The Adenco 400 in the Western Cape, the opening round of this year's Absa Off Road Championship on March 11 and 12, looks like turning into a scorcher - in more ways than one.
According to route director Bill Bright from the Cape Peninsula Motorcycle and Car Club the weather in the Darling region, where the race has its headquarters, has been extremely hot over the last two months. Although temperatures are expected to cool over the next couple of weeks hot, dry and dusty conditions are expected.
Weather conditions apart, a quick glance at the preliminary entry list also suggests that the race action is going to be hectic. Final entries are expected to top the 55 mark, but it is the depth of quality in both the Production and Special Vehicle categories that suggests a number of the championship class battles are once again going to go all the way to the wire.
The preliminary entry list also highlights some interesting developments in the Production and Special Vehicle categories. Crew changes and new machinery add an air of anticipation and the season is certain to get off to a resounding start.
On the Production Vehicle front Team Castrol Toyota are racing against time to get a pair of new Toyota Hilux entries ready for action in the premier Class SP category. The class is again going to be highly competitive with 16 entries already in the bag for the Adenco 400.
The entry list is led by reigning SA champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the Visser Transport Toyota Hilux. They will be aiming for back to back wins in the Western Cape and will again be looking to lead the privateer challenge against the factory Toyota and Ford Racing teams.
Reigning champions Deon Venter and Ian Palmer will be early favourites in Class D, but will be severely tested by young Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable who move up a notch from Class E. The teenage Woolridge was a revelation in his first full season of national racing last year, and his progress will be carefully monitored.
Ruwacon Racing Ford Ranger pair Gerald le Roux and Willem Pretorius will also be looking for back to back Adenco 400 wins in Class E. They will start early favourites ahead of Diederik Hating who will have a new co-driver in Kristo Bosman in the Transcor Toyota Hilux.
The big news in the Special Vehicle category is the move into Class A by Johan van Staden and James Rossouw in an Atlas Copco BAT. The pair dominated Class P last year and made history when they became the first Class P crew to win a national event overall.
The pair pose a huge threat to the established Class A runners led by reigning champions Kallie and Quintin Sullwald in the Elegant Fuel BAT. David and Gary White, in the Ruwacon BAT, are also Class P graduates and could spring a surprise or two.
In another major development Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau, whose championship hopes were blown out of the water at the last event of the 2010 season, have sold their long serving Porter to Daniel and Louw Zeelie. They will now campaign the BAT Spec 4 previously raced by the late Bevan Bertholdt and their rivalry with the Sullwald's will be an ongoing affair.
Veteran Wolf-Peter Pfumfei returns to national action on a regular basis in Class B in the WPP, and consistency could make him a championship contender. Major opposition will come from the father/daughter team of Coetzee and Sandra Labuscagne in the Raysonics Zarco and Keith Makenete who now links up with Letlatsa Lehana in another Zarco.
Andrew Makenete switches from co-driving for his brother to driving another Zarco in the highly competitive Class P. Makenete and Thabo Mochebelele take on the likes of former champions Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT), the rapid Colin Matthews and Alan Smith (Century Racing BAT), RFS Magalies 400 overall winners Archie Rutherford and navigator still to be announced (Regent Racing Jimco), Marius and Jolinda Fourie (PHB BAT) and Swaziland crew John Thomson and Clinton McNamara in a Zarco.
The Donaldson Prologue to determine grid positions will be run from 13:00 on Friday, 11 March with the race proper starting at 08:30 on the Saturday, 12 March. The prologue and race start/finish and the designated service point will all be at the Darling Club.
A spectator friendly route provides for numerous spectator viewing points all within easy access of the Darling Club. Public entry to the start/finish, the designated service point and spectator viewing points will be free of charge.