PLANNING FOR FIA OBSERVED EVENT IN FULL SWING
The FIA Cross Country Rally Commission has granted South Africa permission to stage an observed event as part of a bid for a slot on the world championship calendar, and organisation to upgrade the Toyota Dealer 400 is in full swing.
The Toyota Dealer 400, scheduled for October 13, 14 and 15, is the penultimate round of this year's Absa South African Off Road Championship. Organised by the South African Motorsport Club, the event was last year voted the best-organised event on the national off road calendar.
Being granted observed event status has meant the Toyota outing, run in Mpumulanga, has to be upgraded from a 400 kilometre two-day race, to a 1000 kilometre three-day event. Draft regulations have been submitted to the FIA, and the organisers are hoping for these to be approved shortly.
Upgrading the Toyota Dealer 400 follows a meeting earlier this year between Motorsport South Africa president Roger Pearce, MSA Off Road Car Racing Commission president Piet Swanepoel and the late Arthur Abraham, the MSA Off Road Car Racing Commission marketing executive, with the FIA in Paris. The meeting was a result of a burning ambition by Abraham to have a South African event included on the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies calendar.
"We are flattered that the Toyota Dealer 400 was chosen as the FIA observed event," said chief organiser Willie du Plessis. "Upgrading the event has, however, meant a great deal of extra work.
"Happily we are on top of matters, and once the draft regulations are approved we can finalise details of what should be a terrific event."
Du Plessis added that once approved, the regulations would be published internationally in an effort to attract additional overseas entries. Likely entries at this stage include the Nissan Dessoude, X-Raid BMW and Mitsubishi teams.
Swanepoel said the bid to have South Africa included in the FIA World Cup was further evidence of the pro-active role played by off road racing in South African motorsport. Despite fierce rivalry in the market place Ford, Nissan and Toyota work closely with Absa and the Off Road Commission to market and promote the sport.
"We enjoy a unique relationship with Absa and the manufacturers," said Swanepoel. "We all have at heart the interests of South African off road racing, and securing a world championship event would be a fitting legacy to the hard work and devotion Arthur put into the sport."