Point chase update 2007-06-24

NO COMFORT ZONES IN PRODUCTION VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP There are few comfort zones for overall and class championship contenders in the Production Vehicle category in this year's Absa Off Road Championship. The recent Toyota Kalahari Botswana...

NO COMFORT ZONES IN PRODUCTION VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP

There are few comfort zones for overall and class championship contenders in the Production Vehicle category in this year's Absa Off Road Championship.

The recent Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race saw the championship hit the halfway mark and, as expected, some close championship battles have developed in the overall and class title chases. As has been the case in previous years, it looks certain that the majority of the championship battles will go all the way to the wire.

Two wins in a row at the Sun City 400 and in Botswana have lifted former champion Duncan Vos into a 12 point lead over reigning champion and Nissan team-mate Hannes Grobler in the drivers overall championship. Only three points separate Mark Cronje (Castrol Toyota Hilux) and Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen, in another factory Nissan Navara, and Brandon Harcus (Ford Racing Ranger) and Mark Corbett (Century Property Development Nissan Navara).

Vos and Grobler, who has a 25 point lead over Cronje and Tollefsen, have each scored two wins this season. The difference between the two drivers, however, is a 100 percent finish record so far for Vos.

With Vos's regular co-driver, Ralph Pitchford, missing the Botswana race through overseas commitments Francois Jordaan, who sits alongside Grobler, leads the overall co-drivers championship. Pitchford is in second place ahead of Chris Birkin (Cronje) and Quin Evans (Tollefsen) with Juan Mohr (Harcus) and Rudi Balzer (Corbett) in close attendance.

Scoring anomalies see a slightly different picture in both the drivers and co-drivers championships in the Super Production Class. Here Harcus/Mohr move ahead of Cronje/Birkin and Tollefsen/Evans with Corbett and Balzer in close attendance.

Consistency has taken the father and son pair of Harold and Tiaan Coen, in a land Rover, to the top of the Class D championship. Behind them, however, there is a terrific scrap raging.

Brothers Jurie and Andre du Plessis (BB Auto Nissan Hardbody) are tied in second place with newcomers Ramon Bezuidenhout and Stefan Lock, in a Toyota Hilux, with both crews six points adrift of the Coen's. Just one point behind is another du Plessis brother, Arnold, and Johan Knox in a second BB Auto Nissan with Coetzee Labuscagne (Raysonics Nissan Hardbody) tied with du Plessis in the drivers championship.

The Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race also failed to sort out the log jam at the top of Class E. Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro (Ford Racing Ranger) still lead the class by a single point. They are, however, now leading from Botswana winners George and Sharon Barkhuizen in the Ruwacon Toyota Hilux.

Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie (Castrol Toyota Hilux), like Peckham/Santoro, have a 100 percent finish record this season and are four points behind the Barkhuizen's in third place. A further point in arrears are Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux) who lost ground in Botswana.

The championship is still delicately poised. Only six points separate the four crews and that is going to produce some interesting racing over the rest of the season.

On the manufacturers front Nissan has taken a handy lead over arch rivals Toyota in the prestige South African Manufacturers Championship. Nissan now have 262 points to Toyota's 151 with Ford starting to apply a little pressure, via a strong hand in the SP Class and Peckham/Santoro, with 112 points.

HARPERS BACK ON TOP IN SPECIAL VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP

A solid second place on the recent Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race has taken the father and son combination of Nick and Ryan Harper back to the top of the leaderboard in the Special Vehicle category in the Absa Off Road Championship.

The Toyota event in Botswana marked the halfway stage of the Absa Off Road Championship, with the Special Vehicle category producing four different winners in four races so far this season. The Harpers figure among them along with Karl-Heinz and Quinton Sullwald, the Botswana winners, and Motorite crews Alfie Cox/Hennie ter Stege and Evan Hutchison/ Achim Bergmann.

The overall championship now sees the Harpers, in the Atlas Copco BAT, 10 points clear of Hutchison and Bergmann in the Motorite BAT. Former champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter) are a further three points in arrears with Cox/ter Stege another two points behind. Sullwald senior has slipped into fifth place among the drivers with Class B star Jan Kraaij (Regent Racing BAT) into the top five among the co-drivers.

Hardest hit by a non finish in Botswana were Cox and ter Stege who went from first to fifth and fourth respectively in both the overall and Class A championships. The DNF also robbed Cox of the opportunity of adding a Special Vehicle victory to his motorcycle and Production Vehicle wins on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race.

Anomalies in off road championship scoring see a slightly different picture in Class A. The top three remain the same with the Harpers leading Hutchison/Bergmann and Variawa/Rousseau.

Behind them, however, Sullwald moves ahead of Cox in the drivers championship. Among the co-drivers ter Stege holds onto fourth place with Mike Brown, who sits alongside Clint Gibson in the Absolute BAT, moving into fifth place.

There is no argument about who are the top dogs in Class B with the father and son combination of Hendrik and Jan Kraaij making it four out of four in Botswana. This has given them a massive 34 point lead over veteran Giel Nel and Sandra Labuscagne, in the LUK ATE Truggy, with both crews boasting 100 percent finish records this season.

Nel and Labuscagne, however, are under pressure from Bes Bezuidenhout and Johann de Bruyn, in the Adenco BAT. The Cape crew are only one point in arrears and a good battle looks likely to develop between the two crews over the rest of the season.

A 100 percent finish record -- albeit one of them on three wheels -- has seen former SA champion Richard Schilling (Plastotech Aceco) take a tight hold on the Class S drivers championship. Arch rival and reigning drivers champion Nic Goslar (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco) was taken ill on the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, and this put Schilling firmly in the drivers seat.

Schilling's regular co-driver, Chris Davies, missed the Botswana race through illness but stays on top of the co-drivers championship. He leads Richard Carolin, who missed out on possible points when Goslar took ill, by 11 points.

-credit: msa

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Series Other rally
Drivers Mike Brown , Alfie Cox , Ralph Pitchford , Quin Evans , Mark Corbett , Duncan Vos