Carnival City 400 to settle championships

CHAMPIONSHIP ISSUES TO BE SETTLED ON FORD CARNIVAL CITY 400 A little needle among the top teams, along with outstanding championship issues, could provide the Special Vehicle category with an explosive finale to the Absa Off Road Championship at...


A little needle among the top teams, along with outstanding championship issues, could provide the Special Vehicle category with an explosive finale to the Absa Off Road Championship at the Ford Carnival City 400 on November 17 and 18.

While the premier overall and Class A championships have been settled in favour of off road legend Alfie Cox and Hennie Ter Stege, from the Motorite BAT camp, the Class B and Class S titles are still up in the air. And, the manner in which the overall and Class A titles were settled on the recent Toyota Dealer 400, suggests there could be a little ill feeling among top crews.

After winning the Toyota Dealer 400 the Atlas Copco Porter pair of Gary Bertholdt/Henry Kirstein were relegated by race officials to third. That decision was overturned by the stewards of the meeting who reinstated Bertholdt and Kirstein, and led to a not unexpected appeal by the Motorite outfit.

Whatever the outcome of the Motorsport SA appeal court hearing, it won't affect the outcome of the championship. It does, however, set up a situation where Bertholdt and Kirstein will be more than keen to upstage the Motorite BAT crews of Cox/Ter Stege, Evan Hutchinson/Achim Bergmann and Brandon Harcus/Marcelle Trethewey.

All four crews have won this season, and all four have the pace and aggression to dominate at Carnival City. It is an intriguing situation but there are other players who enter the equation.

Former champion Shameer Variawa and Andrew van Zyl, in the Total Porter, went well in Mpumalanga as did Rob and Gareth Wark sharing the singleseater Superpave BAT. Their chances cannot be written off and Gerhard and Kobie du Plessis, in the Jimco, would look to be good outside bets.

Outgoing champions Terence Marsh and Mike Whitehouse, in the Nashua Mobile BAT, would like to go out with a bang after recent disappointments, and Lesotho crew John Moore and Ashley Thorn (Free Spirit Chev) have also shown plenty of pace. Clint Gibson/Mike Brown, in the Absolute BAT, also have the potential to upset an applecart or two while Nardus Alberts/Collin Hunter are due a win in the Wrapsa BAT.

Where pride and championships are concerned anything could happen. With this in mind the scene is set for a memorable event.

Matters in Class B look like developing into a dogfight where any one of four crews could win the championship. Veteran Ernest Corbett and Warwick Goosen, in the Century Property Developments BAT, start off with what could be a decisive 11 point advantage over Jan and Hendrik Kraaij in the Keymax BAT.

Only five points separate the Keymax pair, Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout in the Adenco BAT and Swaziland crew John Thompson and Clinton McNamara in the Zarco. Corbett and Goosen have emerged as the form team over the last couple of events but some late entries could muddy the waters.

Former champions Marcus Taylor and Mar de Chalain (JRE) and the van Graan brothers Pierre and Rudi, in the Technochair Zarco, have to be looked on as potential winners. The Bosal entries of Giel Nel/Johan Smalberger and Marius van Vuuren/Johan Coetzee also add to the mix and anything can, and probably will, happen at Carnival City.

The situation in Class S revolves mainly around the driver's championship where reigning champion Richard Schilling, in the Plastotech Aceco, trails Nic Goslar (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco) by nine points. Schilling's co-driver, Chris Davies, is out of the woods in the navigator's stakes, but behind him only four points separate Richard Carolin, paired with Goslar, Craig Doubtfire (Archie Rutherford/Nashua Mobile Raceco) and Peter van Vuuren (Gary Gillingham/Shell Raceco).

For the experienced Schilling it is another test of character in a long and successful career. An interesting tactical battle is likely to emerge and the battle between Schilling/Davies and Goslar/Carolin is going to be one of the more interesting cameo performances.



Perennial rivals Toyota and Nissan will square up to each other again in the Production Vehicle category at the final round of the Absa Off Road Championship, the Ford Carnival City 400, on November 17 and 18.

At stake will be the prestige South African Manufacturers Championship. The championship is one of two remaining title issues to be settled in the season's finale, with Nissan and Ford crews involved in the other clash.

A late flurry on the recent Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga saw Nissan close the deficit on Toyota who has led the championship for most of the season. Going in to the Ford Carnival City 400 the gap is a mere 20 points, and there will be plenty of pressure on factory and privateer crews from both camps.

In a category where most of the championship issues were settled last time out, the situation adds a little spice to proceedings. So, too, does the other title fight in the Super Production Class where overall champions Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan, in the Proudly South African Nissan Navara, are locked in a tie with Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in the works Ford Racing Ranger.

With the Ford pair boasting a 100 percent finish record this season and having to drop one score, the scales are tilted in favour of Grobler and Jordaan completing a double. The situation does, however, provide a little extra motivation for Woolridge and Skjoldhammer, along with Rob Gurney and Graham Stainbank in the second factory Ford Ranger, on an event co-sponsored by Ford.

With Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford, in the second factory Nissan Navara, winning the Toyota Dealer 400 Nissan lead Ford by five wins to two this season. That also provides both crews with a little added incentive, but it is the two factory Castrol Toyota teams who will be itching to get into the winners circle.

Not much has gone right this season for Mark Cronje/Chris Birkin and Bevan Bertholdt/Robin Houghton in the pair of Castrol Toyota Hilux V6 entries. A win at Carnival City would go a long way towards brightening Toyota's season, and would play a role in the manufacturers fight.

In terms of the championship Toyota will also be looking for a big effort from their Class D representatives. Nissan will be in the same boat and with the championship in mind have called in extra troops, but will be aware that Toyota crews have won every event so far this season.

Champions Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst (Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux) have won four times and Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Castrol Toyota Hilux) twice, with a lone win going to Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the Bosal Toyota Hilux. The Weichelt's have had a tough time of it lately and, along with Visser/Badenhorst and the de Bruyn's will be looking for a good end to the season.

Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber, in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody, have been the most consistent of the Nissan entries. Patchy form has plagued the BB Auto Nissan entries of Arnold du Plessis/Johan Knox and Jurie and Andre du Plessis, and all three crews would relish putting an end to the Toyota domination.

Veteran campaigner Henri Zermatten and brother Maurice and Topcar pair Deon Schoeman and Jan Sime, both in Nissan Hardbodys, have been added to the Nissan fold for this event. The Zermatten's specialize in consistency, and Schoeman and Sime have the ability to rock the boat.

Down in Class E it will again be a case of Toyota hordes, with a little help from Nissan, ganging up on champions Manfred Schroder and Ward Huxtable in the Ford Racing Ranger. A surprise first ever class win for Toyota pair George and Sharon Barkhuizen (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) on the Toyota Dealer 400 could not stop Schroder and Huxtable from clinching the championship.

While the Ford pair will want a win on their own event, their Toyota rivals will want another taste of victory. Factory crew Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie, in the Castrol Toyota Hilux, will lead the assault with help from the likes of Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (Toyota Hilux), brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat (Bosal Toyota Hilux) and former track racers Jaco Swanepoel and Fabio Tafani in the IDM Cement and Club Refrigeration entries.

After a couple of recent disappointments Thomas Rundle and Brian Roberts, in the Barden Tyre Services Nissan Hardbody, will also be looking to end the season on a high note.

-credit: msa

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Series Other rally
Drivers Mike Brown , Alfie Cox , John Moore , Ralph Pitchford , John Thompson , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst