Carnival: Title contenders prep for season finale

Nervous time for Bankfin Off Road Championship title contenders. Nowhere is the competitive nature of this year's Bankfin Off-Road Championship better illustrated than in the point standings. Going into the final round of the season -- the ...

Nervous time for Bankfin Off Road Championship title contenders.

Nowhere is the competitive nature of this year's Bankfin Off-Road Championship better illustrated than in the point standings.

Going into the final round of the season -- the Carnival City Casino 400 on November 29 and 30 -- all but a handful of title issues still have to be finalised. And some of the unfinished business simply could not be closer.

Take for instance the battle for the overall drivers and co-drivers championships in the Production Car category. Two crews in former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer (Ford Racing Ranger -- Class T) and Duncan Vos and Mike Griffiths (Nissan Hardbody -- Class D) are locked together with the same number of points.

While Vos and Griffiths have wrapped up the Class D championship, there is a little extra pressure on Woolridge and Skjoldhammer in that they are fighting on two fronts. The pair also lead the drivers and co-drivers standings in the Class T championship, and are by no means out of the woods in this area.

A victory on the Queens Motor Spares Tarka 400 has lifted veteran Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke, in the factory Nissan Hardbody, into a strong position to challenge the Ford pair. The gap is just six points and it a little ominous that between them Grobler/Leeke and teammates Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan have won six of the seven events this season.

The pressure on Woolridge and Skjoldhammer in the overall title stakes is, however, slightly negated in that Vos and Griffiths are unlikely to be candidates for an overall win. The factory Ford are the defending Carnival City Casino 400 champions and the pair have not won an event overall this season -- and it is sheer consistency that has taken them to the verge of two championships.

Behind Vos and Griffiths there is also a dogfight for the Class D runners-up slots. Seven points separate three crews with brothers Henri and Maurice Zermatten (Playstation Mitsubishi Pajero), Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr (Century Property Developments Isuzu) and early season pacesetters Piet Haasbroek and Christo Bosch (Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser) locked in battle.

There is also a tight fight in Class E where defending champions Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham (Ford Racing Ranger) have been unable to shake off the attentions of privateers Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn in a Toyota Hilux. The de Bruyns have hung on like terriers all season, and the gap is only four points with Schroder and Peckham carrying the brunt of the pressure going into the Carnival City finale.

The overall titles in the Special Vehicle category have also to be settled, but here Eastern Cape veterans Greg Harvey and Boy Stone are on a much firmer wicket. Harvey and Stone (Castrol Queens Motor Spares Jimco) have also to win this season, but have a 20 points advantage over Class B leaders Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain in the Truck Time JRE.

Harvey and Stone are home and dry in the Class A championship, and de Chalain has wrapped up the Class B co-drivers title. In the Class A drivers championship, however, only one point separates Gerhard du Plessis (Mobil Jimco) and John Weir-Smith (O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel BMW Jimco) with Atang Makgekgenene (SAM Racing Jimco) a further eight points in arrears.

Taylor, however, still has to see off a challenge from defending champion Giel Nel (Luk Africa Truggy) for the Class B driver's championship. Nel is just six points in arrears and on home turf the East Rand veteran will fancy his chances of ending a Taylor/de Chalain winning streak.

After it looked as though the Class S title race was all over bar the shouting, the situation has taken on an interesting look. Greg Daus, after running in Class A on the Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400, now finds himself just 13 points clear of Prolong BAT driver Billy Bond, with co-driver Anton Lombard lying fourth in the overall co-drivers stakes.

A return to Class S on the Carnival City Casino 400 looks to be on the cards where Daus and Archie Rutherford, in the Nashua Mobile Racing Raceco, are concerned. All in all it is another situation, which adds an end of season twist to the tail.

It is the second year in a row that the Carnival City Casino 400 has provided for a tight finish to the season. The situation provides for some desperate racing with drama in the offing.

"We were predicting at the start of the season that most championship issues would go to the wire," said Motorsport SA Off-Road Car Racing president Piet Swanepoel. "It proves just how close and competitive the racing has been all year, and we could not have wished for a better finish to the season."

-msa-

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Series Other rally
Drivers Mark Corbett , Duncan Vos