NOSTALGIA APLENTY AT ABSA OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP FINALE There will be no shortage of nostalgia in the Production Car category at the final round of the Absa Off Road Championship, the RFS Magalies 400, at Tarlton International Raceway on November...
NOSTALGIA APLENTY AT ABSA OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP FINALE
There will be no shortage of nostalgia in the Production Car category at the final round of the Absa Off Road Championship, the RFS Magalies 400, at Tarlton International Raceway on November 6 and 7.
Both the championship winning Donaldson Nissan Navara and factory Castrol Toyota Hilux teams will be running for the last time under their present guise. Add to that Hannes Grobler's final appearance in a Nissan, after a 33 year association with the company, before he joins the RFS team.
Behind the nostalgia and farewells, however, there is a race to be won and the Nissan and Toyota squads will want to see out the end of an era on a high note. With the overall and SP Class championships long since settled in favour of Donaldson Nissan Navara crew Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford, there is enormous pride at stake and Toyota will also want to put the finishing touches to again winning the prestige South African Manufacturer's Championship.
Vos/Pitchford are the obvious favourites but there is plenty at stake for team-mates Ivar Tollefsen and Quin Evans who have a narrow nine point lead over privateers Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux. Grobler and Juan Mohr will also be involved in a fourth and fifth duel with Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the RFS Toyota Hilux.
With Nissan again dominating the Production Car class, Toyota's lone win this season came via Bertholdt and Vermeulen at the Highveld 400. Where the Castrol Toyota factory crews are concerned Anthony Taylor/Robin Houghton and Hein Lategan/Chris Birkin would love to finally grab the win that has eluded them all season On the Ford front former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer will also have their eyes set on a maiden win for the turbo diesel Ford Ranger TDCi.
Recent performances suggest the Ranger's teething problems are over, and Woolridge and Skjoldhammer can now realistically think in terms of victory.
While Toyota have by far the numerical advantage among the privateers both Nissan and Ford have solid back-up. Toyota will be looking for strong performances from Visser/Badenhorst, Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux), George and Sharon Barkhuizen (AIM Toyota Hilux), du Plooy/Janse van Vuuren (RFS Toyota Hilux) and Bertholdt/Vermeulen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux).
On the privateer front a significant development is the return of Chris du Plooy in the RFS Toyota Hilux. Du Plooy, partnered by the experienced Hennie ter Stege, will be making his first appearance since suffering a back injury on the first event of the season.
Terence Marsh/Pieter Groenewald (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) have also come up with some good performances of late and will be eyeing a top five finish. Ford are well represented via Thomas Rundle/Stavros Yiannakis in a second diesel Ranger, Louis Weichelt/Maret Bezuidenhout N1 4x4 Ford Ranger), the consistent Kobus van Tonder/Riaan Guelpa (Uni Freight Ford Ranger) and Pieter Ruthven/Dewaal Boshoff in the Ruwacon Ford Ranger.
With most of the pressures of a long season now out of the way the battle at the top of the SP Class is likely to be fierce. The fact that only six minutes separated the top eight on the recent Toyota Dealer 400 tells its own story.
Championship issues will be settled in Class D. Here Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit (Northam Toyota Hilux D4D) are in an interesting situation with the former leading the driver championship and the latter assured of the co-driver title.
Van Breda has an eight point leader over reigning champion Cliff Weichelt (N1 4x4 Toyota D4D) who is now partnered by Johann Smalberger since son Louis switched to driving duties in the Ford Ranger. The younger Weichelt is still second in the co-driver championship, and du Toit cannot be caught by third placed Johan Gerber. Gerber and driver Coetzee Labuscagne, in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody, also provide for a little nostalgia. It will be their last event and the pair would love to go out on a high note -- although most of the Class D attention will be on van Breda and Weichelt senior.
Down in Class E reigning champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux need only three points to secure back to back championships. The RFS Toyota pair have an 18 point lead over 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux crew Deon Venter and Ian Palmer.
For their part Venter and Palmer are only three points ahead of Pikke Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus in the second 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux. Theirs will also be an interesting duel in what is now also a highly competitive class.
Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie (Ferodo Nissan Hardbody) dominated the Toyota Dealer 400 for their second win of the season and will be looking for more. Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) have also been going well and former champion Manfred Schroder returns to the fray in a works Ford Racing Ranger.
Regular driver Buppy Rubuluza is busy with exams and Schroder will partner Khuliele Vakaliza. Although he may be a bit ring rusty, Schroder will be a threat. The RFS Magalies 400 will be based at Tarlton International Raceway near Krugersdorp. The start/finish and designated service point will be at Tarlton with the prologue to determine race start position schedule to start at 12:30 on November 6.
The race will start at 08:00 on November 7 with a number of spectator viewing points all within easy reach of race headquarters. Entrance is free.
LAST SPECIAL VEHICLE TITLE TO BE SETTLED AT RFS MAGALIES 400
With just five points separating three contenders the final Special Vehicle championship to be settled will hold centre stage at the RFS Magalies 400, the final round of the Absa Off Road Championship, at Tarlton International Raceway on November 6 and 7.
The overall and Class A and Class B championships have already been settled, and all the action will be in Class P. Here just five points separate three drivers with a single point the difference between the top two contenders in the co-driver championship.
In the premier Class A category there will also be some last minute action with three teams fighting it out to finish runners-up to runaway champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann in the Motorite Revo1 4x4. Nick and Ryan Harper (Atlas Copco BAT) currently lead Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter) by a single point with Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson (Regent Racing BAT) a further 10 points off the pace.
The fact that the Harpers and Whitehouse/Carlson have 100 percent finish records so far this season adds a little spice to the situation. Crews have to drop one result and Variawa/Rousseau already have a 'did not finish' to their names.
