Sun City 400 preview

GROBLER/JORDAAN THE TARGET FOR RIVAL TEAMS ON SUN CITY 400 Absa Vehicle and Asset Finance is proud to bring the Sun City 400 to the Pilanesberg. Absa is one of the leading providers of vehicle and asset finance, and there is no better way to ...

GROBLER/JORDAAN THE TARGET FOR RIVAL TEAMS ON SUN CITY 400

Absa Vehicle and Asset Finance is proud to bring the Sun City 400 to the Pilanesberg. Absa is one of the leading providers of vehicle and asset finance, and there is no better way to demonstrate the qualities of racing 4x4's than the Absa Off Road Championship.

Marcel de Klerk, managing executive of Absa Vehicle and Asset Finance, said that from the point of exciting racing action to choosing and buying your next vehicle, 4x4 or any other asset, Absa Vehicle and Asset Finance is able to offer the complete finance solution to get you on the road in no time at all.

Championship leaders Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan will be the target for rival crews in the Production Vehicle category on the Sun City 400, round three of the Absa Off Road Championship, at the Pilanesberg resort on May 11 and 12.

Veterans Grobler and Jordaan, in the factory Nissan Navara, are the reigning South African champions and have won both of the opening events this season. That has given them a healthy lead in both the overall championship and in the Super Production Class.

It has also made them the target for rival crews who need to halt the Grobler/Jordaan charge if they are to mount meaningful title challenges of their own. This sets up an interesting confrontation with other Nissan crews and Toyota and Ford runners all gunning for Grobler and Jordaan.

Norwegian driver Ivar Tollefsen and English navigator Quin Evans, in another works Nissan Navara picked up a healthy second place on the recent Nissan Hluhluwe 400 and will be among the serious challengers. Duncan Vos/Ralph Pitchford, in a third factory Navara, have yet to produce their best form, and Mark Corbett/Rudy Balzer, in the Century Property Development Nissan Navara, are also potential winners.

The factory Ford Racing Ranger squad will be hoping for a return to form for former SA champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer. They have not had a happy season so far, and it is team newcomers Brandon Harcus and Juan Mohr who have carried the Ford flag with encouraging results in the first two races.

Reigning Class E champions Manfred Schroeder and Ward Huxtable, in the Barloworld / Absolute Ford Ranger, have also made an encouraging start to their season. They are hugely experienced and could outshine the factory entries.

The factory Castrol Toyota Hilux and Toyota privateer teams between them field four cars in the SP Class, with the works teams of Bevan Bertholdt/Robin Houghton and Mark Cronje/Chris Birkin in a confident frame of mind. The factory crews reckon they can match the factory Nissans for pace, and are eyeing overall wins.

Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn will be out in the Micaren Exel Dealer Team Toyota Hilux, and reigning Class D champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst will be having another outing in the SP Class but will again be using the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux in which they last year won Class D.

Neither crew is likely to match the works teams for pace, but reliability could be a major factor in their favour.

Some good racing can be expected in Class D where Ramon Bezuidenhout and Stefan Lock, in a Toyota Hilux, caused a surprise with a first time out win in KwaZulu-Natal. They will face a bevy of Nissan entries spearheaded by Jurie and Andre du Plessis in the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody.

Arnold du Plessis and Johan Knox will be out in another BB Auto Nissan Hardbody, with Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody. Henri and Maurice Zermatten, in the Ryobi Nissan Hardbody, have not yet produced the reliability for which they are well known, but are due a good run and Harold and Tiaan Coen (Land Rover) will be keen to continue their good form.

Cliff and Louis Weichelt will be back in the Bosal Toyota Hilux D4D and will be hoping they have sorted out the electrical problem that kept them out of the Hluhluwe event. They could pose a problem for the Nissan crews as could Francois Conradie and Andrew van der Westhuizen in another Toyota Hilux.

Class E has produced two different winners in the first two races with a horde of Toyota entries looking to make it three wins in a row. George and Sharon Bezuidenhout (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) won in KZN but the likes of Castrol Toyota Hilux crew Brian Martin/Ockie Fourie, Mark and Stuart Moffatt (Bosal Toyota Hilux), Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (Toyota Hilux) are all capable of winning.

The biggest threat to the Toyota crews is likely to come from Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro in the factory Ford Ranger. They trail championship leaders Martin and Fourie by a single point, and will want to change that scenario.

Thomas Rundle and Brian Roberts (Barden Tyre Services Nissan Hardbody) and Kobus van Tonder/Riaan Guelpa (Unifreight Mitsubishi Pajero) take on the role of Class E underdogs. Both crews, however, are capable of upsetting a few applecarts.

With an interesting route and plenty at stake for title challengers, the Sun City 400 will almost certainly produce some memorable racing. Competition throughout the classes has never been tougher, and that adds to the intrigue.

