Msa Off-Road Car Championship Heads For Exciting Climax points one One or two competitors are in the happy position of having already clinched titles, but for others the last two events of the South African Off-Road Car Championship will be ...
Msa Off-Road Car Championship Heads For Exciting Climax
One or two competitors are in the happy position of having already clinched titles, but for others the last two events of the South African Off-Road Car Championship will be white-knuckle time.
Just to make it a little more interesting, however, points positions after the recent Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400 could not be closer in a couple of the Special Vehicle and Production Vehicle categories. Next event on the calendar is the Caledon 400 on September 21 and 22, and there are a few sleepless nights ahead of title contenders.
The Tarkastad event settled the issue in the Special Vehicles overall and Class A championships, with the Class B drivers title also a foregone conclusion. After a miserable season last year, the Czepek father and son pairing of Franz Sr. and Jr. have had a dream time of it in 2001.
With Franz Jr. out with a back injury, Franz Sr. was partnered by Steven Parker on the Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400 outing, and scored his sixth win of the season in the Vee Motors Chenowth. That was enough to secure both the overall and Class A driver's titles for Franz Sr., with Franz Jr. also in the happy position of not being able to be caught over the rest of the year.
Behind the Czepeks the battle is on for the runners-up spot in a straight fight between Greg Harvey and Boy Stone (Queen Motor Spares Jimco) and the John Weir-Smith/Geoff Minnitt combination in the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Jimco. Eastern Cape pair Harvey and Stone will take a six point advantage to the Caledon 400, but all competitors have to drop one event at the end of the season– and the calculators will be working overtime.
The consistent Giel Nel (Luk Africa Truggy) is also set for back to back Class B drivers championships. He has a 43 point lead over Gavan Gray, but among the co-drivers it is a little tighter with Deon Bezuidenhout 10 points clear of Johan van Jaarsveld, Carla Erichsen, Renier Jooste and veteran Ashley Thorn.
Matters really start to get interesting in the Production Vehicle category, with some tighter than tight battles emerging. Only five points separate Buks Carolin (Mitsubishi Pajero) and Shumie van Vuuren (Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser) in the drivers championship, while Hennie Ter Stege holds a 25 point lead over Kenny Skjoldhammer among the co-drivers.
While the Carolin/van Vuuren issue is delicately poised, both will be looking over their shoulders at Neil Woolridge (Moreca Ford Ranger) and Giniel de Villiers in the Bankfin Nissan Hardbody. Both are double winners this season, and the KwaZulu-Natalian and the youngster from Paarl are still in the championship frame.
Carolin, de Villiers and Woolridge are also central figures in Class T for Supertrucks where only 14 points separate the trio in the drivers championship. Only three points separate Francois Jordaan and Skjoldhammer, who sit alongside de Villiers and Woolridge, in a close fight among the co-drivers.
In Class D the experienced van Vuuren has a 19 point cushion over Mark Corbett, who along with Juan Mohr has won three races on the trot in the Petronas Syntium Izuzu KB, with Piet Haasbroek only a point in arrears. The Class D co-drivers, however, are involved in a bun fight with just one point between Mohr, Fanie Kotze and Christo Bosch.
Class E is just as close with five points separating Manfred Schroder (Moreca Ford Ranger) and Toyota drivers Coetzee Labuschange and Andrew Birkin. Among the co-drivers Piet Heunis leads Chris Birkin by a point with Ockie Fourie, alongside Kassie Coetzee in the Castrol Toyota Condor, 10 points off the pace.
MSA Off-Road Car Commission president Piet Swanepoel, who knows what it is like to win a championship with an event or two in hand, is more than happy with the dogfights that are going to emerge in the final two events. "It keeps the interest going," said Swanepoel, "and is going to make for some very interesting racing over the rest of the year.
"The Czepeks have had an outstanding season, all the other categories are wide open and championship contenders are going to be faced with some crucial tactical considerations over the final two events."