Although Hutchison and Bergmann will be early favourites the race is wide open with at least half a dozen potential winners. Veterans Nardus Alberts and Geoff Minnitt (Wrapsa BAT) demonstrated the potential for surprises when they romped away with the recent Toyota Dealer 400.
Colin Matthews/Alan Smith (Century Racing BAT) have pace reliability has been a problem and the same goes for Mark Corbett and Rudi Balzer in the 4x4 Century Racing CR1. However, a first finish -- in 15 starts -- at the Toyota Dealer 400 will have given them a boost.
Herman and Wichard Sullwald (Sullwald Racing Zarco) would like to end a disappointing season on a high note, but the danger men are Gerhard du Plessis and Ferdi Seegers in the Jimco. The pair came out of nowhere to win the Highveld 400 and could once again rock the establishment.
Pride and settling little personal scores that have developed through the season are great motivators. They combine to set the scene for what is certain to be a highly competitive race -- with unpredictable weather another factor to be taken into account.
With the Class B title wrapped up Cape Town driver Derrick du Toit will be aiming for his sixth win in a row in the Orange Tree BAT. Du Toit will again have Ian Pienaar, who missed the last event, sitting alongside him.
Also in the picture would have been the Makenete brothers, but Andrew will sit out this event with his brother partnered by Jaco Swart. The big threat to du Toit/Pienaar and Makenete/Swart will be the Century Racing BAT pair of Simon Beckett and Tim Curtis.
Stewart van Graan, with a co-driver to be announced, in the CAT Special, and Johan de Klerk and Louis Pretorius in another Zarco Lite complete the Class B entry. Like the Makenete brothers de Klerk and Pretorius have shown plenty of staying power in recent events.
Class P is a minefield with reigning champions Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) a single point ahead of another set of brothers, David and Gary White, in the Ruwacon BAT. Muddying the waters on the driver front is Don Thompson (Zarco) who is five points behind David White.
And, just to make it even more interesting Johan van Staden and James Rossouw (KEC BAT) have a mathematical chance of upstaging everyone. Thompson's enigmatic position is by virtue of the fact that he has been accompanied by three different co-drivers this season with Don Blakey, Gary Campbell and current incumbent Hjalmar van Gessellen all doing duty for the KwaZulu-Natal flyer.
For those involved in the title battles there are interesting tactical options. The Bezuidenhout's and the Whites need to finish ahead of each other, and it is Thompson who will take on the familiar role of the charger.
Those involved in the title scraps will also be aware of the fact that there are other potential dangers in the likes of veterans Richard Schilling/Chris Davies (Aceco), Sun City 400 winners Ernest Corbett and Julien Hardy, in the futuristic Century Racing CR2, Hendrik Kraaij and Andries Voogt in the Keymax BAT and Bodo Bertholdt/Philip Herselman in the Atlas Copco BAT. It is a fascinating scenario and provides the Special Vehicle category with a nail biting climax.
HUGE ENTRY FOR FINAL ABSA OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP EVENT
The Northern Regions Championship entry at the RFS Magalies 400, the final event of the season in the Absa Off Road Championship and Northern Regions Championship at Tarlton International Raceway on November 6 and 7, reflects a taste of the old and the new in the sport.
The regional competitors combine with their national counterparts to again ensure a huge entry of more than 90 cars for a Gauteng based event. The Sun City 400 and the Highveld 400 also drew entries of more than 100 cars with national events around the country regularly topping 60 plus cars.
The entry situation reflects a healthy state of affairs in off road racing. The entry for the RFS event, however, also highlights aspects of the old and the new in what is a family orientated sport.
Younger competitors are represented by the likes of Dieter and Stefan Zermatten and Riaan Gerber. The Zermatten brothers are the sons of reigning Class D drivers champion Henri Zermatten who will be out in the Mitsubishi Pajero that served the elder Zermatten and brother Maurice so well in seasons gone by.
Gerber is the son of veteran Johan Gerber who has co-driven for years for lifelong friend Coetzee Labuscagne. Gerber will be out in the Tupperware Special in Class A and, with Labuscagne's daughter Sandra busy with exams, young Gerber has pressed girlfriend Danielle Cavanagh into action as his co-driver.
Another young lady with an off road pedigree will make an appearance. Aletta Alberts, daughter of Toyota Dealer 400 winner Nardus Alberts will be driving a Class E Toyota Hilux with co driver Ben du Plessis.
The older generation are represented by the likes of Wolf-Pieter Pfumfei, Mick Oosthuizen and Giel Nel who have been around off-road racing for more years than they care to remember. Oosthuizen shares a VW Baja with Greg Higgins and is sometimes pressed into action to co-drive for Richard Schilling in national events when Chris Davies is unavailable for duty.
For his part Nel is a multiple former South African champion who, along with co-driver Deon de Kock, now restrict their racing to the less rigorous regional series. The pair competed in the national championship up until the end of last season.
"It is wonderful to see sons and daughters of established competitors starting to break into off road racing," said MSA Off Road Car Racing Commission president Richard Schilling. "At the same time it is good to see older competitors like Mick and Giel still enjoying their racing.
"The older competitors have a huge amount of knowledge they can pass on to the youngsters. It once again highlights the family role in off road racing, but is also indicative of the healthy state of the sport in this country."
The RFS Magalies 400 will be based at Tarlton Raceway near Krugersdorp. The start/finish and designated service point will all be at Tarlton.
The prologue to determine start positions will start at 12h00 on November 6 and the race will start at 08h00 on November 7. There are a number of spectator points all within easy reach of Tarlton and entry to the event is free.