BRIGHT OUTLOOK FOR ABSA OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP The Sun City 400 on July 24 and 25 sets the ball rolling for the second half of the Absa Off Road Championship, with the first four events of the year painting a bright picture for the rest of the ...
BRIGHT OUTLOOK FOR ABSA OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP
The Sun City 400 on July 24 and 25 sets the ball rolling for the second half of the Absa Off Road Championship, with the first four events of the year painting a bright picture for the rest of the season.
Nissan are again dominating the Production vehicle category with four straight wins, and the usual suspects are leading the Production and Special Vehicle championships. But against this background some positive aspects have emerged that augur well for the future.
On the Production Car front the premier SP Class has shown phenomenal growth and now boasts an entry of around 15 cars at each event. Ford has also broken new ground by becoming the first South African manufacturer to go the diesel route with the two 5 cylinder, twin turbo Ford Ranger TDCI models.
Former South African champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer and Thomas Rundle/Stavros Yiannakis have not had much to shout about over the last two events. The vehicles, however, are still under development and there is obviously huge potential for success down the line.
In terms of vehicle manufacture the Special Vehicle category has also shown a progressive spirit. The Motorite Revo1 4x4 built by Achim Bergmann has scored three wins and a second, with Bergmann and driver Evan Hutchison sitting firmly atop the Special Vehicle championship.
Former South African champion and recent Toyota 1000 Desert Race winner Shameer Variawa has also entered the vehicle manufacturer stakes. A new Class A challenger, the SVR, has been delivered to the KwaZulu-Natal based Gibson Racing squad and has shown immediate potential.
And while the familiar crews may be dominating the respective championship races, the season has also seen the emergence of some new crews who show tremendous potential. Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren, in their rookie season in the SP Class, produced a terrific performance to finish third on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race.
Class D has seen encouraging performances from Heine Strumpher and Hendrik van der Linde in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux with Johan and Werner Horn showing huge determination in winning the class in Botswana.
Down in Class E rookies Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus have won twice this year, including on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, and share the championship lead with Deon Venter and Ian Palmer in the sister 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux. Track and kart start Leeroy Poulter, paired with Rob Howie in the factory Ferodo Nissan Hardbody, has shown plenty of pace and must soon challenge for a win.
Class A has produced a surprise package in former quad racer Jimmy Zahos and Stefan Coetzee in the Mountain Dew Porter. The pair have raised eyebrows and are learning with every outing.
There was also a great Toyota 1000 Desert Race performance from Cape crew Derick du Toit and Ian Pienaar to win Class B in the Orange Tree BAT. Brothers Keith and Andrew Makenete have also shown great determination in a Zarco.
As is the case in the SP Class there has been huge growth in Class P which is now a highly competitive category. Rookies Johan van Staden and James Rossouw, in the KEC BAT, have opened a few eyes and the faster crews in the class are now regularly challenging for top five finishes overall.
On a broader front perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the season so far has been the number of entries events have attracted. Despite the distance the Adenco 400 in the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape 400, based at Jeffreys Bay, attracted more than 60 entries.
The Nissan Sugarbelt 400 in KwaZulu Natal and the recent Toyota Desert Race also drew a record entry of 86 vehicles. Of these 64 were national entries with the field bolstered by 22 regional championships crews - with the race drawing an estimated 80 000 spectators over the three days.
"It has been a good season so far and we are looking at more of the same over the rest of the year," said MSA Off Road Racing Car Commission president Richard Schilling. "There is still a lot of work ahead of us, but the commission has an open forum with competitors and we are all pulling in the same direction.
"We also work closely with Absa and our other partners in Ford, Nissan and Toyota and there is every reason for optimism. The Sun City 400 is always a good race and that is also something to look forward to."