PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY 28 JUNE 2017

BRANCH CONFIRMS HIS DESERT-KING STATUS

 

The Brother Leader Tread Factory KTM squad have had an up-and-down first half of 2017 SACCS Moto Championship thus far. But Rounds 3 and 4 of the Championship were almost all up, as Ross Branch and Juan ‘Bollie’ Van Rooyen secured dominant victories in their respective divisions at the Toyota Desert 1000 in Botswana at the weekend.

Rounds 3 and 4 of the Championship were made up of hundreds of kilometres of sand at arguably the toughest event on the SACCS calendar, The Toyota Desert 1000.

After his win there last year, the victory that pretty much set up his overall 2016 title, Branch was the pre-event favourite this year. His wins in Rounds 1 and 2 not only gave him a healthy series points advantage, but also a high level of confidence. Branch didn’t waste time in asserting his intentions, winning the short, fast opening stage time trial by almost a minute ahead of Kenny Gilbert (Husqvarna).

The second day in the desert marked the beginning of the real race. With two laps of nearly 250km to cover, the riders were in no doubt as to what lay ahead. A flat-out dessert super highway would test the riders’ skills, endurance, and focus and push their machines to the very limit. Some straights were reported as getting close to 10 kilometres in length!

Branch set off first as fastest qualifier and immediately gained an advantage on the field. What started out as a four-minute lead quickly became a seven-minute gap as the Botswana native hammered home his ‘home-town advantage’ to scare off his competition. With enough time to roll it off in the last 100km and be first bike home, Branch comfortably won Day 1 in the desert by an eventual gap of just over three minutes.

The final day meant that riders swapped loops with the cars, which had mercifully opened up the track for the bike riders, who would go on a roller coaster ride, hitting the ruts and lines left by the cars from the previous day.

Branch held his nerve and handled what must have been massive pressure on his shoulders to control the day from the front once again and ride a faultless final stage. This saw him once again crowned as ‘The King of the Desert’ and with it extended his lead in the 2017 Championship.

Leaving Botswana, Branch is undefeated at all rounds so far in 2017 and with the Championship now past the halfway mark, he will be starting to think about that big trophy at the end of the season. Branch has now truly made this event his own.

Branch’s Brother Leader Tread Factory KTM teammate, Louw Schmidt, had been struggling since his early season shoulder injury but still managed a solid sixth in the time trial.

“I’m cool with that. With eight riders on the same half second at least I know I’m in with a chance to make some early passes tomorrow,” said a relaxed Schmidt after the short prologue.

But Schmidt’s confidence and cool approach were short lived though. A great Day 1 had Schmidt just off the top three as he took a fourth in class and fifth overall and was definitely in with a shout on the second day.

But an early crash on Day 2 put paid to Schmidt’s desert dreams as he left Botswana with a suspected broken collarbone, the same one he had injured – and repaired – just two months earlier.

In the Senior Division, Juan ‘Bollie’ Van Rooyen clocked a respectable opening stage time-trial performance that had him just outside the top 10 overall. Normally on the two-stroke, Van Rooyen had made a decision to go for the bigger horsepower of the 350 four-stroke machine and the decision paid off as he dominated his competition early on; 55 seconds the gap to his closest rival on the day (and in the Championship), Bruce Viljoen on the Husqvarna.

Twelfth overall meant that lining up for the final day in the desert, ‘Bollie’ had seven riders between himself and closest rival, Hentie Hannekom. The calm head prevailed once again as Van Rooyen took a clean sweep of stage wins to extend his lead in the Championship heading to Round 5.

After not riding in the sand for over a year and a half, another Brother Leader Tread Factory KTM rider, Louwrens Mahoney, bagged 16th overall on Day 1, just 46 seconds off the fastest rider in his OR2 category. Mahoney was part of a ten-rider block that was separated by less than a minute, showing just how close the weekend’s racing was going to be.

For Mahoney, the desert race marked his true return to form after his time away from the racing scene. The desert is where Mahoney has nailed down some of his many Championship titles in the past and if his form was going to show anywhere, it would be in the thick Botswana sand.

Strong rides on both days netted the gutsy Mahoney two second places and will have filled him with confidence heading into the latter half of the season.

“The time trial was perfect for me and I felt at home right away in the sand. I’ve been trying to go sand training on some MX tracks when I can just to get that feeling back but there is no sand like Botswana really. The first full day was hard as the long flat-out straight really didn’t play to my advantage, but I did enough to hang in there.

“The second day was much more my style and I definitely worked hard to move forward in the race. I’m happy with two second places actually and know that the old speed is coming back. I’m coming out of the desert feeling very positive,” said an upbeat Mahoney.

The Brother Leader Tread Team will now ready themselves for the next event on the SACCS Moto calendar to be held in the Free State at Harrismith on the final weekend in July.

ENDS.

The Brother Leader Tread KTM off-road team ready to face the desert at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race (from left to right) Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen, Louw Schmidt, Louwrens Mahoney, Ross Branch
Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting

Louw Schmidt in KTM pits getting ready for the Time Trial at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race
Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting

All smiles from Ross Branch after he took the time trial win with more than a minute ahead of all the riders at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race
Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting

Level headed Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen confident after his time trial Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race
Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting

Ross Branch sets off on his opening lap of day 1 at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race
Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting

Louwrens Mahoney at stop-and-go corner while spectators cheer him on at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race
Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting

Louw Schmidt comes out of the first corner with confidence on day 1 at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race
Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting

Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen eases into corner with confidence maintaining he’s category lead throughout the race at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race
Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting

Louwrens Mahoney speeds through tight corners in the unforgiving sand at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race
Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting

A tired but victorious Ross Branch after taking the win on day 2 of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race
Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting