Carnival City 400: Series preview

ABSA OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES AT STAKE ON FORD CARNIVAL CITY 400 Although one of the main prizes has been settled there are still other highly competitive championship issues to be finalised in the Production Vehicle category at the Ford ...


Although one of the main prizes has been settled there are still other highly competitive championship issues to be finalised in the Production Vehicle category at the Ford Carnival City 400, the final event of the Absa Off Road Championship, on November 30 and December 1.

Nissan Navara factory driver Duncan Vos has already wrapped up the overall driver's championship and looks to be a shoe in to also win the premier Super Production Class title. The overall and SP Class co-driver titles are, however, still up for grabs with Vos's regular co-driver, Ralph Pitchford, and Francois Jordaan, who partners Hannes Grobler in another of the factory Navaras, the only contenders.

Pitchford has missed two events through overseas commitments and it has cost him. As matters stand Jordaan has a seven point lead over Pitchford and the clash between the two Nissan crews will provide for an interesting sideshow at Carnival City.

There is one other issue that adds to the interest. Nissan have won the prestige South African Manufacturer's Championship by a handy margin, but with seven wins already under their belts this season Glyn Hall's squad would love to make it a clean sweep Championships in the Production Vehicle category have had a habit in recent years of going all the way to the wire. This year is no exception and both the Class D and Class E titles are still up for grabs

And in Class D it is going to be open warfare. In both the driver and co-driver stakes half a dozen crews are in with a chance of walking away with the top honours.

Only 16 points separate the first six drivers and the gap between the top six co-drivers is 17 points. Second place on the recent Toyota Dealer 400 took Cliff and Louis Weichelt (Bosal Toyota Hilux D4D) into a five point lead over the Zermatten brothers, Henri and Maurice, in the Ryobi Nissan Hardbody.

Coetzee Labuscagne (Raysonics Nissan Hardbody - 58) is three points behind Zermatten with Ramon Bezuidenhout (Toyota Hilux -- 57) only a point behind the Nissan driver. Also involved in a great finale are Jurie du Plessis (BB Auto Nissan Hardbody - 54) and Harold Coen in the Land Rover who has 49 points.

Among the co-drivers Stefan Lock, who partners Bezuidenhout, is in third place with 57 points. Chasing him are Andre du Plessis (54), Tiaan Coen (49) and Johan Knox (48) and the Ford Carnival City is going to be a free for all.

In Class E the Toyota Dealer 400 narrowed the contenders down to a factory Ford crew and a privateer Toyota crew -- with an interesting turn of events. In the drivers championship Jack Peckham, in the Ford Ranger, leads Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux driver Jannie Visser by 10 points.

On the co-driver front it is a different story with Visser's co-driver, Joks le Roux, leading Peckham's co-driver, Lucio Santoro, by 10 points. It is a situation brought about by Santoro falling ill midway through the Amathole 500, forcing Peckham to finish the event on his own.

Other Toyota crews including George and Sharon Barkhuizen (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) and Brian Martin/Ockie Fourie (Castrol Toyota Hilux) are mathematically out of the championship equation. They could, however, have an influence on the final outcome and the season finale is loaded with interest.

It will be a case of the winners take all in the Special Vehicle championship at the Ford Carnival City 400, the final round of the Absa Off Road Championship, on November 30 and December 1.

The father and son team of Nick and Ryan Harper, in the Atlas Copco BAT, will go to Carnival City with a five point lead over Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergman, from the Motorite BAT stable. Second place for the Harpers and a win for Hutchison/Bergmann would see the Motorite team take the overall title by a single point.

For the Harpers being beaten into second place by Colin Matthews and Alan Smith (Century Property Development BAT) on the recent Toyota Dealer 400 has turned out to be a massive blow. Second place on the Mpumalanga event would have given the Atlas Copco team a bit of breathing space with a second place enough to clinch the title.

Neither team, of course, can afford a non finish on what in recent years has always turned out to be a wet event. It sets up a mouth watering clash with huge pressure on the Harper and Hutchison/Bergmann combinations.

And, as far as the Motorite team are concerned, they will be relying on team-mates and outgoing champions Alfie Cox and Hennie ter Stege to run a little interference. For Cox and ter Stege to finish ahead of the Harpers would be a huge boost for Hutchison and Bergmann.

But a little twist adds to the plot. Cox and ter Stege will also be involved in a huge battle for third place in the Cox is tied with Glen Gibson (Absolute BAT) and former champion Terence Marsh (Regent Racing BAT) in the driver's championship. For his part ter Stege is tied with Pieter Groenewald with Siegfried Rousseau only a further two points in arrears in the co-driver's championship.

Both the Class B and Class S championships have been decided. Hendrik and Jan Kraai (Regent Racing BAT) have dominated Class B throughout the season, with Richard Schilling/Chris Davies (Aceco) in pretty much the same boat in Class S The fight for the runner-up spot in Class B is, however, hugely interesting in that it involves family. Second in the champion are Bez Bezuidenhout and Johann de Bruyn in an Adenco BAT.

But Bezuidenhout senior and de Bruyn are only a point ahead of Bezuidenhout's sons, Johan and Etienne, in another Adenco BAT. The younger Bezuidenhout's won Class B on the Toyota Dealer 400 to set up a little cameo performance that will be watched with interest -- and one wonders whether team orders will come into play!

With the Class S title safely in the bag, Schilling and Davies could give the final event a miss. That would leave outgoing drivers champion Nic Goslar and Richard Carolin, in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco) as the favourites.

-credit: absa/

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Series Other rally
Drivers Alfie Cox , Ralph Pitchford , Duncan Vos