Off road racing is a family affair

The SA Off Road Car Racing Championship.presented by Absa is a real family affair with various teams including husbands and wives, brothers, fathers and sons and uncles and nephews who annually rise to the unique challenges presented by the...

The SA Off Road Car Racing Championship.presented by Absa is a real family affair with various teams including husbands and wives, brothers, fathers and sons and uncles and nephews who annually rise to the unique challenges presented by the hostile world of off road racing.

Veteran driver and former Class E champion Andrew Birkin opted to race a single seater WPP Wingfoot in Class B this season after sharing the cockpit of a Toyota Hilux for many years with brother Chris who now navigates for rookie Mark Cronje in the Class E Castrol Toyota Hilux 2700i. While Andrew has had a season filled with mechanical problems brother Chris and Cronje are second in the Production Vehicle Championship and have already sewn up the Class E championship with one race to go.

Three Pietersburg based brothers Andre, Jurie and Arnold du Plessis have become regulars on the off road circuit. Jurie and Andre have scored a number of podium finishes in the Class E BB Auto Nissan Hardbody, which spurred elder brother Arnold to join the ranks in a Class D BB Auto Nissan Hardbody earlier this year. Arnold and navigator George Baker soon got to grips with the challenges presented by off road racing and have already accumulated valuable championship points on the Sun City 400 and the Toyota Dealer 400.

Barberspan farmer Jannie and Chris Visser come from a family of off road racers. Father Chris and uncle Mof raced Toyota Land Cruisers in the 1970's and it can be said that off road racing was very much part of their day-to- day lives. Jannie is the proud owner of 'Fred', the Toyota Hilux in which Kassie Coetzee and Richard Leeke won many races in years gone by, while younger brother Chris bought the 2002 Class E championship winning Toyota Hilux from father and son Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn. Chris has scored points on the past three events and Jannie, who makes rare appearances at national championship races, fared well on the Oven Fresh Biscuits 500.

Sister Tracey van Vuuren, who co-drove for husband Marius in the Alberante Autospray Land Rover last year, was the envy of her brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat so they too decided to get involved in the sport. Marius and Tracey raced a Defender 110 last year but the Moffat brothers opted for the short-wheelbase McCarthy Land Rover Defender 90. They soon realised that they had made the wrong choice and converted it into a Defender 110 for the 2002 season. Tracey fell pregnant so Marius acquired the services of Chris Mare this season and they and the Moffat brothers have had mixed fortunes this season, with suspension problems the order of the day. Despite this both teams have managed to score points on recent events, which augurs well for the future.

In the Special Vehicle category brothers Alistair and Hamish Stubbs, who are Bryanston based, started racing three years ago and recently took delivery of a George Horn built Class B Viper in time for the Sun City 400. They finished third in Class B on the recent Toyota Dealer 400 in Lydenburg.

Father Bes and sons Deon and Johan Bezuidenhout travel all the way from the Western Cape to compete in the championship in their Class B Adenco Sandmaster and Class S Adenco Chenowth respectively. Bes and Deon (30), the eldest of three sons, have been competing together for five years, while Johan started racing earlier this year with navigator Daniel Groenewald and finished third in Class S on the season-opening Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape. The Bezuidenhout family will be in action at the Carnival City Casino 400 on November 14 and 15.

A father and son team that has played havoc in the Class D championship is Harrismith based Johan and Marthinus (16) van der Merwe in the Chavani Colt Rodeo. The pair won Class D on the Nissan Dealer 400 and has been locked in a battle for the Class D championship with Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo in the GBS Racing Nissan Hardbody. They are second in the Class D championship and stand a chance of finishing second in their debut year.

Another father and son crew has two Class D wins to its credit. Cliff and Louis (18) Weichelt (N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser) won the class for six cylinder vehicles with limited modifications on the Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400 and the recent Toyota Dealer 400 and are currently fourth in the championship.

Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr are past winners of the Roof of Africa and well known in off rod racing circles. Father Ernst Corbett has been a long time supporter of Mark's off road racing career and in 2002 Mark and Juan campaigned the Century Property Developments Isuzu in Class D, which they exchanged for an Audi V8 powered BAT at the start of this season. They won the Toyota Dealer 400 after a race long battle with Clint Gibson and Mike Brown in another Audi V8 powered BAT. The off road racing bug bit Ernst and he and co-driver Warwick Goosen decided to enter a BAT in Class B this year and have made steady progress.

Father and son Rob and Gareth Wark share driving duties in the O'Hagan's / Kopanong Hotel Superteam Mighty Mag but suspension and steering problems have seen them complete only one race this year. Veteran Rob is a former winner of the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in the Superpave Raceco.

There are a number of women who compete in the SA Off Road Car Racing Championship.presented by Absa. Pretoria based husband and wife Neels and Zelda van der Walt have been racing together for two years in the Class E Nissan Hardbody and have a number of podium finishes to their credit. JP and Linda Augustin hail from Hartswater and campaign one of four GBS Racing Nissan Hardbody pick-ups in the highly competitive Class D. The pair started the season on a high note by finishing second in class on the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape but a spate of retirements followed, including one on the Toyota Dealer 400 when they planted their Nissan in a donga and couldn't complete the race.

Diamond prospector Gerhard du Plessis and wife Kobie are a formidable combination in the Class A Mobil Jimco. Gerhard and brother Laurens competed together last season and won four of the eight events but Laurens suffers from motion sickness and Kobie took his place in the cockpit this season. The husband and wife crew has been plagued by mechanical problems but hopefully the Toyota Dealer 400, where they came from behind to finish third overall in the Special Vehicle category was a turning point for them and the Carnival City Casino 400 could just see the first ever husband and wife combo win a national championship off road race. Kobie's brother Ferdi Seegers co-drives for Hannes Steyn in the Class E Toyota Hilux double cab.

Henry Kirstein and Renier Jooste are old hands at the sport, which has encouraged Jooste's son, Ge' and his wife Caroline, to enter the national championship ranks. Kirstein acquired Clint Gibson's Class B BAT after the Sun City 400 and was well placed on the recent Toyota Dealer 400 until they ran out of fuel in the Atlas Copco BAT. Ge' and Carolin's run ended after 30km before a water hose ruptured on the Atlas Copco Sandmaster but despite these setbacks they are confident of a good result on the final event of a closely fought championship.

Husband and wife Gerhard and Zelda Niemandt have been unable to complete a single race this season in the Class B Promotorsport Sandmaster but have a 'never say die' attitude to their involvement in the off road racing.

Andrew and Janet Fulton are equally passionate about off road racing and none more so that Janet whose grandfather Jack Whitehead competed in three SA Grands Prix in the 1930's and enjoyed much success on the track and in various record runs including the Rand - Cape - Rand race. Her father, Pat, competed in the SA Formula Vee Championship in the 1960's and completed the first Roof of Africa Rally in a VW Beetle. The off road racing bug had bitten and he switched to the dirt and raced a variety of vehicles including a Ford F250, a Jeep and VW Beetles.

Off road racing has always, and will be for a long time, a healthy family orientated sport and those family members who do not compete will always be there to lend a hand in the pits.

-msa-

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Series Other rally
Drivers Mark Corbett