2006 calendar finalized

2006 ABSA OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP CALENDAR FINALISED The 2006 Absa Off Road Championship will get underway in the Western Cape in March, and will again be made up of eight events. "We have always worked on the principle that unless something is...

2006 ABSA OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP CALENDAR FINALISED

The 2006 Absa Off Road Championship will get underway in the Western Cape in March, and will again be made up of eight events.

"We have always worked on the principle that unless something is broken, we don't need to fix it," said Motorsport South Africa Off Road Car Racing Commission president Piet Swanepoel. "Last year's calendar worked well, and keeping changes to the bare minimum provides for continuity for the factory and private teams."

There is, however, likely to be a major route change to the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana in June. Organised by the 4 Wheel Drive Club, the Botswana bash is the Absa championship's signature event, and the commission has asked the club to look at revamping the route with particular attention to the first section from Gaborone to Mantshwabisi.

"After feedback from the Botswana government and competitors, we have asked the club to look at overhauling the route," said Swanepoel. "The first section has in recent years been over utilised from an ecological point of view.

"The Botswana government and tourist authorities have also asked us to look at spreading the route into other parts of the country, and we will try and accommodate them."

The season opens on March 17 and 18 with the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape, and will be followed by the popular Nissan Sugarbelt 400, on May 5 and 6, in Eston on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg. Next up will be the Toyota 1000 Desert race with the route changes set to add a new dimension to the only 'marathon' event on the calendar.

The Ford Motorite Limpopo 400, which made its first appearance in the Absa Off Road Championship last year, retains its place on the calendar. Last year's race was a resounding success, with competitors relishing moving into uncharted waters.

The Limpopo event will be followed by the second event on the calendar to be held in a neighbouring territory. The Lesotho Sun 400, based in Maseru, and run in the rugged terrain of the Mountain Kingdom will again provide competitors with a few challenges.

The championship enters the home stretch with the Sun City 400 on September 29 and 30, with the penultimate event the Toyota Dealer 400, in Mpumalanga on October 27 and 28, which this year reverts to a 400-kilometre race run over two days. Last year's event, as the candidate race for South Africa's successful entry to the FIA Cross Country World Cup, was elevated to a 1000 kilometre race over three days.

As has become the norm, the final event of the season will be the Ford Carnival City 400 on the East Rand on November 17 and 18. With a spectator friendly route, the Carnival City race is likely to again attract big crowds.

"Last year all but one of the championships at stake went all the way to the wire," said Swanepoel. "With the competitive nature of the racing the same scenario could emerge.

"Whatever happens we are looking forward to another highly successful season with plenty of competitive and spectacular racing."

-msa-

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