Mmabatho: Round four competition preview

Statistics point to the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel 500 in the North West Province on July 26 and 27, producing wide open races in both the Special Vehicle and Production Vehicle categories. The event is round four of the Bankfin Off-Road ...

Statistics point to the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel 500 in the North West Province on July 26 and 27, producing wide open races in both the Special Vehicle and Production Vehicle categories.

The event is round four of the Bankfin Off-Road Championship, and marks the halfway point in the series with, as expected, some tight championship battles having developed. As a means of breaking championship deadlocks, the O'Hagan's/Kopanong 500 will play an important role -- but results from the three previous events make picking winners a somewhat risky business.

So far this season there have been three different overall winners in both the Special Vehicle and Production Vehicle categories. There are exceptions to this rule in the class championships but, as a rule of thumb, the formbook is not all that reliable.

Atang Makgekgenene/Andre Paul (Wiks Jimco), John Weir-Smith/Tony George (O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam BMW Jimco) and Greg Daus/Anthony van Zyl (Nashua Mobile Racing Raceco) have all scored an overall win in the Special Vehicle category. Apie Reyneke/Robin Houghton (Team Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser), Giniel de Villiers/Francois Jordaan (Nissan Hardbody) and Hannes Grobler/Richard Leeke, in the second factory Nissan Hardbody, have chalked up the overall wins in the Production Vehicle category, and the time is ripe for someone to stamp authority on proceedings.

On this score it is Daus with Trevor Ormerod (twice) and van Zyl sitting in the co-drivers seat, who has made the biggest statement so far. Daus/Ormerod/van Zyl have notched up three decisive Class S wins which have taken Daus to the top of the overall standings in the Special Vehicle and Class S championships, and have left Ormerod and van Zyl well placed in the co-drivers championships.

Three podium finishes from Daus have also left the hi-tech Class A brigade with a little egg on collective faces. Class S was introduced at the start of the season to accommodate older and less competitive cars, and to have one of their number winning races and picking up podium finishes might not be regarded as cricket.

For all that the Nashua Mobile Raceco, with Daus paired with Archie Rutherood this time out, that none of the Class A cars have been able to match. Daus will start as the obvious favourite to win Class S again, with the major competition coming from Richard Carolin/Geoff Minnitt (O'Hagan's/Kopanong Superteam Raceco) and Billy Bond/Anton Leonard (Prolong Raceco), but this time around will be fair game for the Class A brigade.

The likes of Weir-Smith and George, who would love to win their own event, and Makgekgenene have already made mini statements, and other crews have had their moments. Terrence Marsh and Trevor Ahier (Nashua Mobile Racing Jimco) have picked up consistent places but have not really threatened an overall win, Greg Harvey and Boy Stone (Castrol Queen Motor Spares Jimco) have done much the same and the BAT Racing trio of Bodo and Gary Bertholdt, Bevan Bertholdt/Colin Howell and Brandon Harcus/Regardt Roets have not been able to sustain impressive early challenges.

For all the main players in the Class A, Class S and overall championships, the stakes on the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel 500 are high. Daus may be worried about the law of averages stepping into the equation, but for the other candidates for overall honours the situation is crying out for someone to come forward and take the event by the scruff of the neck.

On the Class B front in the Special Vehicle category, reigning champion Giel Nel (LUK Africa Truggy) is again demonstrating the advantages of consistency. The veteran from the East Rand simply keeps rolling along and leads KwaZulu-Natal pair Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain, in the Truck Time YSCO in the championship standings.

Taylor and de Chalain won the class on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, but Nel has doggedly defied the law of averages over the last couple of seasons. Other crews come into the Class B picture, among them O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam newcomers Rob and Gareth Wark in a Mighty Mag, Bez and Deon Bezuidenhout (Chenowth), Gavan Gray and Brian Scott in a Powerflow Chenowth, Warren Claasen and Kim Dixon (Nashua Mobile Racing Radflo Zeb) and Glenn Claasen and Tim Smook in another Radflo Zeb.

Of the big guns in Class T in the Production Vehicle category, only former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, in the Ford Racing Ranger, have not picked up a win this year. The word is out, however, that the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel 500 is going to be an ultra quick race, and this might lure punters into putting their money on one of the Nissan factory crews.

From the Nissan stable reigning champions de Villiers and Jordaan and Grobler/Leeke have undoubted pace, but some of the more cautious betters might favour Woolridge/Skjoldhammer and another set of former champions in Reyneke and Houghton. Woolridge and Skjoldhammer could be said to be due a win -- just to round out matters -- while the new Team Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser showed plenty of potential on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race.

Two wins out of three starts for Nissan crews may tilt the odds slightly in their favour, but whatever your fancy the action is liable to be fast and furious. All of the factory crews have had reliability problems of one kind or another this season, and staying power is going to be as much of a factor as sheer pace.

The Class T brigade find themselves in much the same championship position as the Class A runners in the Special Vehicle category. While they have been sharing wins and dropping out of races, Class D crew Piet Haasbroek and Christo Bosch, in the Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser, have established themselves at the top of the overall championship and in Class D.

Two class wins and a little hiccup on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race have taken Haasbroek and Bosch to the top of the overall and class standings, but the competition is starting to get a little hot. Duncan Vos and Mike Griffiths, in a Nissan Motorsport Hardbody, produced a storming drive on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race that has given the Toyota crews a bit if a jolt.

The best has also not yet been seen of Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo, in another factory Nissan Hardbody, and Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr have started to flex their muscles in the ex works Isuzu KB. Henri and Maurice Zermatten, in the Playstation Mitsubishi Pajero also came up with a good result in Botswana and Haasbroek/Bosch and Shumie van Vuuren/Hennie ter Steege, in another Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser, may be forced into a few sleepless nights before the North West Province shootout.

The unheralded father and son combination of Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn, in a Toyota Hilux, have also turned consistency to their advantage and have slipped almost unnoticed into the lead in Class E. Reigning champions Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham in the Ford Racing Ranger, won in Botswana and have closed the gap on the de Bruyns, and there is pressure on Team Castrol Toyota Condor pair of Kassie Coetzee and Okkie Fourie.

Coetzee and Fourie won the opening event of the season, and in so doing gave the Castrol Toyota Condor its first ever national win. This has been followed, however, by two non finishes and the pair will be desperate for a good result this time around.

Class F probably hinges around the staying power of the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jeep Cherokee in the hands of Paolo Piazza-Musso and Scott Abraham. The pair got off to a scorching start on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, and for a while it looked as though they would throw a scare into the Class T runners.

Reliability has been an ongoing problem, however, and the Botswana win went to Frank and Dalene de Greeff in a Toyota Hilux. The Jeep obviously has potential as a frontrunner, and if Piazza-Musso and Abraham can hold the American import together long enough, they might yet surprise a few of the Class T brigade.

The O'Hagan's/Kopanong/Hotel 500 will kick off on July 26 with a 60 kilometre prologue to determine grid positions for racing section two. The prologue starts at 13h00 at race headquarters at the Tusk Resort, and will be run in classes with Class T the first to come under starters orders.

Racing section two starts at the Tusk complex at 08h00 on July 27 with the first vehicles expected back at the finish, at the same venue, at around 13h15.

-msa-

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Giniel de Villiers , Tony George , Mark Corbett , Duncan Vos
Teams AT Racing