HIGH HOPES FOR SA TEAMS
There will be high hopes for South African teams -- and those with close South African ties -- when the 2010 Dakar Rally gets underway in Buenos Aires on January 1.
The South African assault on this year's event will be led by defending champion Giniel de Villiers who is again teamed with German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz in a factory Volkswagen Racing Touareg. De Villiers last year became the first South African to win one of the world's premier motorsport classics.
While de Villiers will be looking for back to back wins compatriot Ralph Pitchford, again paired with American driver Mark Miller in a second factory VW Touareg, will be looking to go one better than the second place the pair snared last year. Pitchford is the reigning Absa Off Road Championship co-drivers champion.
The South African connection at this year's race will be completed by three South African built Nissan Navara entries running under the Team Overdrive banner. The Overdrive squad is based in Belgium but will be under the wing of team manager Glyn Hall.
The three Nissan Navaras were built in Midrand by Hallspeed. The cars will be driven by South African off road legend Alfie Cox and German co-driver Jurgen Schroder, Polish star Krzystof Holowczyc and Belgian Jean-Marc Fortin and Russian crew Alexander Mironenko and Sergey Lebedev.
Nissan Navaras built by Hallspeed finished fourth and fifth on last year's Dakar Rally.
"In the two factory VW Touareg entries and the three Team Overdrive cars South Africa has a powerful presence in this year's race, and hopefully we will see a repeat of last year's successes," said MSA Off Road Car Racing Commission president Richard Schilling. "The Absa Off Road Championship is probably the most competitive domestic series of its kind in the world, and in de Villiers and Pitchford we have international superstars.
"I have no doubt the South African connection will again do us proud."
The South African connection, however, does not begin and end with the VW and the three Nissan Navaras. Former SA co-drivers champion Juan Mohr will be part of the crew of a 4x4 MAN which will act as a support vehicle for the Overdrive squad, and which will compete in the truck category.
There will also be plenty of support for the SA contingent. No fewer than six members of the Bloemfontein based Ruwacon Racing team will follow the fortunes of the race through Argentina and Chile.
"The Ruwacon team epitomises the spirit that is part and parcel of the Absa Off Road Championship," said Schilling. "Hopefully they will have plenty to celebrate."