Mpumalanga: Series preview

TWO CHOICES FOR PRODUCTION VEHICLE CREWS AT TOYOTA DEALER 400 Consolidate or play the catch up game are the choices that face top contenders in the Production Vehicle category at the Toyota Dealer 400, round two of the Absa Off Road...

TWO CHOICES FOR PRODUCTION VEHICLE CREWS AT TOYOTA DEALER 400

Consolidate or play the catch up game are the choices that face top contenders in the Production Vehicle category at the Toyota Dealer 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, in Mpumalanga on April 16 and 17.

The opening round of the championship in the Western Cape saw some notable teams fall by the wayside. The stand out under achievers were the two Castrol Toyota Hilux teams of reigning driver's champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie and Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton.

They will be desperately keen to bounce back, particularly on a Toyota sponsored event, along with the likes of Terence Marsh and Buks Carolin in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara. After missing the Adenco 400 in the Western Cape veteran former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer will be looking to make an immediate impact in the turbo diesel Ford Racing Ranger, and in the eyes of most of the opposition will be classified as danger men.

With a heavy numerical advantage in the premier SP Class entries Toyota will be heavily favoured to produce the winners from their ranks. But while there will be an enormous amount of pressure on the two Team Castrol Toyota crews, the likes of Adenco 400 winners Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (RFS/Visser Transport Toyota Hilux) can look towards consolidating a dream start to the season.

Gary Bertholdt/Andre Vermeulen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux), veterans Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege (RFS Toyota Hilux) and Christiaan du Plooy/Henk Janse van Vuuren (RFS Toyota Hilux) fall into the same category. Bertholdt/Vermeulen and Grobler/ter Stege have credentials that would tempt punters to lay out a few bob on them to win.

There were encouraging debuts in the Western Cape for Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout (Red Star Racing Toyota Hilux) and Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson, in the second Regent Racing Nissan Navara, and they will want to keep the momentum going. George Bezuidenhout/David van Wyck (AIM Toyota Hilux) and Willem and Dana Vos (Vossies Toyota Hilux) join the catch up gang and Jaco and Keith Solomon make a return in the JAM TEC Hilux.

Ford hopes will rest mainly with the experienced Woolridge and Skjoldhammer. The Ford presence is bolstered by the dependable Kobus van Tonder and Freddie Kriel who will be out in a new Uni Freight Ford Ranger, and a good result in their SP Class debut in the Adenco 400 provides Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) with plenty of encouragement.

The Nissan challenge is bolstered by the appearance of Thomas Rundle and former SA champion Juan Mohr in the ex Duncan Vos/Ralph Pitchford Nissan Navara running in Barden Tyre Services colours. The pair could pose a threat and along with the two Regent Racing entries make up a trio of more than competent privateers.

The SP Class boasts 16 entries with more cars in the pipeline as the season progresses. It looks likely that as the year wears on a first division and a second division will appear with huge competition in both.

Competition in Class D is a little thin on the ground at this stage with reigning champions Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit (Northam Toyota D4D) again likely to have matters all their own way. With other cars in the pipeline - notably N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D entries for Cliff Weichelt/Johan Smalberger and Louis Weichelt/Francis Boersma - the Potchefstroom based van Breda and du Toit will want to make hay while the sun shines.

The appearance of Lance Woolridge, son of former SA champion Neil, dominates the Class E entry. Young Woolridge will be paired with the experienced Ward Huxtable in a Ford Racing Ranger and will come under some intense scrutiny.

Etienne Bezuidenhout and Hanro Visser (Adenco Ford Ranger), Pikkie Labuschagne/Rikus Erasmus (4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux) and Adenco 400 winners Gerald le Roux and Willem Pretorius (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) all sit this one out. Johan de Lange and Gert Ochse make a first appearance in a Nissan Hardbody and are an unknown quantity.

The race will again start outside Lydenburg Toyota in Voortrekker Street at 08:00 on Saturday, 17 April with the finish and the designated service point at the Lydenburg Ruby Club. The Donaldson Prologue to determine grid positions for the race will start at 11:30 from the Lydenburg Rugby Club on Friday, April 16.

As usual the race is spectator friendly with numerous vantage points within easy reach of Lydenburg. Access to the start/finish, the designated service point and all spectator areas is free of charge.

SPECIAL VEHICLE CATEGORY WIDE OPEN ON TOYOTA DEALER 400

The pin and blindfold method will be as good a way as any for those wanting to pick Special Vehicle winners at the Toyota Dealer 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, in Mpumalanga on April 16 and 17.

The field in the premier Class A category is overflowing with quality with half a dozen or more crews having the credentials to win. It is a healthy situation for the sport and adds extra interest to an event brought forward from its normal October slot.

Former South African champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau, in the Team Total Porter, got their season off to a perfect start by winning the Adenco 400 in the Western Cape. They would be the first, however, to admit the quality that runs through the field.

There is no doubt Variawa and Rousseau will again be there or thereabouts, but it looks unlikely that a single crew will emerge to dominate the series. Reigning champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann (Motorite BAT), without the advantage of last year's four-wheel drive Revo1, will be among the half a dozen or so crews capable of winning, but it is consistency that will probably win this year's championship.

Hutchison and Bergmann got off to a solid start in the Western Cape but all the top contenders will be wary of Century Racing pair Colin Matthews and Alan Smith. Their second place in the Western Cape sounded an ominous warning to other crews, and a maiden win beckons for Matthews and Smith.

The new Sullwald Racing SVR in the hands of Herman and Wichard Sullwald showed plenty of potential on its debut, and the Sullwald challenge will be strengthened by the return of former champions Kallie and Quintin Sullwald in a rebuilt BAT. They might be a little ring rusty but cannot be left out of the equation.

Brandon Harcus, with reigning Production Car co-drivers' champion Ralph Pitchford deputising for Scott Watson who has golf commitments, also comes into the picture in the new JMR Fleet Management BAT. Harcus is always full of aggression and could make a few waves.

Nick and Ryan Harper (Atlas Copco BAT) will want to bounce back after rolling in the Western Cape while Jimmy Zahos and Stefan Coetzee (Cobalt Racing Porter) have the pace to upset the applecart. Naeem Moosajee/Rayhaan Bodhanya (Maxxis Jimco), Nardus and Louis Alberts (Wrapsa BAT) and the ever improving Boela Botes and Johann Pretorius (Botes Vervoer BAT) could also throw a spanner in the works.

With so many potential winners some intriguing contests are sure to develop. As for picking winners you pay your money and you take your choice.

Reigning champion Derick du Toit (Orange Tree BAT) will again be the Class B favourite. Du Toit will be partnered by Rod Jeffrey who will be his second co-driver In two events.

The Makenete brothers, Keith and Andrew, in a Zarco are joined by Simon Beckett and Steve Harris in the Century Racing BAT and Alastair and Hamish Stubbs in the Stafix Racing Viper. Beckett/Harris and the Stubbs brothers have plenty of experience and some good battles are on the cards.

The race is something of a reunion for the Stubbs brothers with Hamish now resident in Australia. He is in South Africa on a short holiday and the pair has grabbed the opportunity to go racing together.

Good battles are also on the cards in Class P where Johan van Staden and James Rossouw (KEC BAT) will be looking to build on their Adenco 400 win. Their job will be a little easier with Johan and Deon Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) sidelined after blowing a motor on the Adenco 400, but there is plenty of other opposition to keep van Staden/Rossouw honest.

Veterans Richard Schilling/Chris Davies (Aceco) and Archie Rutherford/Craig Doubtfire (Regent Racing Jimco) came up with good Cape results while Mark Corbett/Rudi Balzer (Century Racing CR3) and Ernest Corbett/Warwick Goosen (Century Racing CR2) will fancy their chances. Bodo Bertholdt/Phillip Herselman (Atlas Copco BAT), Nic Goslar/Richard Carolin (Men's Health International Zarco) and Swaziland crew John Thomson and Clint McNamara (Zarco Magnum) will all be looking at bouncing back after disappointing starts to the season.

The race will again start outside Lydenburg Toyota in Voortrekker Street at 08:00 on Saturday, 17 April with the finish and the designated service point at the Lydenburg Ruby Club. The Donaldson Prologue to determine grid positions for the race will start at 11:30 from the Lydenburg Rugby Club on Friday, April 16.

As usual the race is spectator friendly with numerous vantage points within easy reach of Lydenburg. Access to the start/finish, the designated service point and all spectator areas is free of charge.

-source: saorc

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Series Other rally
Drivers Ralph Pitchford , Mark Corbett , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst