Polokwane: Series preview

BATTLE ROYAL LOOMS IN PRODUCTION CAR CATEGORY ON LIMPOPO 400 After seasons of near total domination in the Production Car category of the Absa Off Road Championship, the Sasol Nissan Navara team is coming under increasing pressure and will again...

BATTLE ROYAL LOOMS IN PRODUCTION CAR CATEGORY ON LIMPOPO 400

After seasons of near total domination in the Production Car category of the Absa Off Road Championship, the Sasol Nissan Navara team is coming under increasing pressure and will again be under the whip on the Limpopo 400, round six of the series, on September 12 and 13.

The Sasol Nissan squad has won four of the five events run so far this season with reigning champion Duncan Vos scoring three times and former champion Hannes Grobler once. The other win went to Castrol Toyota Hilux crew Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin who, along with team-mates Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton, will again be a threat.

Although Nissan have done most of the winning, the pace of the Castrol Toyota team will be a worry for the Nissan entries - and they will also be wary of the championship challenge being mounted by veteran Ford Racing Ranger pair Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer. In the overall and premier SP Class title chases Woolridge is only eight points adrift of Vos in the driver's championship, while Skjoldhammer leads the co-driver stakes.

That is a situation that has arisen because Ralph Pitchford, who normally sits alongside Vos, has missed a couple of events through overseas commitments. The pace of Cronje/Birkin and the threat poised by the hugely experienced Woolridge and Skjoldhammer, sees to it that the Nissan squad will be under pressure on the Limpopo 400 race.

Grobler and Juan Mohr and Cronje/Birkin are not yet out of the championship picture and a fascinating battle is likely to unfold. Taylor and Houghton could throw their hat into the ring in what this season has turned into an ultra competitive class.

In an interesting development Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen is not available for this event and team manager Glyn Hall will take over the driving duties with Briton Quin Evans alongside him. Hall is a former South African rally champion but would be the first to admit that his role this weekend will be more tactical than attacking.

Back-up for Woolridge/Skjoldhammer comes from the improving Mark Ferguson and Craig West in a second factory Ford Ranger, and the consistent Kobus van Tonder and Riaan Guelpa in the Unifreight Ford Ranger.

Toyota currently have a slender 14 point lead over Nissan in the prestige manufacturers championship, and will be looking for good results from a powerful support line-up led by Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst (Castrol Toyota Hilux) and Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux.

Toyota's SP Class challenge is further bolstered by the debut of Chris du Plooy senior and Ewald van Rensburg in the RFS Toyota Hilux. They will join regulars in Jaco Swanepoel/Keith Solomon (IDM Cement Toyota Hilux), George and Sharon Barkhuizen (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) and Mike Thomsett/Brian Haviland in the Feltex Imperial Toyota Hilux.

As is the case in the Special Vehicle category, this is a race that could enhance or kill off championship hopes. For crews it is going to be a white knuckle weekend.

Non finishes for Coetzee Labuscagne/Johan Gerber (Raysonics Nissan Hardbody) and Chris du Plooy junior and Henk van Vuuren, in the RFS Toyota Hilux, at the Sun City 400 saw brothers Henri and Maurice Zermatten (Ryobi Nissan Hardbody) move into an eight point lead in the Class D championship. But a win for drivers champion Cliff Weichelt and Nic Els (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D) brought them back into the championship picture.

There is a 20 points spread between first and fourth in the championship, but with three events left anything could happen. Expect a good battle to develop in Limpopo.

Down in Class E Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux, in the Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux, have taken control of matters. Ewald van Breda and Johann du Toit (Potch Plastics Toyota Hilux) and the factory Ford racing pair of Jack Peckham/Lucio Santoro both need good results this time out.

Thomas Rundle and Brian Roberts (Barden Tyre Services Nissan Hardbody) and Peckham/Santoro are up against a horde of Toyota Hilux entries. Deon Venter/Ian Palmer (4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux) and Malcolm Kock/Johan de Klerk (Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux) have had their moments and will be joined by Daniel Swanepoel/James Moss in an IDM Cement entry and experienced Rob Gurney and Paul Gonlag.

Documentation and scrutineering will take place at Meropa Casino & Entertainment World from 10h00 to 13h00 on Friday, September 12. The race proper will start at the Ysterberg Pleasure Resort at 08:00 on Saturday, 13 September with the route to be run over two loops of 180 kilometres each. The designated service point and the finish will be at Meropa Casino & Entertainment World which will also host the prize-giving.

