Botswana: Series pre-event news

VOS CHASES FOUR WINS IN A ROW IN BOTSWANA Reigning South African champion Duncan Vos chases a little motorsport history as the Production Vehicle championship enters a critical phase at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round six of...

VOS CHASES FOUR WINS IN A ROW IN BOTSWANA

Reigning South African champion Duncan Vos chases a little motorsport history as the Production Vehicle championship enters a critical phase at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round six of the Absa Off Road Championship, in Botswana from September 24 to 26.

Vos will be looking to score an unprecedented fourth victory in a row in the desert classic which this year celebrates its 29th birthday. Wins from 2007 to 2009 all came for Nissan with three different co-drivers in eight time winner Richard Leeke, Louis Weichelt and Ralph Pitchford.

This year Vos will be paired with another co-driver in Rob Howie, and will be competing in a factory Team Castrol Toyota Hilux. Fresh from a first win this year for the Castrol Toyota squad, Vos and Howie will be full of confidence for the only marathon event on the Absa championship calendar.

While Vos chases personal glory there is a championship to be won and lost and the Botswana outing could be critical in this respect. Only 33 points separate the first six crews in the overall championship with 18 points the difference between current leaders Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst (RFS Toyota Hilux), Vos/Howie and four time winner Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege in the RFS BMW.

Visser/Badenhorst are the only double winners this season with the other wins going to former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer (Team Ford Ranger TDCi), Terence Marsh and Buks Carolin (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) and Vos/Howie. All four crews will obviously be among the favourites, but it is shaping up as the most open Desert Race in years.

With the Nissan challenge, after eight years of factory team dominance, now in the hands of privateers the odds on Toyota finally winning their own blue chip event are better than they have been over the last decade. Vos/Howie and the second factory entry in the hands of Anthony Taylor and four time winner Robin Houghton, along with Visser and Badenhorst, give Toyota a powerful hand.

This is further strengthened by Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux. Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren (RFS Toyota Hilux) finished on the podium last year, while George Barkhuizen/David van Wyk (AIM Toyota Hilux) and Pieter Ruthven/Rudi Britz (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) are fresh from strong performances on the 4x4 Mega World 400.

In an interesting development reigning Class E champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux will make their first appearance of the season in the Toyota Hilux campaigned earlier this season by Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout. The hugely experienced Visser, brother of Chris, and le Roux may compete for the rest of the season - depending on the Bezuidenhout's business commitments.

On the Ford front former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer have won this event twice, and will fancy their chances if they can stay clear of mechanical niggles. Much the same applies to Grobler, the only other driver to have won this race three times in a row, and ter Stege in the other diesel powered vehicle in the premier SP Class.

The Ford cause has been hit by the absence of Kobus van Tonder and Freddie Kriel in the Uni Freight Ford ranger. On the credit side Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling have come up with encouraging performances of late in the Ruwacon Ford Ranger.

The threat posed by the Nissan privateers could be more serious than rival teams expect. With someone in the Regent Racing squad like Buks Carolin, who has won three times as a driver and co-driver, experience is not a problem.

Carolin and driver Terence Marsh revel in the marathon format and Regent Racing Nissan Navara team-mates Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson have turned reliability into a personal forte. On a race where the ability to see out the distance is perhaps more important than sheer pace, the Regent Racing entries cannot be written off.

Much the same applies to Thomas Rundle and former winner Juan Mohr in the ex Vos factory Barden Tyres Services Nissan Navara. Inconsistency is a problem for the pair but a clean run could see then emerging as strong podium challengers.

Another Nissan crew are an unknown quantity. Botswana pair Ausman Sadiq and Shaukat Fazaldin will have local knowledge going for them, but one cannot see them troubling the establishment.

The Nissan cause was given a late boost with an entry from former winner and SA champion Alfie Cox. The off road legend will team up with German co-driver Jurgen Schroder in a Nissan Navara built for the Dakar Rally.

Class D will be without current championship leaders Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit in the Northam Toyota Hilux. That shifts the spotlight to Deon Venter and Ian Palmer in the new 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux, and Louis Weichelt and Johann Smalberger in the new N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser.

Two Northern Regions championship crews in Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen, in a Land Rover, and Johan Steyn and Paul Jonker, in a Toyota Hilux, make the step up to national competition and will be closely watched. Arnold Mabille and Reginald Molomo, in a Nissan Hardbody, add a touch of local colour to the entry.

With an interesting championship fight developing between current leaders Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable (Team Ford Ranger) and Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) the battle in Class E will also be closely watched. Teenager Woolridge will be having his first taste of the Desert Race and will draw heavily on input from father Neil and the experience Huxtable.

Hein Moolman and JD Wolfaardt, in a second 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux, and Gerald le Roux and Willem Pretorius (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) also come into the picture with Johan de Lange and Gert Ochse in a Nissan Hardbody. Malcolm Kock, whose father won overall way back when, also makes an annual appearance with Johan Burger in a Toyota Hilux.