The main event will start at 07h30 on Saturday, 12 May from the entrance of the Cascades complex, and all three loops will finish within the international motocross circuit in close proximity to the DSP. The motocross circuit offers plenty of vantage points and should provide for plenty of excitement. The first two loops are expected to take crews approximately 90 minutes to complete, while the final loop will take approximately two hours. This gives spectators plenty of time to take in the action at the motocross complex and out on the route.

A 55 kilometre prologue to determine start positions for the race proper will be run from 12h00 on Friday, May 11.

Absa marketing head William James said the Absa Off Road Championship was growing in terms of both spectators and TV viewership, and now ranked as one of the top motorsport series in South Africa. "We are currently highly satisfied with our involvement and are excited about the future of the sport," James said. "With more competitors joining the fold there is going to be some exciting action to look forward to."

SPECIAL VEHICLE CATEGORY WIDE OPEN ON SUN CITY 400

Potential Special Vehicle category winners will be lining up to leave their mark on the Sun City 400, round three of the Absa Off Road Championship on May 11 and 12, with the race wide open.

The first two events of the season have produced two different winners and competition among the top Special Vehicle category crews has never been more intense. This has led to a situation where at least half a dozen crews have the potential to win, and it would take a brave man to stick his neck out and choose a winner.

A win and a third have taken Nick and Ryan Harper, in the Atlas Copco BAT, to the top of the overall and Class A championships. Consistency always plays a role in winning championships, and the Harpers will be looking for another good finish.

Former SA champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter) have also made an encouraging start to their campaign, and have a winners look about them. Much the same goes for Nardus Alberts and Collin Hunter in the Wrapsa BAT, and they could upset some more fancied crews.

Nissan Dealer 400 winners Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergman and reigning South African champions Alfie Cox and Hennie ter Stege, with both crews out in new Motorite BAT Spec 3 entries, will want to put a disappointing Nissan Hluhluwe 400 behind them. Both crews went out with gearbox problems, and they will want to bounce back in emphatic fashion.

Some early under achievers will also want to get their season back on track to avoid having to play catch up for the rest of the season. Among these crews are Gary Bertholdt and Henry Kirstein, in the Atlas Copco Porter, who are struggling to combine reliability with outright pace.

The likes of former SA champion Terence Marsh, now teamed up with Pieter Groenewald in the Regent Racing BAT, Rob and Gareth Wark, in the Superpave BAT, and the Sullwald brothers in the Sullwald Transport Zarcos are also potential frontrunners. When it comes to picking an overall winner, however, throwing a dart blindfolded at an entry list is probably as good a method as any.

In Class B the Hendrik and Jan Kraaij combination, in the Regent Racing BAT, have got off to a flier with two wins in two outings. They will start as obvious favourites with the other Class B runners hoping the law of averages catches up with the Kraaij's.

The major opposition will come from the Adenco BATs in the hands of Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout and Bez Bezuidenhout and Johann de Bruyn. Veteran Giel Nel/Sandra Labuscagne and Marius van Vuuren William Elliott, in the Zarcos, have consistency on their side while the likes of Alistair Stubbs/Marc de Chalain (AM/PM Racing Viper) and Marcus Taylor/Derek Keith (JRE) will want to put behind them disappointing starts to the season.

The Swaziland crew John Thompson and Clinton McNamara, must also figure among the potential winners. It is the Kraaij's, however, who will carry most of the smart money.

The smart money in Class S will be on Richard Schilling and Chris Davies in the Plastotech Aceco. Two wins in two outings have put them in the fast lane where championship honours are concerned.

Reigning drivers champion Nic Goslar and Richard Carolin, in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco, have some ground to make up. A good result in the Pilanesberg is a must.

Glen Gibson, in the Absolute Aceco and Naazim Moti and Feroze Doodha, in the Tyre Rack Racing Raceco, also have to make up lost ground. The odds, however, would tend to favour Schilling/Davies who have loads of experience with reliability the key to their success so far this season.

There is a great deal at stake for the top runners in Class A. That and the fact that there are so many potential winners floating around, is going to turn the Pilanesberg into a battle ground.

A 55 kilometre prologue to determine start positions for the race proper will be run from 12h00 on Friday, May 11.

The main event will start at 07h30 on Saturday from the entrance of the Cascades complex, and all three loops will finish within the international motocross circuit in close proximity to the DSP. The motocross circuit offers plenty of vantage points and should provide for plenty of excitement. The first two loops are expected to take crews approximately 90 minutes to complete, while the final loop will take approximately two hours. This gives spectators plenty of time to take in action in the motocross complex and out on the route.

-credit: msa

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Series Other rally
Drivers Alfie Cox , Ralph Pitchford , Quin Evans , Mark Corbett , John Thompson , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst