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King of the Desert at Testing Toyota 1000 Desert Race



The Toyota 1000 Desert Race, forming round three and four of the South African National Cross Country championship (SACC), was held in Jwaneng, Botswana, from Friday, 24 to Sunday, 26 June. Competitors and their machines were tested to their limit when they had to complete a total of nearly 1,000 km’s over three days. Perseverance was key and the Kalahari desert separated the men from the boys.

Ross Branch showcased his talent early when he posted the fastest Time Trial result on Friday while his Brother Leader Tread KTM team mates Louw Schmidt and Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen clocked the fastest times in the OR2 and Seniors class respectively.

An early morning start on Saturday saw competitors setting off into the sunrise with Branch leading the field. Riders had to complete a 167 km loop three times, adding up to 500 km’s in total for the day. Branch kept on extending his lead throughout the day, seeing the talented rider from Gaborone, Botswana, cross the chequered flag in first place, taking the overall and OR1 class win by 22 minutes.

Louw Schmidt had an eventful day in the OR2 class when approx. 70 km’s into the race he hit a tree stump onboard his KTM 350 XC-F which resulted in a broken wheel that Schmidt had to nurse back to the service point for about 100 km’s. He had a lot of catch up to do after that, but still managed to win the competitive OR2 class.

In the Seniors class Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen dominated the class yet again, leading his class from start to finish and securing full points towards his championship.

After a tiring and testing first day, competitors had to complete another day’s racing which comprised of a 185 km loop that had to be completed twice. Ross Branch, feeling extremely comfortable on board his KTM 450 XC-F, managed to shine with another start-to-finish victory. With his back-to-back wins Branch has now taken over the lead in the OR1 championship.

“I had two awesome days racing in the desert and enjoyed it when the track got rough, especially on Sunday riding the route that the cars had ridden the previous day. My bike handled amazingly well and I had lots of fun. The desert however can be full of surprises, so I stayed focused and made sure I was extending my lead from early in the morning.”, said Branch.

A less eventful day for Louw Schmidt saw the youngster from Marble Hall, Limpopo, tackle the desert fully focused and Schmidt managed to work his way through the field, winning the OR2 class by over 15 minutes on board his KTM 350 XC-F and rounding off the overall podium on the day. His third consecutive OR2 victory gives Schmidt the lead in the OR2 championship ranking and he is now leading his class by 10 points.

“I got into a nice rhythm after the first refuel and tried to memorise the track for the second loop. From there I started charging as I knew the gap between second placed Kenny Gilbert and me was not too big and I pushed hard to try and finish in second place overall which I missed out on by only a few seconds. I thoroughly enjoyed racing the berms that the cars had formed the previous day and I’m extremely happy with my back-to-back win which puts me back into the lead of the OR2 championship.”, said Schmidt.

In the Seniors class it was reigning champion Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen on board his Brother Leader Tread KTM 300 XC-W who impressed yet again with another victory in the Seniors class and an outstanding fifth place overall for the day.

With a two-month winter break the SACC field is working on their fitness to be ready for the penultimate round of the 2016 championship taking place just outside Ceres in the Western Cape end of August.


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