The Toyota Dealer 400, the penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, which takes place in the Lydenburg area on 22 and 23 October, has attracted a strong entry in the Production Vehicle and Special Vehicle categories. While the Class...
The Toyota Dealer 400, the penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, which takes place in the Lydenburg area on 22 and 23 October, has attracted a strong entry in the Production Vehicle and Special Vehicle categories.
While the Class T field has been depleted due to Duncan Vos and Hennie ter Stege's Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody being sold to a foreign buyer the two remaining Nissans of Production Vehicle championship leaders Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke and Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan and the Team Ford Racing Ranger of Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer can be expected to produce another high-speed, action packed spectacle.
Nissan has won every round of the championship, which makes Woolridge all the more determined to end their domination. The rocky, mountainous terrain on the Toyota Dealer 400 could suit the Ford, which is more than a match for the Nissans in these slower, technical conditions but is not quite on the pace when it comes to all out speed.
Class D has produced some of the closest racing this season with the factory backed Arnold Chatz Cars Nissan Hardbody of Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford, Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham's Team Ford Racing Ranger and the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i of Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin vying for the class win and a possible place on the podium. Cox and Pitchford have won the class on five successive occasions this season and are the likely winners in Mpumalanga. However both the Ford and the Castrol Toyota crews took turns at leading during the recent Mafikeng 500 but the Ford retired with a broken prop shaft and the Castrol Toyota crew had to settle for second place.
Reigning Class D champions Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo (GBS Racing Nissan Hardbody) picked up a well-earned third place on the Mafikeng 500 and along with father and son Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the Bosal N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux and Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler (Master Craft / Playstation Pajero) could mount a strong challenge. Arnold du Plessis and George Baker (BB Auto Nissan Hardbody) have the speed and the ability to pull off a surprise win provided they can improve the reliability of the vehicle.
Privateers have shown the factory teams the way home in the ultra- competitive Class E at every race this year with Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn the dominant players in their Castrol Toyota Hilux. The former Class E champions have three class wins to their credit and lead the championship by 47-points from husband and wife Neels and Zelda van der Walt (Nissan Hardbody) and Team Ford Racing development crew Baphumze Rubuluza and Khulile Vakalisa.
Van der Walt will not be competing for the rest of the season after sustaining back injuries on the Mafikeng 500 so it will be up to the Ford crew, Sun City 400 winners Hein Moolman and Cecil Fincham (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux KZ-TE), Mafikeng 500 winners Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Tyco Toyota Hilux 2.7i) to take the fight to the de Bruyn's.
Castrol Toyota's Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton who have finished third on two occasions in the Hilux 2.7i and Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo who have only finished once this season in their Hilux KZ-TE will have to pull out all the stops if they hope to beat the privateer teams.
Class F will again be a one horse race with Andre Botha and Beans Heydenrych (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chevy) the only entrant in the class for unlimited two-wheel drive vehicles.
The Special Vehicle category has been a Jimco benefit this season but a number of BAT crews aim to put an end to the domination.
Atang Makgekgenene and Buks Carolin (Total Jimco) are not at all fazed by the BAT threat because their objective is to finish as high up as possible in the overall standings on the remaining two events to preserve their championship lead and win the Special Vehicle Driver's and Co-driver's championship.
Improved reliability on the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco has seen John Weir-Smith rocket up the championship ladder where he now occupies second place. Fourth place on the Sun City 400, a win on the Lesotho Sun 400 and second on the Mafikeng 500, which he and Joe Lima led until 20km from the finish, makes the youthful charger a firm favourite to win.
Two other Jimco crews have fared quite well on recent events and could pull off a win. Terence Marsh and Mike Whitehouse in the Nashua Mobile entry have finished three events with a third on the Lesotho Sun 400 their best finish while Frikkie Botha and Blackie Swart in the Procoat entry finished third on the Mafeking 500.
The BAT brigade received a major boost following reigning Class A driver's champion Gary Bertholdt's return to the Special Vehicle category in the Advansoft BAT. He and Siegfried Rousseau started 50th on the Mafikeng 500 and carved their way through the field to win.
Also making his return to competition will be reigning Special Vehicle co- driver's champion Brandon Harcus in his new single-seater BAT, which Harcus believes will trounce the Production and Special vehicles on the Toyota Dealer 400.
Last year's Toyota Dealer 400 winner and 2004 Nissan Dealer 400 winner Mark Corbett has had three non-finishes in the Century Property Developments BAT this season. Despite this he holds down third position in the championship and stands an outside chance of winning the Special Vehicle driver's championship if Makgekgenene and Weir-Smith fail to finish and he wins the next two events overall.
Clint Gibson and Mike Brown led last year's Toyota Dealer 400 until 100m from the finish but wrong slotted and allowed Corbett to win by mere seconds. The KwaZulu Natal pair has finished second twice this season in the Praesidium Financial Services BAT and is capable of winning in Mpumalanga as are Bevan Bertholdt and Nick Selamolela in the blindingly fast Itec BAT, Nick Harper and Andrew Chalupsky and Henry Kirstein and Renier Jooste in the Atlas Copco BAT.
Shameer Variawa and Nadeem Dudhia have finished every race they have entered in the new Oven Fresh Biscuits Porter, which has been dogged by minor development problems. The former Special Vehicle driver's champion has the ability and the vehicle to win provided the reliability problems are sorted out.
Former Class B champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain are the crew to beat in Class B after two successive wins in the JRE but they cannot afford to drop their guards because reigning Special Vehicle driver's champion Giel Nel has finally got rid of the mechanical gremlins on the LUK / Ate Truggy and, as in previous year's, is mounting a last ditch attempt to win the Class B championship.
Eight other crews - Adri Roets and Deon de Kock (Global DAD WPP), brothers Hamish and Alastair Stubbs (Fence Erect Viper), father and son Bes and Etienne Bezuidenhout (Adenco Sandmaster) and veteran Ernest Corbett and Warwick Goosen (Century Property Developments BAT), Colin Matthews (WPP), Glenn Classen and Willie Prinsloo (Radflo Zarco Lite), brothers Rudi and Pierre van Graan (Technochair Zarco Lite) and Arnold and Annie Pistorius (Twin City Raceco) - have led races at one time or another and finished on the podium this season and all stand a chance of winning in Mpumalanga.
The debut of Gerhard and Zelda Niemandt's Promotorsport ORCO will be watched with interest.
Class S will see an all out battle between championship leaders Mohammed Noble and Richard Hope in the Chevy LS-1 powered Abe's Furniture Raceco and Class S winners on last year's Toyota Dealer 400, Nardus Alberts and Collin Hunter (Wrapsa Raceco).
The Toyota Dealer 400 gets underway at 13h00 on Friday, October 22 with a 36km Prologue to determine starting positions for Saturday's main event, which starts at 08h00 and comprises two laps of a 199km route.