On Saturday, 27 July, multiple national champion Louwrens Mahoney stormed to victory that cross country fans had been waiting for. The rider walked away with the OR1 win at the fourth round of the championship in Lesotho.
It’s been a journey to the top step of the podium for Mahoney, who made his long-awaited return to the OR1 Class at the start of the 2019 season. As a multi-disciplined star, the rider reached a total of six National Cross Country and Enduro titles before taking a sabbatical in 2016.
He returned to racing the following year and signed up for the OR2 Class. It wasn’t long before Mahoney was back to his winning ways, and he seemed unbeatable as he chased down the OR2 Championship in 2017. Unfortunately, the rider fell short of glory when he broke his collar bone in Koue Bokkeveld.
At the start of the 2019 season, Mahoney made the decision to follow his heart and make the move back to the OR1 Class. He explained, “As much as I enjoyed my time in the OR2 Class, it was also a frustrating season for me. When I came back to OR1 I knew it was where I belonged. Being able to chase down the overall title with guys like Ross Branch really fires me up!”
After his Lesotho victory, Mahoney has taken the championship lead by three points ahead of competitor and fellow Brother Leader Tread KTM teammate Ross Branch. The final stop on the Cross Country calendar will take riders to Vryburg, North West, in November and will serve as a double-header round.
With a championship that could go either way, fans are in for one of the biggest showdowns of the season as battle drums beat for Branch and Mahoney…
Steven Odendaal couldn’t stay away from racing while the Moto2 series was on its summer break, so he dusted off his trusty Yamaha R1 and joined the SA Superbike series at Zwarkops Raceway for the Liqui Moly Fifth Round on 26 & 27 July 2019. While Yamaha is very different to the NTS he rides for the RW Racing Team on the world stage, he didn’t have any trouble adapting and went on to take two wins on Saturday after claiming pole position on Friday.
In the SuperSport 600 category, reigning champion Blaze Baker powered his Performance Technologies/The Rossi Sports Bar Yamaha R6 to victory in both heats.
Clint Seller (King Price Xtreme Yamaha R1) led the qualifying standings going into the final session but he could not improve his time in the final 25-minute session. Both Odendaal and Lance Isaacs (SuperBets Gaming Group BMW S1000RR) were, however, able to improve their times with Odendaal taking pole position by 0.148” from Isaacs. Seller had to settle for third. David McFadden (RPM Centre/Stunt SA Yamaha R1) was a tenth behind Seller in fourth with Garrick Vlok (DCCS Coring Yamaha R6) and Dylan Barnard (Barnard Racing Yamaha R1) rounding out the top six.
Odendaal took the holeshot when the lights went out in the first race, leading a group of four that pulled a gap on the chasing pack. He had Isaacs, Seller and McFadden in his wheel tracks until the brakes on MdFadden’s Yamaha failed and he was forced to retire. Shortly after half-distance, Odendaal put in the two quickest laps of the race to open a gap that, although not comfortable, gave him just a little bit of breathing room. He took the win by just over a second from Isaacs with Seller another second further back. Vlok hade a somewhat lonely race to fourth. Byron Bester (Hi-Tech Racing Yamaha R1) and Morne Geldenhuis (Race Craft/NCA Plant Hire Yamaha R1) were involved in a tussle for fifth until Geldenhuis crashed out, leaving the place to Bester. Barnard crossed the line in sixth.
The second race was almost a repeat of the first, with Odendaal leading the way except this time Seller led Isaacs and McFadden. Although the Cape Town-based rider had changed almost his entire braking system between races, the problem that ended his first race recurred and his race came to a premature end. Odendaal had the measure of his rivals and dipped below the 61-second mark around the 2.4km Zwartkops circuit on his way to victory. Seller kept Isaacs at by to take second with Vlok in fourth. Bester and Barnard rounded out the top six.
Odendaal topped the day’s overall standings, with Seller and Isaacs joining him on the podium.
Baker topped the standings in all three of Friday’s qualifying sessions, taking pole position from Kewyn Snyman (Hillbilly Racing Team/CGR Yamaha R6). Jared Schultz (ASAP World/FFC/Brown Property Yamaha R6) saved his best for last, setting his quickest time of the day on his final lap in Qualifying 3 to take third ahead of Dino Iozzo (King Price Xtreme Yamaha R6). Dian Nelson (TRD Motorcycles Yamaha R6) and Taric van der Merwe (Hi-Tech Racing Yamaha R6) completed the second row of the grid.
Snyman was the early leading in the opening race. He was able to hold off Baker until about one-third distance but, once Baker got past, he was able to control things from the front and took the win by almost three seconds. Behind the leading pair, Schultz was joined by Iozzo and they spent the next couple of laps fighting for the final podium position. Iozzo got past with four laps to go and was able to keep Schultz behind him until the flag. Nelson and van der Merwe ended in fifth and sixth.