In a departure from the norm race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service point will this year all be located Kumakwane which is 25 kilometres west of Gaborone. The 72 kilometre Donaldson Prologue to determine grid positions will start at 12:00 on Friday, September 24.

The race itself will start at 08:00 on Saturday, September 25. Day one survivors will again set off at 08:00 on Sunday, September 26 for the final leg.

VARIAWA/ROUSSEAU ON A MISSION IN BOTSWANA

Former champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau will be on a mission on the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round six of the Absa Off Road Championship, in Botswana from September 24 to 26.

Apart from bagging a hat-trick of wins the Team Total Porter crew will also be looking at defending a tenuous six point lead at the top of the Special Vehicle championship. The anomalies in off road scoring between the overall and class championships have already seen Variawa/Rousseau relegated to second place in the Class A stakes by Kallie and Quinton Sullwald in the Elegant Fuel BAT.

Also still very much in the overall championship picture are Class P leaders Johan van Staden and James Rossouw, in the Atlas Copco BAT, and 4x4 Mega World 400 winners Herman and Wichard Sullwald in the Sullwald Racing SVR. Only 14 points separate the top four crews and the Botswana outing could turn into a make or break race.

The Sullwald family, after a one-two on the 4x4 Mega World 400, will be high on confidence, while Variawa and Rousseau will be aware of the consequences of a third non finish this year. It adds up to a fascinating duel up front made even more interesting by the demands made on crews and machinery by the only marathon event on the Absa championship calendar.

There is also no shortage of potential challengers. Reigning drivers' champion Evan Hutchison and Darryl Curtis are due a good result in the Motorite BAT, while 2006 winner Nick Harper, again paired with Kevin Hume in the Atlas Copco BAT, relishes this type of race.

A dodgy reliability record is against Colin Matthews and Alan Smith (Century Racing CR3), and flyers like Jimmy Zahos and Stefan Coetzee, in the Cobalt Racing Porter, will need to carefully pace themselves on an event that is seldom won on day one. Pretoria crew Nardus and Louis Alberts (Wrapsa BAT) would look to be good outside bets, but consistency has been a problem this season.

Bevan Bertholdt and Danie Stassen (lab88 BAT) fall into the same category as the Cobalt Racing pair, and tactics could play a leading role in their progress or lack thereof. At the other end of the scale Naeem Moosajee and Rayhaan Bodhanya (Maxxis/TyreRack Porter) will also relish the two day format as will Botswana resident Keith du Toit and Lesotho co-driver Ashley Thorn in the White Star Racing BAT.

Another Botswana crew, Mohammed and Faizal Noble (Porter), could put local knowledge to good use while a couple of rookie Class A crews have the ability to spring surprises. Steve and Brett Parker, in the ex Moosajee Jimco have produced two impressive performances in a row, and Neil Meyer and Leon Muller have also done well in a Zarco Magnum.

The Class P battle looks to be equally enticing although van Staden and Rossouw will be installed as the early favourites. Brothers Johan and Deon Bezuidenhout, in the Adenco BAT, are also due a good result while Archie Rutherford partnered by Mike Lawrenson, in the Regent Racing Jimco, will be brimful of confidence after his 4x4 Mega World 400 win.

Swaziland crew John Thomson and Clinton McNamara (Zarco Magnum) will be a real threat while Mark Corbett, who won overall in 2000 in a Jimco, and Rudi Balzer (Century Racing CR2) will fancy their chances. There will also be plenty of interest focussed on Marius Fourie, in a BAT, who graduates into national competition after some impressive Northern regions championship performances, who will be accompanied by farther Andre.

Two other previous overall winners in Richard Schilling and Richard Carolin will also be hoping to relive former glories. Schilling will be out with Keith Solomon who sits in for Chris Davies in an Aceco, while Carolin again teams up with Nic Goslar in the Men's Health International Zarco.

On the Class B front veteran Bes Bezuidenhout and daughter-in-law Lindie (Adenco BAT) have taken a clear lead in the championship. They will be looking for a third win on the trot with the main opposition coming from Keith and Andrew Makenete (Zarco) and a pair of veteran drivers in former champion Giel Nel and Coetzee Labuscagne.

Nel and Jaco Jonck are likely to compete over the rest of the season in a Zarco Truggy, while Labuscagne will team up with daughter Sandra. There is certainly no lack of experience in the category!

Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service point will this year all be located at Kumakwane which is 25 kilometres west of Gaborone. The Donaldson Prologue to determine grid positions will start at 12:00 on Friday, September 24 and will run over a 72 kilometre route.

The race will start at 08:00 on Saturday, September 25, and day one survivors will face another 08:00 start on Sunday, September 26.

-source: saorc

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Series Other rally
Drivers Alfie Cox , Ian Palmer , Ralph Pitchford , Jurgen Schroder , Mark Corbett , Darryl Curtis , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst