Season finale preview

Over 80 entries in the Special and Production Vehicle categories have been received for the Carnival City Casino 400 (November 14 and 15), which will be an exciting finale to the closely fought SA Off Road Car ...

Over 80 entries in the Special and Production Vehicle categories have been received for the Carnival City Casino 400 (November 14 and 15), which will be an exciting finale to the closely fought SA Off Road Car Racing Championship.presented by Absa.

While the Production Vehicle, Class T and Class E drivers and co-drivers championships were sewn up by Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke (Class T Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody) and Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin (Class E Castrol Toyota Hilux 2700i) respectively on the recent Toyota Dealer 400 there is still much at stake in the other classes and particularly in the Special Vehicle championship.

Much of the attention will be focussed on the Special Vehicle category where five crews stand a chance of winning the coveted championship crown. Giel Nel (Class B LUK Africa Truggy) may have a 27-point lead in the Drivers championship but the odds of him finishing ahead of three Class A entries, all of which happen to be BAT's, is rather slim.

Nissan Sugarbelt 400 winners Gerald Mundell and Billy Bond (Prolong BAT), Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400 and Sun City 400 winners Gary Bertholdt and Brandon Harcus (Adrenalise Corporate Entertainment BAT) and Class A newcomers Clint Gibson and Mike Brown (Praesidium Financial Services BAT) who lead the Toyota Dealer 400 for much of the race only to lose out by 49 seconds when they wrong slotted coming to the finish line could sneak in via the back door and walk away with the laurels.

However, there are a number of Class A contenders who are not in the running for the championship who could upset the BAT applecart.

Nissan Dealer 400 and Oven Fresh Biscuits 500 winners Atang Makgekgenene and Mike Stangl, Toyota 1000 winners John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt, Toyota Dealer 400 winners Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr (Century Property Developments BAT) and husband and wife Gerhard and Kobie du Plessis (Mobil Jimco) are quite capable of pulling off a win on the Carnival City Casino 400 and pose the biggest threat to the championship contenders.

Class B for special vehicles fitted with two litre motors has attracted over 20 entries and here too there are a number of crews that are out of the running in the championship and who will only be concerned with winning, which could spoil matters for Nel and reigning Class B champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain (Rollerbak Racing JRE) who are also in with a chance of winning the overall title.

The dark horses in Class B are Hamish and Alistair Stubbs (Fence Erect Viper), Henry Kirstein and Renier Jooste (Atlas Copco BAT), father and son Rob and Gareth Wark (O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam Mighty Mag) and Andrew and Janet Fulton (Sandmaster).

Class S for space frame vehicles with trailing arm front suspensions has only attracted three entries so all championship co-leader Nic Goslar and co-driver Warren Bowie in the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco has to do is finish to clinch the Class S drivers championship.

Now that they've clinched the Production Vehicle and Class T championship the pressure will be off Grobler and Leeke but don't expect the Nissan pair to ease their race winning pace, which has seen them romp to overall victory six out of seven times this season.

The real battle will be for the runner-up spot in Class T where Duncan Vos and Mike Griffith (Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody), 2000 Carnival City Casino 400 winners Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer (Team Ford Racing Ranger), Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton (Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser) and Richard Carolin and a co-driver to be announced in the Atlas Copco/Chicago Pneumatic Jeep are separated by seven points.

The three factory entries each had a turn at leading the recent Toyota Dealer 400 and, in the case of the Ford and Toyota teams, desperately want to break Nissan's run of 14 successive wins.

The Class T privateer entries include Cliff Barker and Vic Campher (MGM Motors Land Rover) who will be on home turf, Jannie Visser and Jaks le Roux in the 'Fred' the Toyota Hilux which Kassie Coetzee and Richard Leeke campaigned some years ago, Mike Tomsett and Brian Haviland (Mitsubishi Colt) and fathers and sons Alfred and Tommy van Vuuren (Toyota Hilux) and Dirk and Dirk Jr. van Reenen (Dicor Engineering Nissan Sani).

The only Production Vehicle class that has not been decided is Class D where the battle will be between Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo (GBS Racing Nissan), father and son Johan and Marthinus van der Merwe (Chavani Colt Rodeo) and Deon Schoeman and Jeremy Fall (Topcar Ferodo Nissan Hardbody).

There have been five different winners in Class D this season with Alfie Cox and Hennie ter Steege (Arnold Chatz Cars Nissan Hardbody) and father and son Cliff and Louis Weichelt (N1 4X4 Toyota Land Cruiser) each picking up two class wins, and one each for Grobler/Prinsloo, the van der Merwe's and Shumie van Vuuren and Carlos de Abreu (Chibuku Toyota Land Cruiser).

Cox has missed two events due to overseas motorcycle racing commitments on the Egypt Rally and UAE Desert Challenge where he finished second overall on his KTM and with nothing at stake in the championship will no doubt be going all out to win. The same applies to Piet Haasbroek and Freddie Scheepers (Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser), Marius van Vuuren and Chris Mare (Alberante Autospray Land Rover) and brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat (McCarthy Land Rover).

The rest of the four car GBS Nissan Racing team - Coetzee Labuschagne and Johan Gerber, husband and wife JP and Linda Augustin and MC Coetzee and Marius Liebenberg - will be going all out to protect team-mates Grobler and Prinsloo and ensure that their rivals are kept as far back as possible.

Class E has been a Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin benefit. The Castrol Toyota crew has finished every event, won the class five times and won the Class E championship in the karter's debut year. Teammates Kassie Coetzee and Ockie Fourie (Castrol Toyota Hilux KZ-TE) and Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham (Team Ford Racing Ranger) have each had one class win this season and pose the biggest threat to the newly crowned champions.

Other contenders for the Class E win include Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in last year's championship winning Toyota Hilux, the Nissan Hardbody pick-ups of brothers Jurie and Andre du Plessis and husband and wife Neels and Zelda van der Walt and Hannes Steyn and Ferdi Seegers In the Toyota Hilux KZ-TE.

Class F championship leaders Jaap Zeeman and Johannes Barwise (Ford Cortina) will be up against Andre Botha and Beans Heydenrych in the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chevy and Wynand Britz and Roy Clark in the SVM.

The Carnival City Casino 400 gets underway at 12:00 on Friday, November 14 when teams compete in the Prologue, which will comprise two laps of the approximately 6km short course on the casino site. The main event starts at 08:00 on Saturday, November 15 with the first car expected at the finish at 13:30.

-msa-

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Series Other rally
Drivers Mike Brown