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ABSA South African Championship 2007 Special-Newssection

This is the single-news section of the special of the ABSA South African Offroad Championship series 2007. To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

ABSA 2007: South African offroad series kicks off in Western Cape.

The opening salvoes in this year’s Production Vehicle category in the Absa Off Road Championship will be fired on the Nissan Dealer 400 in Darling in the Western Cape on March 16 and 17, with the odds favouring another season of hugely competitive racing. Over the last two or three seasons the title races in the various classes have had a habit of going all the way to the wire. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that this will again be the case.

And with growth in the premier Super Production Class, racing at the front of the field looks as though it is going to be more competitive than ever. The competition in Classes D and E will also be cut-throat with plenty of quality and quantity in the fields.

The start of a new season is always filled with a little uncertainty and expectancy. The Darling outing is no different, but the one constant is that those with title aspirations will want to get off to a fast start.

As ever the team to beat will be the factory Proudly South African Nissan Navara squad with reigning overall champions Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan and former champions Duncan Vos/Ralph Pitchford again in harness. An interesting addition to the squad sees Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and British co-driver Quin Evans add an international flavour to proceedings, and it will be interesting to see how they fare.

Mark Corbett, linking up with Rudi Balzer, offers Nissan another string to their bow in the Century Property Developments Nissan Navara. The pair have about them the look of potential winners.

The factory Ford Racing challenge will again be spearheaded by SP Class champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in a Ford Ranger. Brandon Harcus leaves the Special Vehicle ranks to link up with Juan Mohr in a second factory Ford Ranger and the pair could spring a surprise or two.

On the Toyota front the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux team will go into the Darling race bolstered by a win for Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton on the Ford Carnival City 400 at the end of last season. They are again joined by Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin who under performed last year and will be keen to make amends.

The two factory Toyotas will be joined by former Class E champions Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn who move into the SP Class from Class D. It may take the de Bruyn’s a race or two to settle into the class, but they have experience on their side.

The SP Class has been given a late boost by Manfred Schroder and Ward Huxtable. The reigning Class E champions, with backing from Absolute and Barloworld Pietermaritzburg, will run a privately entered Ford Ranger and could set the category alight.

Reigning Class D champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst waiting for the third race of the season to move Into the SP Class, will in the interim try and pick up important points in the premier category. They will run the Class D championship wining Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux in Class SP. With Visser and Badenhorst running in Class SP, the Toyota challenge is squarely in the court of Cliff and Louis Weichelt in a new Bosal Toyota Hilux D4D.

They will be up against a horde of Nissans lead by Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber in a brand new Raysonics Nissan Hardbody. BB Auto stalwarts Jurie and Andre du Plessis and Arnold du Plessis/Johan Knox will be looking for good results this year and the return of the ultra consistent Henri and Maurice Zermatten, in a Nissan Hardbody with Ryobi backing, adds another dimension to the class.

The Toyota versus Nissan battle in Class D could be a feature of the Darling race. For the rest of the season the Weichelt’s will be out on their own. Ford, Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi will all be represented in what should be a highly competitive Class E championship. Reigning champions Former co-drivers champion Jack Peckham switches roles and will drive the factory Ford Racing Ranger with Lucio Santoro sitting alongside him.

A strong Toyota presence is led by Brian Martin/Ockie Fourie in the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2,7. George and Sharon Barkhuizen, in the Ruwacon Toyota Hilux, were among the winners last season and will be looking for consistent results this time around.

Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (Toyota Hilux) have winning potential as do Stuart Moffat and Johan Coetzee in the Bosal Toyota Hilux. With brother Mark Moffat away on business, Stuart takes over driving duties on this event.

Former track racers Fabio Tafani and Jaco Swanepoel will both be out in new Toyota Hilux D4D entries with backing from Club Refrigeration and IDM Cement. Both will have benefited from last year’s learning curve and will be looking to assert themselves.

The Nissan challenge will be in the hands of the enthusiastic Thomas Rundle and Brian Roberts in the Barden Tyre Services Nissan Hardbody. The pair had their moments last season and will also be looking for more consistency.

Kobus van Tonder and Riaan Guelpa will again be out in the Mitsubishi Pajero. The vehicle is getting a bit long in the tooth, but the pair have the potential to pick up regular points.

Ann Evans will also be out in a Pajero and Hein Moolman and Cecil Fincham bring experience to the party. They will be out in a Roost Racing Toyota Hilux and add to the list of potential winners.

2007/03/12 | 10:39 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Charmaine Fortune

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