Yes, hats off to all the ladies who competed in the first ever Combined Ladies Championship that formed part of the 2014 SA National Off-road Motorcycle and Quad Championship – if it was not for each and every one of these brave lady competitors who raced their bikes or quads in the national series this year, the crowning of the first ever National Combined Ladies Champion would not have been possible!
Photo credit: Axle Images
Although the ladies stood their (wo)man between the men in the national off-road championship where they competed in both the motorcycle and quad categories, the national off-road series could never draw enough entrants for the ladies to have their own ‘championship’. In an effort to grow the sport and female participation in off-road racing – racing a motorcycle or quad for 300 kilometres in rugged terrain, is not for sissies – a Combined Ladies Championship was created where a champion from both the motorcycle and quad categories would be crowned.
A handicap system was used to score the female competitors after each event and for this new class to ‘qualify’ as a championship, an average amount of entrants was required. In the quad category, Carletonville business woman, Liezel Barnard (Barnard Vervoer Can-Am) and graphic designer graduate, Chardri Monk (Team Thesens Generators Yanaha) from East London competed in each event while Toni Jardine (Yamaha) fitted the national events in between her participation in international enduro events (she had to miss one local event) and continued a tooth and nail battle with Pretoria rider, Taye Perry (Bert Smith All Stars Racing Powered by RAD KTM).
Ladies like quad rider Maryna Venter (Honda) only competed in the first event (and won the Combined Ladies Class Championship) while Nanda Swiegers (Yamaha) and Pretoria scholar Anaïs Steenkamp (Kawasaki) only participated in one or two events.
At the front the mother of three (Barnard), who competes with a 1000cc-powered Can-Am Renegade, took the lead after the second round in Windsorton in the Northern Cape which she won, but she was chased until the end by Perry who finished on the podium on various occassions. Jardine won the Combined Ladies Class at three events and did not give up the fight even though she could not compete at Stella as she was competing in a round of the World Enduro Championship in Europe.
Towards the end of the season, it became clear that the new championship will need more ladies to start the final event so as to ensure that the required number of entrants is being reached. A huge effort was put in by all and the most ladies (ever) seen on the start line (25), tackled the Rysmierbult 200, the final race of the season that took place outside Ventersdorp in the North-West Province.
Jardine took the victory at the final event to secure the second place behind Barnard who became the first ever Combined Ladies Class Champion. Perry finished a single point behind Jardine to round off the podium with Monk, who recently claimed the Ladies Class in the FIM Africa series (Southern Off-road Challenge) – fourth crashing at the penultimate event and not being able to score points.
A few ‘newcomer’ racers did quite well and claimed their first points. These include veteran motocross and supermoto rider, Cindy Porobich (KTM), who finished second in the Ladies Motorcycle Class at the Rysmierbult 200; Edwina Lutch (Yamaha) who was fourth; Tanya Koyikas (KTM) who finished fifth; regular competitor in the PS Portable Shade GOC Series, Elaine de Sa (PS Diamond Trailers KTM) who claimed sixth place and Dayna Nienaber (Yamaha) who crashed, but still managed to finish the full 180 kilometre race distance to finish seventh.
Barnard won the Ladies Quad Class at the Rysmierbult 200 event and was followed by Monk and 16-year old Wilmarie Moller (PS Extreme ATV Tzaneen Honda) with three ‘new’ riders also finishing the event – Kim-Leigh Ferreira (PS Diamond Trailers Honda) was fourth with Barnard Vervoer riders, Annelien Jansen van Vuuren (Polaris) fifth and Ruchell Kriel (Yamaha) sixth on the day.
According to the first champion, Liezel Barnard, it would be great If many more ladies compete in off-road racing, not only in the national series, but also on club and regional level. “As far as we know, it is the first time that a lady off-road competitor has won a championship title and it will be great to see this new Combined Ladies Class Championship growing in the future,” she said.
All the races in the 2015 national series will consist of 360 kilometres of which the competitors in the Combined Ladies Class Championship will have to complete 300 kilometres. They will therefore have to complete five of the six 60km loops. This might sound like quite a long distance, but the ladies are quick to defend the distances as they enjoy the racing. Barnard, Monk, Jardine and Perry have all competed in (and finished) a ‘rally-raid’ event earlier this year in the Western Cape. This event stretched over six days and more than 1 500 kilometres and they all enjoyed it tremendously.
As a motivation, the ladies won prize money at each of the national events. This was sponsored by Barnard Vervoer and SITE. The Combined Ladies Class Championship is being supported by MSA’s Women in Motorsport (WIM).