This weekend's Moreca Ford Caledon 400, the penultimate round of this year's MSA Off Road Championship, could make or break a number of title challenges. With so much at stake the event, organized by the Caledon 400 Off-Road Club and run in the...
This weekend's Moreca Ford Caledon 400, the penultimate round of this year's MSA Off Road Championship, could make or break a number of title challenges.
With so much at stake the event, organized by the Caledon 400 Off-Road Club and run in the Dewetsdorp area, has attracted a good entry from the car, motorcycle and quad racer fraternities. No fewer than 89 motorcycles will come under starters orders, and with 23 quad racer and 57 motor vehicle entries the size of the entry reflects the current healthy state of off-road racing in South Africa.
On the motorcycle front the 200 category is likely to develop into a dogfight between the Castrol KTM Racing trio of Andrew Ogden, Geoff Wolhuter and Barry Kriel. Wolhuter won the recent Castrol Winterberg Enduro, where Ogden was excluded from the results for a technical infringement, and the pair will be at each others throats with Kriel an ever present threat.
In the 250 category Clayton Enslin has won more races than anyone else this season, and will start the popular favourite for class and overall honours. The dangerman, however, will be Castrol Winterberg winner Elmer Symons, also from the Castrol KTM Racing squad, and the battle between the pair will be interesting.
Castrol Natro Freight KTM Racing superstar Alfie Cox remains the man to beat in the Open category. This season Cox hasn't won as many races overall as is normally the case, but every time he swings a leg across a motorcycle seat the red headed KwaZulu-Natalian is a potential winner.
Team-mate Jade Gutzeit, back from injury, and the Gas Gas pair of Darryl Curtis and Errol Dalton will also be a threat. With a top quality field the motorcycle categories should produce some hugely competitive racing.
A trio of Bombardier riders are likely to dominate the quad racer category. Cornel de Villiers is the form horse, but he will need to be wary of Jaques Struwig and Geoff Oschse who could upset the applecart.
Two championships not up for grabs this weekend are the overall Special Vehicle category and Class A. The father and son combination of Franz Czepek senior and junior, in the Vee Motors Chenowth, have already wrapped up matters, but there is plenty at stake for Franz senior this weekend.
The elder Czepek will be chasing a record seventh win in a row. The other factor in the Czepek equation, Franz junior, will again be on the sidelines with a back injury.
The main opposition for Czepek will come from John Weir-Smith (O'Hagan's Kopanong Hotel Jimco) and Eastern Cape stalwart Greg Harvey (Queen Motor Spares Jimco). The pair are fighting it out for second place in the championship, and after good results on the recent Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400 others to watch are Terence Marsh (Comutanet Raceco), Mark Ferguson (Drinks Galore Chenowth) and Atang Makgekgenene in the 3,6 supercharged Porsche Jimco.
The Class B category has drawn 10 entries and championship leader Giel Nel (Luk Africa Truggy) is likely to have his work cut out. Former champions Richard Schilling and Ashley Thorn (Plastotech Raceco) will be making a rare appearance, and are potential winners.
Henry Kirstein (Deeds Drilling Services Sandmaster) has moved from Class A to Class B for this event, and also cannot be ruled out. Max Mohr (Industrial Hardware Mighty Mag) also makes a welcome return after a back injury, and shares the drive with Rob Wark.
It is going to be hot in the Class D kitchen where Shumi van Vuuren, in the Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser, needs to bounce back after a disappointing Tarkastad outing. Van Vuuren leads the Class D championship, but is four points behind overall championship leader Buks Carolin - and that sets up an interesting scenario.
Van Vuuren will have his hands full with Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr who have won three races in a row in the Petronas Syntium Isuzu. The overall championship issue adds a little spice to the Class D situation, and others like Hein Grobler (Valid Value Nissan), Henri Zermatten (Sony Playstation Pajero) and Piet Haasbroek/Christo Bosch in the Castrol Land Cruiser could all play influential roles.
Class E is also set for a dogfight. Here only five points separate the first three crews in the championship in what has turned into a Ford versus Toyota scrap. Championship leaders Manfred Schroeder and Jack Peckham (Moreca Ford Ranger) have the Birkin brothers (Toyota Hilux), the experienced Kassie Coetzee and Ockie Fourie (Team Castrol Toyota Condor) and Coetzee Labuschagne and Piet Heunis (Raysonic Toyota Hilux) breathing down their necks.
The Birkin brothers are the current champions, but Coetzee and Fourie look to be the dangermen. The pair have been knocking on the door for a class win in recent events, and could choose to Moreca Ford Caledon 400 to give the Team Castrol Toyota Condor its first victory.
The premier Class T Supertruck category, loaded with hi-tech machinery, should again produce some superb racing. Buks Carolin and Hennie Ter Stege (Mitsubishi Pajero) currently lead the championship, but it is consistency more than anything else that has put them at the top of the pile.
Giniel de Villiers/Francois Jordaan (Bankfin Nissan Hardbody) and reigning champions Neil Woolridge/Kenny Skjoldhammer (Moreca Ford Ranger) have each won twice this season. Other wins have gone to Cliff Barker (Barker Performance Products Land Rover) and the experienced Nissan pairing of Hannes Grobler/Richard Leeke in the second factory Nissan.
Such is the competition in Class T that it has become impossible to make predictions. Pay your money and take your choice is the best policy, but the Moreca Ford Caledon 400 could turn into a straight fight between the Nissans and the Ford.
Former champions Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton (Team Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser) will be hoping to salvage something from a disappointing season, and the Vacation Vans Jeep Cherokee pair of Claudio and Paolo Piazza-Musso, along with co-driver Scott Abraham, will be in much the same boat. Luck always plays a role in determining the final outcome of championships, and whoever comes out on top on the Moreca Ford Caledon 400 may owe the racing Gods a thank you.