PRODUCTION VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIPS HEAD FOR TIGHT FINISHES With two races remaining on the Absa Off Road Championship calendar, Production Vehicle championships are delicately poised. The only certainty at this stage in terms of the overall and...
PRODUCTION VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIPS HEAD FOR TIGHT FINISHES
With two races remaining on the Absa Off Road Championship calendar, Production Vehicle championships are delicately poised.
The only certainty at this stage in terms of the overall and premier Super Production Class championships is that they will be won by Nissan works crews. Given the fact that Nissan have won six out of six races so far this season that is no surprise -- but the ingredients are there for some unusual twists.
As matters stand Duncan Vos leads both the overall and SP Class driver championships from Nissan Navara team-mate Hannes Grobler, with both having scored three wins. The situation in the co-driver standings is a little different.
Ralph Pitchford, who normally sits alongside Vos, has missed two races because of overseas commitments. That has led to a situation whereby it is Grobler's regular co-driver, Francois Jordaan, who tops the championship standings.
There is a further twist with Vos so far this year boasting a 100 percent finish record. That means he still has to drop one score, and that will narrow the gap between him and Grobler with every point on the final two events a precious one.
Third in both the overall and class championships are another factory Nissan Navara crew in Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and Briton Quin Evans. The pair, winners of the recent African Heritage World Cup event, have performed admirably in their first season in the Absa series and enjoy a narrow lead over fourth placed Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in the factory Ford Racing Ranger. A non finish on the recent Ford Motorite 400 in Limpopo has seen Castrol Toyota Hilux crew Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin slip down the rankings. They, like team-mates Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton, who scored their first points of the season in Limpopo, will be hoping for a good result next time out on the Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga.
A tight Class D championship also sees a situation where driver/co-driver combinations have been split up. The experienced Coetzee Labuscagne (Raysonics Nissan Hardbody) leads the drivers standings -- by just one point -- from impressive newcomer Ramon Bezuidenhout in a Toyota Hilux.
The co-drivers standings, however, see Stefan Lock, who partners Bezuidenhout, sitting on top of the pile. This is mainly as a result of the Sun City 400 where Johan Gerber had to return home at the end of the prologue when his home burned down, and Labuscagne finished the event on his own.
Jurie du Plessis (BB Auto Nissan Hardbody) is third in the drivers standings with his regular navigator, brother Andre, second in the co-driver standings. Only 10 points separate the first six drivers in Class D with Harold Coen (Land Rover), Cliff Weichelt (Bosal Toyota Hilux 4D4) and Arnold du Plessis (BB Auto Nissan Hardbody) also in the picture.
On the co-driver front nine points separate the top four and here Tiaan Coen, Louis Weichelt and Johan Knox are still in the frame. A win on the Ford Motorite 400 has put the Weichelt's back on track and the last two events of the season look set to produce fireworks with brothers Henri and Maurice Zermatten (Ryobi Nissan Hardbody) also in with a mathematical chance of winning the championship.
Down in Class E it looks good for Jack Peckham, in the factory Ford Racing Ranger, in terms of the driver's championship, while co-driver Lucio Santoro is under pressure. This is also the result of a driver having to finish an event on his own, with Peckham forced into that situation on the Amathole 500 when Santoro succumbed to a bout of motion sickness.
Peckham has a healthy 25 point lead over George Barkhuizen (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) but still has to drop an event. Santoro, for his part, is only five points ahead of Sharon Barkhuizen after the Ford pair's win in Limpopo.
Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux pair Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux lost valuable ground via a non finish in Limpopo, but are not altogether out of the reckoning. But for Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie, in the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux, two non finishes in a row look to have ended their title aspirations and only pride will be on the line on the last two events.
The next event is the Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga and has the makings of a classic. For the Nissan Navara teams it will be white knuckle time.
KRAAIJS WRAP UP FIRST ABSA OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP
The father and son combination of Jan and Hendrik Kraaij became the first crew to wrap up a Special Vehicle category championship in this year's Absa Off Road Championship when they won their class on the recent Ford Motorite 400 in Limpopo.
With son Hendrik doing the driving and father Jan the navigating in the Regent Racing BAT the pair, in only their second season of off road racing, won Class B with an hour to spare over the second placed crew. That gave them their fifth Class win in six outings this season and made sure of the championship.
Matters are not as cut and dried, however, in the overall and premier Class A championships. But, with only two races remaining this season, it looks as though the championship fight is going to be a two horse race.
A solid third place on the recent Ford Motorite 400 saw another father and son combination, Nick and Ryan Harper in the Atlas Copco BAT, tighten their hold on the championships. It was the sort of result the Harpers wanted, but the bad news was that a win for Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann in the Motorite BAT has left the championship delicately poised.
The Harpers now enjoy and 15 point lead in the overall championship and, because both crews have a non finish, dropping one score at the end of the season is no longer a part of the equation. It is now a straight fight and that puts pressure on both crews.
In the drivers championship the consistent Clint Gibson (Absolute BAT) has edged ahead of Shameer Variawa(Total Porter) by two points and, further back, just three points separate Nardus Alberts (Wrapsa BAT), Terence Marsh (Regent Racing BAT), Alfie Cox (Motorite BAT) and Hendrik Kraaij.
On the co-driver front Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter) is third. As in the drivers championship there is a huge battle behind him with Collin Hunter (Wrapsa BAT), Pieter Groenewald (Regent Racing BAT), Hennie ter Stege (Motorite BAT) and Jan Kraai separated by only three points.
For reigning champions Cox and ter Stege, the Limpopo race put an end to their title hopes. A third non finish this season blew them out of the water.
While the Kraaij's have virtually turned Class B into a 'no contest' category, there is a good fight going on for the minor places. Bez Bezuidenhout and Johann de Bruyn (Adenco BAT) have a slender two point lead over veteran Giel Nel and Sandra Labuscagne (LUK ATE Truggy) with Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout, in a second Adenco BAT, a further three points adrift.
The fifth and sixth place battle is also more than close. Here Louw de Bruin and Rudi Britz (Ruwacon BAT) have a one point lead over Amathole 500 winners Marcus Taylor and Derek Keith in the JRE.
A win on the Ford Motorite 400 has put veterans Richard Schilling and Chris Davies, in the Plastotech Aceco, within touching distance of the Class S championship. Schilling has a comfortable 25 point lead over Nic Goslar (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco) in the driver's standings while Davies, who missed a race because of illness, has a 12 point advantage over Richard Carolin.
Another win for Schilling and Davies will virtually put them out of reach. Glen Gibson and Mark Whitehurst (Absolute Aceco) won the Amathole 500 but are no threat where the championship is concerned.
The next event is the Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga and has the makings of a classic. For the Harpers and Hutchison/Bergmann it will be white knuckle time.