KNIVES OUT IN SPECIAL VEHICLE CATEGORY ON LIMPOPO 400

The knives will be out in the Special Vehicle category on the Limpopo 400, round six of the Absa Off Road Championship, in Limpopo on September 12 and 13.

Title fights in the overall and class championships are close and indications are this could be a make or break event for those involved in battles that could go either way. An indication of just how tight the various fights are can be gleaned from current points positions.

In the overall and Class A championship only 10 points separate the first three crews, it is much the same scenario in Class B and in Class P there is a tie at the top of the table. It looks as though championship battles will once again go to the wire, but the Limpopo 400 race could change matters somewhat.

At the top of the overall and Class A leaderboards Karl-Heinz and Quintin Sullwald (Sullwald Racing BAT) lead former champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter), who have won the last two events, by just two points. A further eight points in arrears are former champion Terence Marsh and Pieter Groenewald, in the Regent Racing BAT, who won the opening event of the year.

Going into the Limpopo 400 event Marsh/Groenewald could be said to have a slight advantage. Crews have to drop one score at the end of the season and the Sullwald's and Variawa/Rousseau have 100 percent finish records. All three crews are in with a chance of winning, but there are other teams in a long list of potential winners.

Gary Bertholdt/Andre Vermeulen (Atlas Copco Porter) are quick but unpredictable, reigning champions Evan Hutchison/Achim Bergman (Motorite BAT) desperately need a win to rescue a miserable season while Colin Matthews and Alan Smith (Century Racing BAT) are knocking on the door that will give them a maiden national win. Then there are the likes of Nick and Ryan Harper (Atlas Copco BAT), experienced Nardus Alberts now partnered by Adri Roets in the Wrapsa BAT, Mike Whitehouse/Mathew Carlson in the second Regent BAT and Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell in the another BAT.

Back in action and also a possible contender is former champion Atang Makgekgenene who is now paired with Geoff Minnitt in a new Porter. If Makgekgenene can brush away the cobwebs he could throw a cat among the pigeons.

It all adds up to a pressure race. The championship looks to be developing into a three horse race, but the Harpers and Whitehouse/Carlson could force themselves back into the reckoning.

Down in Class B only nine points separate the first four crews and sheer consistency has seen veteran former champion Giel Nel, partnered by Deon de Kock in the LUK Afrika Zarco Truggy, into a challenging position. Nel and de Kock don't have the pace to seriously challenge for wins against the likes of Louw de Bruin/Rudi Britz (Ruwacon BAT), Jan Kraaij/Tiddo Voogt (Keymax BAT), Bez Bezuidenhout and Johann de Bruyn (Adenco BAT) and Alistair Stubbs and Marc de Chalain in the Stafix Racing Viper.

But what Nel and de Kock have going for them is a steady pace that wears down opposing crews. The pair will again concentrate solely on making it to the finish to pick up valuable points and capitalise on mistakes from other challengers.

In an interesting situation the Class P lead is shared by KZN crew Don Thompson and Don Blakey (Zarco Lite) and Cape brothers Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout in the Adenco Bat. Not far of the pace are brothers David and Gary White, in the Ruwacon BAT, with a good threeway battle in the offing.

The Limpopo 400 waters will be muddied, however, with the return of reigning Class S champions Richard Schilling and Chris Davies in the Aceco RS. Along with Nic Goslar/Richard Carolin (Men's Health International Zarco) the class could provide for some of the weekend's closest racing.

With so much at stake for championship hopefuls the Limpopo 400 has the makings of a crackerjack race. Only Variawa/Rousseau have won more than once this season, and in a quality field picking a winner is a more than risky business.

Documentation and scrutineering will take place at Meropa Casino & Entertainment World from 10h00 to 13h00 on Friday, September 12. The race proper will start at the Ysterberg Pleasure Resort at 08:00 on Saturday, 13 September with the route to be run over two loops of 180 kilometres each. The designated service point and the finish will be at Meropa Casino & Entertainment World which will also host the prize-giving.

-credit: saorc

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Series Other rally
Drivers Ian Palmer , Ralph Pitchford , Quin Evans , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst