Pilanesberg: Series preview

PRIVATEERS LOOK TO EXTEND CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD ON SUN CITY 400 Privateers Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst will be looking to extend their Production Vehicle championship lead in round four of the Absa Off Road Championship at the Sun City 400 on...

PRIVATEERS LOOK TO EXTEND CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD ON SUN CITY 400

Privateers Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst will be looking to extend their Production Vehicle championship lead in round four of the Absa Off Road Championship at the Sun City 400 on July 16 and 17.

After a long break to accommodate the FIFA World Cup the off road fraternity will be raring to go on an event that is traditionally one of the toughest of the season. The Pilanesberg race also represents the halfway point in the Absa series and from here on in every point will be a precious one.

Only a handful of competitors have a 100 percent finish record and there is additional pressure on crews who already have a 'did not finish' to their names. Crews have to drop one result at the end of the season and an early DNF creates unwanted pressure.

Visser and Badenhorst, in the RFS/Visser Transport Toyota Hilux, are in this situation, but two wins so far see them five points clear of veteran former champions Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege. Grobler and ter Stege have a 100 percent finish record this season, and will be out for the first time in the diesel RFS BMW X5 which made its debut on the Atlas Copco Sugarbelt 400.

Chris du Plooy was at the wheel of the BMW's debut but, as expected, hands over the car to Grobler and ter Stege. The BMW showed early potential but Grobler and ter Stege, given the teething problems Ford Racing encountered with the Ford Ranger TDCi, could have their hands full.

Where Ford is concerned former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer will fancy their chances on an event where conditions are likely to suit the factory Ford Ranger. The pair will also want to build on their historic Toyota Dealer 400 win, and that victory represents the lone factory success so far this season.

Team Castrol Toyota Hilux crews Duncan Vos and Rob Howie and Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton, in the other factory entries, look to be finally running into some sort of form. Both crews have been upstaged this season by Toyotas privateers and that is a situation they will want to address.

After a disappointing Atlas Copco Sugarbelt 400 outing Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen, in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux, will be keen to bounce back. Like Visser and Badenhorst they have the right credentials to be classified as potential winners.

Du Plooy senior and reigning Class E drivers champion Jannie Visser, who makes his first appearance this season as a co-driver, and Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren, both in RFS Toyota Hilux entries, will be looking for solid performances. Free State crew George Barkhuizen and David van Wyck (AIM Toyota Hilux) are in the same boat and also have top 10 potential, while Pieter Ruthven and Rudi Britz (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) make a welcome return to action.

Nissan's challenge this year is being spearheaded by brothers-in-law Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson, in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara, who have put together an enviable reliability record. Former pro cricketer Terence Marsh and former SA champion Buks Carolin, in the other Regent Racing Navara, will be disappointed with their returns so far this season and Sun City provides the opportunity to turn it all around.

Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr, in the ex Vos Navara now running in Barden Tyre Services colours, will also want to get among the points. Two non finishes in a row are not indicative of potential.

In what is now a hugely competitive premier SP Class the factory Ford Ranger of Woolridge/Skjoldhammer also gets solid back-up from privateer crews. Kobus van Tonder/Freddie Kriel (Uni Freight Ford Ranger) and Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) have had their moments this season, while Graham Leith and Mike Lawrenson (Transcor Ford Ranger) have also made a welcome return.

As usual there are half a dozen crews who have the potential to produce the combination of speed and caution needed to win the Sun City 400. It makes for an intriguing race.

On the Class D front former champions Cliff Weichelt and son Louis make a welcome return in a new N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser. The pair will again lock horns with reigning champions Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit, in the Northam Toyota Hilux, who so far this season have had matters all their own way.

There is also a welcome return from former Class E contenders Deon Venter and Ian Palmer who move up a class in the 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux. Three quality crews in evenly matched machinery make for an interesting race.

The Class E entry is the biggest so far this season and includes crews that have each won this season. Gerald le Roux/Willem Pretorius (Ruwacon Ford Ranger), teenager Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable (Ford Racing Ranger) and Pikkie Labuschange and Rikus Erasmus (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) all have a victory to boast about this season, with experience leaning the way of Labuschagne and Erasmus.

Add to the list Etienne Bezuidenhout and Hanro Visser (Adenco Ford Ranger), Diederik and Danie Hattingh (Transcor Toyota Hilux) and Johan de Lange/Gert Ochse in a lone Nissan Hardbody and you have a race on your hands. Newcomers Barrie Drenth and Natasha Muller (Ultimate 4x4 Toyota Hilux) are an unknown quantity in a quality field.

Race control and the start/finish and designated service point will all be located at the Sun City complex. The Donaldson Prologue to determine start positions will start at 11.30 on Friday, July 16 and the race at 8:00 on Saturday, July 17.

The race is spectator friendly with viewing points all within easy access of Sun City. Public access to the start/finish, designated service point and spectator areas is free of charge.

SPECIAL VEHICLE CATEGORY ON SUN CITY 400 IS WIDE OPEN

The quality and depth of the Special Vehicle field points to a wide open Sun City 400, round four of the Absa Off Road Championship, in the Pilanesberg on July 16 and 17.

A lengthy break, courtesy of the soccer World Cup, also adds an extra element to the race with crews eager to again tackle what is always one of the toughest events on the Absa calendar. The race also represents the halfway mark in the season which is now at a stage when championship hopefuls need to put up their hands and be counted.

Former champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter) currently have a comfortable 14 point cushion at the top of the overall championship. This is courtesy of two wins so far this season and while Variawa/Rousseau will again be among the favourites, there are a string of other crews who have winning credentials.

Among them is reigning champion Evan Hutchison (Motorite BAT) who last year won this event with Achim Bergmann in the Motorite Revo1 4x4.

This time around Hutchison will be partnered by off road motorcycle star Darryl Curtis and will be hoping for a repeat of last years result. Hutchison and Bergmann last year edge out Variawa/Rousseau, who picked up a late puncture, and would be quite happy to see history repeat itself.

Former champions Kallie and Quintin Sullwald will want to make a good impression on new sponsors Elegant Fuel and will be out to improve on last years third place. Class P leaders Johan van Staden and James Rossouw (Atlas Copco BAT) currently lie second in the overall championship. This mainly due to their historic win on the Toyota Dealer 400, and one cannot see the Class A crews coming unstuck in the Pilanesberg.

The Sullwald brothers, Herman and Kallie, partnered respectively by sons Wichard and Quintin also come into the equation. Herman and Wichard have had their moments in the SVR, while Kallie and Quintin bounced back into form on the Atlas Copco Sugarbelt 400 and both crews are due a win. Nick Harper, in the Atlas Copco BAT, is also due for a good result after a character building start to the season but this time round will be partnered by service crew member Kevin Hume. An off road bike injury keeps Ryan Harper on the sidelines. Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell (Gibson Racing SVR) are capable of an upset, and Colin Matthews and Alan Smith (Century Racing BAT) will again be fighting the reliability bogey that has plagued them in recent seasons.

Nardus Alberts, now partnered by son Louis in the Wrapsa BAT, has a couple of wins to his credit and Naeem Moosajee and Rayhaan Bodhanya (Maxxis/Tyre Rack Porter) will be looking for a return to form. Jimmy Zahos/Stefan Coetzee (Cobalt Racing Porter) and Bevan Bertholdt/Danie Stassen, now in a BAT, ooze aggression and could also ruffle a few feathers.

Lesotho crew Keith du Toit and Ashley Thorn (BAT) will be looking for a good run with newcomers Guy Henley/Geoffrey Crow (Century Racing Jimco) and Neil Meyer/Leon Muller, in a Zarco Magnum, unknown quantities at this stage. Crews behind Variawa./Rousseau on the points log will know they cannot let the pair creep further ahead, and the stage is set for an interesting tussle.

Reigning champion Derrick du Toit gives the Sun City race a miss and this throws open Class B. Among the contenders are the Makenete brothers Keith and Andrew, in a Zarco, the Century Racing BAT pair of Simon Beckett and Steve Harris and Johan de Klerk and Louis Pretorius in a Zarco.

Veteran Bes Bezuidenhout makes his first appearance of the season in the Adenco BAT with daughter-in-law Lindie sitting alongside him. Also back in action will be former Production Car stalwart Coetzee Labuscagne who will be sharing a Zarco with daughter Sandra.

It is an interesting mix. There is not much to choose between the various crews and it is likely to boil down to a question of reliability.

The Class P battle is as appetising as the Class A confrontation. There is a blend of youth and experience and it is a given that a contingent of Class P runners will work their way into the top 10.

The fight between van Staden/Rossouw and the Bezuidenhout brothers, Johan and Deon, in the Adenco BAT, is mouth watering. Brothers Gary and David White (Ruwacon BAT) are also back in harness while Mark Corbett and Rudi Balzer, in the Century Racing CR3 are starting to show signs of challenging for wins.

Also a part of the mix is a quartet of veterans who bring loads of experience, and some friendly rivalry, to the party. Richard Schilling/Chris Davies (Aceco), Archie Rutherford/Craig Doubtfire (Regent Racing Jimco), Bodo Bertholdt/Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco BAT) and Ernest Corbett/Warwick Goosen (Century Racing CR2) are all tough competitors.

And, lest one forget, Corbett and Goosen won Class P last year. There is a morsel for the younger crews to chew on!

Race control, the start/finish and the designated service point are all located at the Sun City complex. The race is spectator friendly and there are 13 viewing points in close proximity of Sun City with public access to these areas, along with the start/finish and designated service point, free of charge.

The Donaldson Prologue to determine grid positions will start at 11.30 on Friday, July 16 and the race at 08:00 on Saturday, July 17.

-source: saorc

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Series Other rally
Drivers Ian Palmer , David White , Mark Corbett , Darryl Curtis , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst