Tarlton: Series preview

UNFINISHED BUSINESS IN PRODUCTION VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP The overall championship might be done and dusted, but there is other unfinished business in the Production Vehicle category at the RFS Magalies 400, the final around of the Absa Off Road ...

UNFINISHED BUSINESS IN PRODUCTION VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP

The overall championship might be done and dusted, but there is other unfinished business in the Production Vehicle category at the RFS Magalies 400, the final around of the Absa Off Road Championship, at Tarlton International Raceway on Friday and Saturday.

The RFS Toyota Hilux pair of Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst made certain of the overall championship with a win on the Human Auto 400 in the Free State last month. Veterans Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege can finish level on points with the new champions if they win, and Visser/Badenhorst fail to score.

Should this happen the title will go to Visser and Badenhorst on a count out of wins. Because of anomalies in off road scoring the situation is a little different in the premier SP Class where Grobler and ter Stege still have a chance of pipping Visser and Badenhorst for the title.

This would lead to a situation where Visser/Badenhorst would be overall champions, with Grobler ter Stege the SP Class titleholders. But there is other unfinished business with both the Class D and Class E championships up for grabs.

With everyone chasing a win on the last event of the season the SP Class will be no place for the faint of heart. There are one or two interesting championship battles further down the pecking order and, allied to the Class D and E situations, the weekend promises to produce some highly interesting racing on a route which includes new sections of road.

Visser and Badenhorst are in the happy position of being able to go out and enjoy themselves, whatever the result. But there is no doubt the red mist will descend on the pair, and they will be in there fighting for a fifth win.

Behind them only 11 points separate Grobler/ter Stege and the Team Castrol Toyota pair of outgoing drivers champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie. And behind them six points separate Terence Marsh, reunited with Buks Carolin in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara, Neil Woolridge/Kenny Skjoldhammer (Team Ford Ranger TDCi) and Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux.

Of the trio only Bertholdt and Vermeulen have not won this season. The pair would love nothing better than to end on a high note a season that has turned pear shaped away from the competition side of off road racing.

Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton, in the second Team Castrol entry, would also like to add respectability to a frustrating season. Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr (Barden Tyre Services Nissan Navara) and Mike Whitehouse/Matthew Carlson, in the second Regent Racing Nissan Navara, are in the same boat while there a number of teams who would like to continue a run of late season form.

Among these crews are Free State teams George Bezuidenhout/David van Wyck (AIM Toyota Hilux), Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger), Pieter Ruthven/Rudi Britz (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) and the father and son pair of Willem and Dana Vos in the Vossies Toyota Hilux. Also included in this bunch are Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren who produced their best result of the season with a podium finish on the Human Auto 400.

There are no fewer than 17 SP Class runners entered with the return of teams like Jaco Swanepoel/Keith Solomon (JAM TEC Toyota Hilux) and Graham and Trevor Leith in the Transcor Ford Ranger. Add to the list regulars like Kobus van Tonder and Freddie Kriel (Uni Freight Ford Ranger) and you have a recipe for good racing throughout the field.

The Class D scrap is a straight fight between current leaders Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (4x4 Mega World / RFS Toyota Hilux) and reigning champions Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit in the Northam Toyota Hilux. Venter/Palmer have won twice in a row while technical issues saw the Northam Toyota bumped up into the SP Class in the Free State.

The 4x4 Mega World team took advantage of the situation to open up a nine point lead with van Breda and du Toit hauling out of mothballs the car in which they won last year's championship. Former champion Cliff Weichelt, in his first outing of the season, and Johan Smalberger (N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser) could throw a cat among the pigeons in a vehicle that has shown plenty of potential.

Looking to spring surprises will be the Land Rover crews of Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen and Johan Steyn and Paul Jonker. The two Land Rover teams could also find themselves in a tight battle with Johan Steyn and Wentzel Pretorius in a Mitsubishi.

Nine points is also the gap in Class E between championship leaders Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable (Team Ford Ranger), and Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus in the 4x4 Mega World / RFS Toyota Hilux. Labuschagne and Erasmus lost last year's championship by a single point, and are in a challenging position courtesy of the Human Auto 400 accident that put teenager Woolridge and Huxtable out of the running.

Woolridge's back injury might still be a problem, along with the second 4x4 Mega World / RFS Toyota Hilux entry of Hein Moolman and JD Wolfaardt. Gerald le Roux and Willem Pretorius (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) will also be a threat along with Malcolm Kock and Johan Berger in another Toyota Hilux.

The bevy of Toyota entries ganging up on young Woolridge and Huxtable is completed by brothers Diederik and Danie Hattingh (Transcor Toyota Hilux), and Barrie Drenth and Natasha Muller (Ultimate 4x4 Toyota Hilux) who take a step up from the Northern Regions championship.

Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service point are all located at the Tarlton complex near Krugersdorp. The Donaldson Prologue on Friday starts at 12:00 and the race at 08:30 on Saturday.

The route is spectator friendly with plenty of vantage points. Public access to Tarlton and spectator viewing points is free of charge.

WINNER TAKES ALL IN SPECIAL VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP SHOOTOUT

It will be an OK Corral winner takes all shootout in the Special Vehicle category at the final round of the Absa Off Road Championship at Tarlton International Raceway on Friday and Saturday.

Going at each other with all guns blazing will be overall championship leaders Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau, in the Team Total Porter, and the father and son combination of Kallie and Quinton Sullwald in the Elegant Fuel BAT. Just six points separate the two crews with all sorts of permutations, including a tie, coming into play.

A tie - it would need the Sullwald's to win with Variawa/Rousseau second - would see the two crews level with three wins each. The title would then go the way of the Sullwald's on a count out of second places.

Added interest comes by way of a second Sullwald father and son team, Herman and Wichard (Sullwald Racing SVR), joining the action in the Class A championship. This is a situation brought on by anomalies in off road scoring but, more important, the second Sullwald car could play a major role in the ultimate destiny of the championship.

In among all the uncertainty there is one certainty - Variawa/Rousseau and the two Sullwald crews won't pussyfoot around with tactics and permutations. All three teams will be out to win, and the fact they will be up against two cars from the same stable is the rub of the green for the Team Total crew.

There are, of course, other teams who could throw the various permutations into disarray. It must surely be a matter of time before Colin Matthews and Alan Smith (Century Racing CR3) get all their sums right and crack a win. Another father and son pair in Nardus and Louis Alberts (Wrapsa BAT) have been in good form since their Sun City 400 debacle, while outgoing drivers champion Evan Hutchison and motorcycle ace Darryl Curtis (Motorite Revo1 4x4) have looked menacing only for mechanical woes to intervene.

KwaZulu-Natal pair Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell (Gibson Racing SVR) are capable of an upset while Naeem Moosajee and Rayhaan Bodhanya (Maxxis/Tyre Rack Porter) will be aiming to end on a high. David White also makes a welcome return in his Class A debut in a Ruwacon BAT with Eugene Coetzee doing the co-driving.

Class P champions Johan van Staden and James Rossouw (Atlas Copco BAT) are top five candidates and in a little cameo Nick Harper (Atlas Copco BAT), Jimmy Zahos (Cobalt Racing Porter) and Archie Rutherford, in the Regent Racing Jimco running in Class P, are separated by two points in the drivers championship. Harper, Zahos and Rutherford have all made use of more than one co-driver during the season.

Regulars like Keith du Toit/Ashley Thorn (White Star Racing BAT) will be joined by a number of Northern Regions series crews making the jump to national level. Jacques Wheeler and the experienced Danie Stassen will be out in the late Bevan Bertholdt's lab88 BAT, with David and Louw Zeelie out in an Aceco, Dino Scribante and Justin Fuchs in a BAT and Edoardo and Ricardo Argazzi in the new Zarco Magnum.

At the end of the day it will all boil down to the battle between Variawa/Rousseau and the Sullwald's. It is going to be fast and furious and could be riddled with unexpected turns.

The Class B championship has already been settled in favour of Cape veteran Bes Bezuidenhout and daughter-in-law Lindie in the Adenco BAT. A win on the Human Auto 400 took them clear of Coetzee Labuscagne and daughter Sandra (Raysonics Zarco) who now have to see off a challenge from Keith and Andrew Makenete in another Zarco.

The Labuscagne's lead the Makenete's by four points in the battle for second place in what should be a good family fight. The Class B entry is filled out by Johan de Klerk and Lappies Labuschagne and the UTV Racing entries of Stratford Voogt and Sidriaan de Villiers and Dwayne Voogt and Harry Steffen.

The Class P brigade will be racing mainly for pride. Van Staden and Rossouw clinched the championship in the Free State but will be under pressure from Rutherford and Mike Lawrenson, Swaziland flyers John Thomson and Clinton McNamara (Zarco), Johan and Deon Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) and the Century Racing CR2 in the hands of Mark Corbett and Rudi Balzer.

One point separates Johan Bezuidenhout and Corbett among the drivers, and two points is the difference between Deon Bezuidenhout, Balzer and McNamara in the co-driver stakes. The husband and wife pair of Marius and Jolinda Fourie have been impressive since moving up from the regional ranks, and there will be plenty of rivalry among veteran crews like Richard Schilling/Chris Davies (Aceco), Bodo Bertholdt/Phillip Herselman (Atlas Copco BAT) and Nic Goslar/Richard Carolin in the Men's Health International Zarco.

-source: saorc

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Series Other rally
Drivers Ian Palmer , David White , Dwayne Voogt , Mark Corbett , Darryl Curtis , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst