Nissan Sugarbelt 400 preview

NISSAN SUGARBELT 400 Big entry for Nissan Sugarbelt 400 Off Road Race The Nissan Sugarbelt 400, round three of the 2001 MSA Off-Road Car Championship, takes place in the Eston and Mid Illovo areas of Kwazulu Natal on Friday and Saturday (May...

NISSAN SUGARBELT 400

Big entry for Nissan Sugarbelt 400 Off Road Race

The Nissan Sugarbelt 400, round three of the 2001 MSA Off-Road Car Championship, takes place in the Eston and Mid Illovo areas of Kwazulu Natal on Friday and Saturday (May 11 and 12) and, with wet weather in the area prior to the event, promises to live up to its reputation as one of the most popular and toughest tests in the national off-road calendar.

As a result of the rain, conditions in the forests could be muddy and difficult, although the organisers, the Natal Off Road Motor Club, do not expect conditions in the cane fields to be affected.

In addition to being the third round of the national championship for Special Vehicles and Production Vehicles, it is also the third round of the 2001 Kwazulu Natal Off-Road Racing Championship for Motorcycles and Quads, including a Veteran class.

Over 85 vehicles have entered, split fairly evenly between Special and Production, together with over 20 quads and more than 50 motorcycles.

Off-road racing fans will have an early opportunity to see their favourites up close at the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 Expo at the Pietermaritzburg Showgrounds from 16h00 to 20h00 on Thursday (May 10).

The event starts with racing section one at 10h00 from the Eston Beaumont Farmers' Club on Friday, when competitors will undertake a 35 km time trial that will determine the start order for the race proper on Saturday. This will end at 16h30.

Competitors will be flagged away at the start of racing section two at 07h00 on Saturday. The main event consists of a 100 km South Loop and a 100 km North Loop, which all national championship competitors will be required to complete twice before the cut-off time of 17h00.

Among the Special Vehicle entries are several potential winners, including the current championship leaders, Franz Czepek senior and junior, in their class A Vee Motors Chenowth. They'll be aiming for a third successive win after their success in the Lichtenburg 400 and the Mitsubishi Barberspan 500.

They can expect stiff competition from the Du Plessis brothers, Laurence and Gerhard (Chenowth), 1998 champions Greg Harvey and Boy Stone (Queen Motor Spares Jimco) and reigning class A champions Shameer Variawa and Zaheer Badhanya in their new Corn Bake Foods Jimco.

Variawa missed the first event and was a non-finisher in the second, so will be keen to put some points on the board.

Atang Mkgekgenene, who co-drove Bevan Bertholdt to victory in last year's Pajero Sugarbelt 400, will be at the wheel of his new Hellman Worldwide Jimco with Evan Hutchison in the hot seat. Bertholdt has entered his single seater Raceco.

Class B champion Giel Nel (Luk Africa Truggy) is currently second overall in the Special Vehicle points standings and can expect a big challenge from former champion Richard Schilling and Ashley Thorne (Plastotech Raceco), who were third overall and class B winners in the Mitsubishi Barberspan 500. Also in contention will be local crew Gavan Gray and G Cunningham in their JRE and Max Mohr in the Industrial Hardware Mighty Mag.

No less than five manufacturers are contesting the Production Vehicle class this year and the battle for top honours promises to be a humdinger with just 12 points covering the first five drivers after the first two rounds.

Hot favourites to win Class T for Super Trucks are former champions Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke in the works Nissan Hardbody Double Cab, convincing winners of the Mitsubishi Barberspan 500. They will receive strong back-up from team-mates Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan in their V6 Hardbody, with serious competition coming from the works Mitsubishi Pajero of former Special Vehicle champion Buks Carolin and Hennie ter Stege, the works Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser of 2000 Pajero Sugarbelt 400 winners Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton and the works Ford Ranger of reigning champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer

Not to be discounted is the BMW M3-engined Barker Performance Products Land Rover of Lichtenburg 400 winners Cliff Barker and Malcolm Joubert and the Vacation Vans V8 Jeep Cherokee of Arthur Abraham/Sarel van der Merwe and co-driver Scott Abraham.

Shumie van Vuuren leads the Production Vehicle category overall in his class D Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser after an excellent start to the season and he and co-driver F Kotze will looking for another good result. Second in class D after two events is Piet Haasbroek in his Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser which he is sharing with Christo Bosch, who leads the Class D co-drivers' championship.

The works Petronas Syntium Isuzu KB, which made its debut in the Lichtenburg 400, will again be in the hands of 2000 Roof of Africa winners Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr.

The Birkin brothers, Andrew and Chris, are the leading class E contenders in their Castrol Toyota Hilux.

-MSA-

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Giniel de Villiers , Sarel van der Merwe , Mark Corbett