|Posted on September 20, 2018 at 2:40 AM|
The National Cross Country season finale unfolded in Carletonville this weekend and proved to be a ground-breaking occasion for KTM South Africa.The orange brand made history by winning every National title possible and the 2018 Manufacturers Award.
Taking centre stage was Brother Leader Tread KTM’s Ross Branch, who claimed the prestigious overall and OR1 title for the third consecutive time.
It was a hard-fought victory for the motorsport star who entered the event just a point ahead of arch rival Kenny Gilbert.
From the moment the pair took off from the start line it was a bar-to-bar battle where Branch managed to take the lead in the early stages of the race. Despite some technical terrain and tight forest trails, his gap on Gilbert only widened with each passing lap.
After a testing 300 km’s in the saddle, Branch stormed to cross the final chequered flag of the season with an impressive three minute lead.
It was a heart-warming scene as fans surrounded the rider in orange shirts that had especially been designed for the occasion before he had even wrapped up the championship.
The local support comes at a time when the rider needs it most as he prepares for the 2019 Dakar Rally.
“It’s been a long, tiring year! I needed this Championship - it was on my bucket list before I head off to Dakar. I couldn’t do any of it without my team and supporters, and hope to make them proud when I head to Peru next year,” said Branch.
After one of the most nail-biting seasons of his career, Branch commended Gilbert on his fight:
“Racing with Kenny has been tough – he’d win one then I’d win one. We were basically tie coming into this event, and it came down to whoever got first today. He’s an amazing athlete, so hats off to him.”
The second championship title for Brother Leader Tread KTM came from OR3’s Jarryd Coetzee.
As spectators celebrated the spectacular finish, many were unaware of the immense effort it had taken the rider to even get to the start line this season.
With perseverance and a strong commitment to his rehab programme, Coetzee had spent the past two years overcoming a severe knee injury. While at times the possibility of returning to competitive racing form seemed highly unlikely, Coetzee pulled off the most exciting come back of his career.
It was an emotional moment as he switched off his bike at the finish line on Saturday, and he kept his helmet on for a few minutes to gain composure before commenting:
“It’s been nine years since my first national title, and two years on the sideline – that felt like awfully long time with a lot of effort and emotion. There have been so many ups and a whole lot of downs to get to this point, but I finally have the championship – I couldn’t be happier!”
Adding yet another reason for Brother Leader Lead KTM to celebrate was a third National title from Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen.
The Senior rider snatched up the championship for the fifth consecutive time in his career, and the 2018 title certainly took the biggest fight.
Van Rooyen entered the event with a slender lead, and needed to finish ahead of Wade Blaauw to secure the championship.
“I came into the last round knowing that if I didn’t win this race, I’d lose the Championship. There was a lot of pressure, and this kind of terrain didn’t suit my style of riding. But I put in the work, the bike was awesome, and I managed to pull off the win!” said van Rooyen.
Rounding out the victorious orange streak was the Masters title from Pieter Holl, Gareth Cole of KTM Durban taking the OR2 title and Nardus Rabe from Roost KTM taking the High School title.
A beaming KTM South Africa Managing Director, Franziska Brandl, gave a parting shot as the memorable event drew to a close:
“Wow, what a nail-biting season this has been and I couldn’t be prouder today! Going home with every single championship and the Manufacturers Award is much more than we could have asked for. The future of our sport is really bright – in orange I would say!”
Published by: KTM Media
Picture Caption: (From left to right) Juan van Rooyen, Ross Branch at Jarryd Coetzee after an unforgettable season.
Photography by: www.zcmc.co.za