A better start by Baker in the second heat saw him take a lights-to-flag victory, again chased hard by Snyman. Schultz and Iozzo resumed their Race 1 battle for third, with Schultz again leading in the early stages, but Iozzo was in front when it counted albeit by just over three-tenths of a second. Nelson and van der Merwe had an entertaining battle for fifth with Nelson just ahead at the flag.
Baker took overall victory on the day with Snyman and Iozzo in second and third respectively.
The SA SuperBike series in association with Metzler now heads back to the coast for the sixth round of the 2019 championship. The East London Grand Prix Circuit will host the riders on 30 & 31 August.
What South African Cross Country Moto Round 4 Report Where Lesotho When Saturday 27 July 2019 Community South Africa National
Podiums for Bogiages, Swanepoel
Pepson Plastics Husqvarna Racing bounced back from disaster in the run-up to the fourth round Live Lesotho South African Cross Country Motorcycle race as Brett Swanepoel rode home third in open class OR1 and Taki Bogiages similarly ended third in 250cc OR2. The team was rocked when OR1 championship Kenny Gilbert leader was ruled out of the race following a testing crash, but substitute Swanepoel delivered the goods, while Bogiages scored his best result of the season too.
“I am delighted with my result today,” Brett Swanepoel beamed. “That one’s for Kenny — to be ruled out like that while leading the championship really is a cruel blow — I know, I have been there so this one is for you mate! “Thanks to Pepson Plastics Husqvarna, not just for a brilliant bike today, but also for entrusting me with Kenny’s weapon — I am honoured to race it.”
Bogiages was similarly buoyed by his result: “I have worked so hard to get back to full strength since my injury late last year and today is starting to show real results,” Taki confirmed. “This is just the start — today was great for my championship too — I’m now in striking distance of third and second is still mathematically plausible, so let’s see — I’m really excited for the rest of the season. “Thanks to the team for a great machine and incredible support as always!”
“It’s been a really tough week for the whole Pepson Plastics Husqvarna team, “Husqvarna Motorcycles South Africa brand manager Fred Fensham concluded. “But Taki and Brett delivered fine results in Lesotho and we can now look ahead to the last few Cross Country rounds. “We also wish Kenny Gilbert a speedy recovery — you will be back champ!”
With only days to the fourth round of the National Cross Country Championship, leading rider Kenny Gilbert has faced a devastating blow. Gilbert sustained a serious injury to his elbow during a training ride last week and has announced his withdrawal from the rest of the season.
Having finished in a painfully close second place for the past three years, the rider was determined to reclaim the prestigious OR1 title that he held from 2013-2015.With a 14-point lead in his class, he seemed unbeatable this season.
Having faced the highs and lows that come with racing, Gilbert has made peace with his situation. “There is absolutely nothing I can do to change the outcome and I’ve made peace with that. I know there’s a long road ahead and my ultimate goal at the moment is just to be able to get back onto my bike – whether that’s to race or not. It’s disappointing, but I’m fighting,” said Gilbert.
Pepson Plastics Husqvarna Racing’s Brett Swanepoel will now step in to represent the team in the OR1 Class for the rest of the season. At 24-years old, the rider has looked up to Gilbert for years: “Kenny has been someone I’ve looked up to my whole career. He was the first guy I really got to know when I got my first pro ride and we’ve been teammates and friends ever since. It’s going to be weird lining up at a cross country without him,” he said.
Having overcome a lengthy injury of his own with Gilbert’s support, Swanepoel added: “Injuries are tough and unfortunately a part of what we do. I’ve just come back from a serious injury and Kenny and his family actually looked after me while I was going through all my operations. I will do my best to represent him and the team while he’s recovering and I hope to see him back up racing soon.”
Riders will line-up in Lesotho’s Maluti mountains on Saturday, 27 July, for the next stop on the National Cross Country calendar.
The National Cross Country standings have been shaken after the withdrawal of injured championship contender Kenny Gilbert. The fight for the OR1 title is as fierce as ever, however, as Brother Leader Tread KTM teammates Ross Branch and Louwrens Mahoney prepare to go to war.
Mahoney and Branch now share the top step of the leader board ahead of the fourth round of the series that takes place in Lesotho on Saturday.
With his convincing of credentials, Branch will be a favourite for the win this weekend. The rider has held the OR1 title for the past three years and shows no signs of slowing down. He is also more fired-up than ever after recently announcing that he will be returning to the Dakar Rally next year.
Teammate Mahoney will certainly not go down without a fight, however. After stepping up to the OR1 Class this season, Mahoney has been relentless in pursuit of his former national glory. While he has finished each race consistently this season, the rider is yet to snatch victory.
“It’s really good for KTM to have two of their riders going for the championship! Ross is a talented rider with great pace. I have a lot of respect for him as both a competitor and teammate,” said Mahoney.
Playing to his advantage will certainly be his wealth of technical experience. As a three-time winner of the Roof of Africa, Mahoney is no to stranger to Lesotho’s unforgiving terrain.
While the championship is being decided, fans are certainly in for some heated racing over the next few months as the pair of multiple national champions go head-to-head.