Shake-up in Production vehicle ranks

There has been a major shake-up in the Production Vehicle category of the SA Off Road Car Racing Championship with retirements, new vehicles, a shift in focus to Class D and E and performance restrictors the order of the day. Veterans Apie ...

There has been a major shake-up in the Production Vehicle category of the SA Off Road Car Racing Championship with retirements, new vehicles, a shift in focus to Class D and E and performance restrictors the order of the day.

Veterans Apie Reyneke and Kassie Coetzee have retired from competition, Toyota has shifted its focus from Class T to Classes D and E with a new driver line-up and performance restrictors have been introduced in the Production Vehicle category only in an effort to limit speeds, improve safety and reduce running costs.

Reyneke (47) has retired from the Castrol Toyota Team after 28 years of off road competition and can proudly claim to be the most successful driver in the history of the sport after winning nine championships and dozens of races over the years while Coetzee spent much of his long career racing a variety of Toyotas in which he too won many races.

On the factory front Toyota has decided to contest Class D and E only and will field two Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i models in Class D for reigning Class E champions Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin and Paolo Piazza-Musso and Rod Hering and two vehicles in Class E with former Rotax Max World Champion Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton in a Hilux 2.7i and Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo in a Hilux KZ-TE.

A number of privateers will contest the championship in a variety of Toyota models.

Former Class E champions Hugo de Bruyn and his father Jaap will be in action in the ex-Mark Cronje Toyota Hilux, Benoni based Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst will be a force in the ex-de Bruyn Class E Hilux, father and son Cliff and Louis Weichelt are building a new N1 4x4 / Bosal Hilux 3.4, V6 and husband and wife Marius and Tracey van Vuuren have swapped their Land Rover for a new Class E Bosal / N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux 2.7i. Lichtenburg 200 winners Hein Moolman and Cecil Fincham will be contesting the championship in the ex-Kassie Coetzee Castrol Toyota Hilux 3.0 litre, KZ-TE and based on recent performances in regional championship events they could well spring a few surprises in Class E.

Ford Racing's challenge will come from Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer in the Class T Ford Racing Ranger in which they won last year's Carnival City Casino 400, former Class E champions Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham from the Pietermaritzburg district who move up to Class D in a Ranger 4.0 litre, V6 and development squad Baphumze Rubuluza and Kulile Bakalisa from Pietermaritzburg in a Class E Ranger 2.5 turbo diesel.

Husband and wife Arthur and Lorraine Roberts will be in action in their newly built Class T Fury Ford Ranger while Dirk van Reenen and Ian Palmer have acquired the ex-Zane Pearce Hi Q Ford Ranger to race in Class E.

Nissan Motorsport will again enter three Nissan Hardbody pick-ups in Class T for reigning champions Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke, 2001 champions Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan and 2002 champion Duncan Vos who will have a new co-driver following the retirement of Mike Griffith.

The factory entries will be bolstered by a number of top rated privateers.

Alfie Cox and Hennie ter Steege (Arnold Chatz Cars Nissan Hardbody), Arnold du Plessis and George Baker (Produkta Nissan Hardbody) and the GBS Racing Team of reigning Class D champions Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo, husband and wife JP and Linda Augustin and Johan Gerber and Coetzee Labuschagne will spearhead the Nissan challenge in Class D.

Brothers Jurie and Andre du Plessis (BB Auto Nissan Hardbody) and husband and wife Neels and Zelda van der Walt will fly the Nissan flag in Class E.

Henri and Maurice Zermatten will make a popular return to Class D in the Playstation / Mastercraft Mitsubishi Pajero while Harrismith based father and son Johan and Marthinus van der Merwe will again campaign their Chavani Colt Rodeo in Class D. Mike Tomsett and Brian Haviland will be in the lone Mitsubishi Colt in the highly competitive Class T.

Arthur van Zweel and Piero Antiga will again campaign their Homemasters Isuzu KB 320 in Class D and can expect tough competition from Nampo 400 winners Hannes Steyn and Ockie Fourie in the ex-Mark Corbett Class D Isuzu.

Chevrolet will be represented in Class F by the Kopanong Hotel Superteam entry of Andre Botha and Beans Heydenrych.

Brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat will campaign the Bosal Land Rover in Class D.

The introduction of performance restrictors will result in top speeds being reduced but crews will find that torque improves, which will be an advantage on the tighter more technical routes that organisers will be laying out, that running costs will be significantly reduced and that the playing field is levelled thereby making for closer competition.

On the face of it the competition in all the classes will be stiff and off road racing fans can expect to see some of the closest racing ever in the Production Vehicle category when the season gets underway with the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Darling district on March 19 and 20.

-msa-

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Giniel de Villiers , Alfie Cox , Ian Palmer , Gavin Cronje , Mark Corbett , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst