competitive Senior category on three successive occasions. Michau is a farmer in the Tuinplaas area in the Limpopo Province and uses his big Bombardier to ride around his farm while a specially built track with lots of turns keeps him fit.
In the Senior Quad Championship, for riders older than 38 years, Michau is leading Christo Van der Merwe (Yamaha YFZ450), who has one win and three successive third places to his credit, by 12 points while Kevern Pelser (Bombardier) is seven points behind the Yamaha rider. Clifford Bennet (Bombardier) will be chasing hard as he trails Pelser by a single point with Reinhard Tonsing (Yamaha) ten points behind. John Thipane (Bombardier) from Lesotho is within reach of Bennet with only two points separating the pair while the defending Senior Champion, Denis van der Merwe (Southern Yamaha Raptor) also trails Thipane by two points.
A few riders that are not in the championship hunt could upset the applecart on the Caledon 400. Brendan Badenhorst (ATV Powersport Yamaha YFZ450) has been the quickest rider on the time trial on a few occasions this season, but mechanical problems prevented him from finishing while Bloemfontein Leander Pienaar (Jet Sport Bombardier) had his first podium finish on the Mafikeng 400 earlier this year. Dallie Terblanche (Salley’s Yamaha YFZ450) has always been quick but has only scored points once this year while Polaris SA Racing teammates Danie Coetzer and Kiri Oberholzer are also capable of pulling off a surprise win.
A big entry is expected in the quad category on the Caledon 400, which starts with a 50km time trial on Friday, September 24 that will determinate the starting order for the main race on Saturday, September 25. The route for the main race is a figure of eight layout that includes four mountains, which riders will complete twice. The first quad rider will start at 08h30.