Eastern Cape: Round two preview

NISSAN THE TARGET FOR OTHER TEAMS ON EASTERN CAPE 500 The Production Vehicle category will have a familiar look about it on the Eastern Cape 500, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, on April 18 and 19. Nissan, after a one/two result...

NISSAN THE TARGET FOR OTHER TEAMS ON EASTERN CAPE 500

The Production Vehicle category will have a familiar look about it on the Eastern Cape 500, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, on April 18 and 19.

Nissan, after a one/two result in the opening round of the series, will again be the target for Toyota and Ford factory and privateer teams in the overall and SP Class stakes. Nissan defeats have been few and far between in recent seasons, and this time around Toyota and Ford will be hoping to inflict some early season damage on the perennial champions.

Duncan Vos/Ralph Pitchford and Hannes Grobler/Juan Mohr gave Nissan a dream start to the season. This time around, with Pitchford having an overseas commitment, Vos will be partnered by Louis Weichelt, the reigning Class D co-driver champion, in what is a quantum leap up the ladder for the youngster.

Vos/Weichelt and Grobler/Mohr will again be joined by Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and Briton Quin Evans in a third factory Nissan Navara. It is a powerful squad with a proven record over the years but both Toyota and Ford have the ammunition with which to shoot down the Nissan challenge.

Mark Cronje/Chris Birkin and Bevan Bertholdt/Robin Houghton, in the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux entries, have the pace to match the Nissans. But to that they need to marry reliability and race craft.

Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst, in a third Castrol Toyota Hilux, improve with every outing and have a good finish record. Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) have the ability to spring a surprise with George and Sharon Barkhuizen still finding their feet in the Ruwacon Toyota Hilux.

Jaco Swanepoel, partnered by Keith Solomon in the IDM Cement Toyota Hilux is, like the Barkhuizen's, making a big leap from Class E into the SP category. The former track racer also faces a learning curve.

Ford Racing stalwarts Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer are also a threat. They bring vast experience to the party and cannot be left out of the equation.

Woolridge and Skjoldhammer will have support from Mark Ferguson and Craig West in another Ford Racing Ranger. For them there is also a steep learning curve.

Learning curves are a thing of the past for Alfie Cox and Hennie ter Steege (Motorite SP) and they look a good bet for a top five placing. An added boost for the Motorite team will be development work carried out on the vehicle since the last event.

The Class SP entry is bolstered by the likes of Kobus van Tonder/Riaan Guelpa (Unifreight Ford Ranger) and Harold and Tiaan Coen in the BMW powered Land Rover. They are unlikely to trouble the factory crews but will be looking for solid finishes.

With forest sections making up much of a route that has in the past been utilised for the VW Rally, crews with rally experience could have an advantage. In this regard the veteran Grobler, Cronje and Houghton will be licking their lips.

Class D stalwarts Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber (Raysonics Nissan Hardbody) got their season off to a fine start with a win on the opening event -- where they were the only classified finishers. They won't have it that easy this time around with Cliff Weichelt/Jimmy Goch (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D), Ramon Bezuidenhout/Stefan Lock (Toyota Hilux) and Henri and Maurice Zermatten (Ryobi Nissan Hardbody) looking to bounce back from indifferent starts to the season.

Also in the fray will be Chris du Plooy junior and Henk van Vuuren in another Toyota Hilux. The class has the makings of once again being ultra competitive.

The battle lines have been drawn in Class E. Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux), Thomas Rundle/Brian Roberts (Barden Tyre Services Nissan) and Ford Racing crew Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro have already thrown their hats into the ring.

The Eastern Cape waters will be muddied by the appearance of Rob Gurney and Paul Gonlag in the Castrol Toyota Hilux campaigned last year by Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie. Gurney is experienced and adds another dimension to the class.

Deon Venter/Ian Palmer (4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux) will be looking for a solid result as will rookies Daniel Swanepoel and James Moss in the IDM Cement Toyota Hilux. Joining the Toyota, Ford, Nissan fray will be Ann Evan, with a co-driver still to be nominated, in a Mahindra.

CLASSIC RACE SPECIAL VEHICLE ON THE CARDS AT EASTERN CAPE 500

The Special Vehicle category at the Eastern Cape 500 on April 18 and 19, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, has the makings of a classic race.

The fact that there are at least half a dozen crews and more who would fancy their chances of winning is enough to ensure a race of high quality. Add to the mix some round one under achievers and a route that for the most part takes in forest territory, and the ingredients are there for a classic.

The mindset of the leading crews also adds a touch of intrigue. Former South African champion Terrence Marsh, partnered by Pieter Groenewald in the Regent Racing BAT, has built his success around reliability and the pair will want to build on their win on the first event of the season.

Pieter Ruthven/Johan Boshoff (Ruwacon BAT) were a surprise second on the opening event and will also want to build on what was their best national result to date. But there are some real flyers in Class A and in this bunch you can include Brandon Harcus/Richard Leeke (Motorite BAT), Gary Bertholdt/Pierre Arries (Atlas Copco Porter), and Shameer Variawa/Siegfried Rousseau in the Total Porter.

Reigning champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann, a second Motorite BAT, had a disastrous start to the season and they will be keen to bounce back. Nick and Ryan Harper (Atlas Copco BAT) are another team where reliability is a forte and other crews who cannot be underestimated include brothers Karl-Heinz and Hermann Sullwald in a pair of Zarcos, Nardus Alberts/Collin Hunter (Wrapsa BAT), Clint Gibson/Gary Campbell (Absolute BAT) and Rob and Gareth Wark in the Superpave BAT.

The event is organised by the Algoa Motorsport Club with much of the route used over the years by the VW Rally. With this in mind crews with rally experience could have an advantage and here one thinks of the likes of Leeke and Arries.

Cape crew Bez Bezuidenhout and Johann de Bruyn (Adenco BAT) got their season off to a good start when they won Class B on the opening event. They will be among the favourites and reigning champion Jan Kraaij, partnered by Tiddo Voogt in the Keymax BAT, will be looking for a return to form.

Reliability is also a forte for veteran Giel Nel now partnered by Deon de Kock in the LUK Afrika Truggy. Alistair Stubbs/Marc de Chalain (Stafix Racing Viper) would have be a threat, but will not be at the Eastern Cape Event because of a prior commitment, but Louw de Bruin and Rudi Britz (Ruwacon BAT) will be among those wanting to get back on track after a disappointing start to the season.

The recently introduced Class P, which will replace Class S at the end of the season, also has the makings of a good scrap. David and Gary White (Ruwacon BAT) won the opening event ahead of Nic Goslar and Richard Carolin in the Mens Health Clinic Raceco.

This time around White will be partnered by veteran Bodo Bertholdt. Goslar and Carolin are also members of the reliability brigade and reigning Class S champions Richard Schilling and Chris Davies (Aceco) will want to bounce back after a non finish on the first event.

Also likely to emerge as a threat in Class P are brothers Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout in the Adenco BAT. They have moved across from Class B and have the pace to trouble the other Class P runners.

-credit: msa

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Alfie Cox , Ian Palmer , Ralph Pitchford , Quin Evans , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst