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ABSA 2009: Quality Special Vehicle field for Adenco 400.

The emphasis in the Special Vehicle category will be on quality when the Absa Off Road Championship opens with the Adenco 400, in the Western Cape on March 20 and 21. The off season has seen a few Class A frontrunners defect to the Production Car category, but there is plenty of depth within the Special Vehicle ranks. Former champion Terence Marsh and Gary Bertholdt, who won twice last year, will launch Production Car challenges this season but the overall and Class A championship battles look to be wide open with half a dozen or more teams capable of winning regularly.

Reigning champion Karl-Heinz and Quintin Sullwald will be looking for back to back titles in the Sullwald Racing BAT. A second Sullwald Racing entry will again see Herman Sullwald teaming up with son Wichard making it a real family affair for the Phalaborwa squad. The Atlas Copco team will be spearheaded by Nick and Ryan Harper in a Spec 4 BAT with Gary Gillingham and Danie Stassen out in the ex Harper BAT. The Harpers have performed consistently over the last couple of seasons and will again be one of the more fancied teams.

The Bertholdt/Vermeulen Porter stays in the Atlas Copco fold. The car has been taken over by newcomers Jimmy Zahos and Stephan Coetzee who are unknown entities at this stage.

With Marsh/Groenewald out of the Special Vehicle category, the Regent Racing challenge is in the hands of Mike Whitehouse and Matthew Carlson. The pair turned in one or two impressive displays last season and could be serious championship challengers. Former champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau will again be among the title challengers in the Total Porter. They won twice last year and only dropped out of the overall battle on the RFS Magalies 400, the last race of the season.

Two crews, former champions Evan Hutchison/Achim Bergmann (Motorite BAT 4x4) and Mark Corbett/Rudi Balzer (Century Racing CR1) will be hoping for better results this year. Both crews will be out in locally developed four-wheel drive cars with the Hutchison car making its debut in the Western Cape.

The unfortunate Corbett and Balzer never finished a race last season. The car showed plenty of potential but they will be hoping for a lot more reliability this time out, and Hutchison/Bergmann will also be watched with interest with new race cars notoriously fickle.

Colin Mathews and Alan Smith will again be out in a Century Racing BAT, and will be looking to finally crack an elusive win. Mathews is a quick and aggressive driver and, with a little luck, that first win isn’t far away.

Former champion Atang Makgekgenene and Geoff Minnitt (Porter) will also be hoping for improved reliability this season, while John Moore/Tom Classen (Free Spirit) also came up with a couple of impressive performances last season. Veterans Nardus Alberts and Adri Roets return to battle in the Wrapsa BAT, Naeem Moosajee will also be out in the Tyrerack Porter, and Will Battershill and Reg Sutton make a come back in the ex Marsh BAT.

On the Class B front Bez Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) will be hoping history repeats itself. He won last year and, on home turf, and now partnered by son Deon will fancy his chances of a repeat result.

Reigning Class B drivers champion, Louw de Bruin, has also moved to the Production Car category and this opens up the championship. Derick du Toit/Ian Pienaar (Orange Tree Development BAT) and John Telford and Christo Volschenk in the Calcamite BAT will fancy their chances, along with Katleho Makenete/Victor Ntsejke in a Zarco.

Simon Becket and Steve Harris, in the Century Racing BAT could also be consistent frontrunners in a Class that this season is without former champion Jan Kraaij and 2008 co-driver’s champion Tiddo Voogt.

Former Class B champions Ernest Corbett and Warwick Goosen (Century Racing CR2) are back in action after a lengthy lay off and will turn out in Class P. The pair find themselves smack in the middle of a class that is going to be ultra competitive this season.

Reigning champions Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout will be back in the Adenco BAT but Class P also has some other serious challengers. Brothers David and Gary White (Ruwacon BAT) won last year, as did KwaZulu-Natal star Don Thompson in a Zarco.

Former champions Richard Schilling and Chris Davies (Aceco RS) will also be hoping for more consistency, and the return to racing of John Weir-Smith could throw a cat among the Class P pigeons. Weir-Smith is paired with veteran Richard Carolin in the Men’s Health Zarco, and will be as aggressive as ever.

Bodo Bertholdt, another veteran racer and father of Gary, will also be out in Class P in a new Atlas Copco car. Bertholdt will be partnered by Phillip Herselman and the scene is set for fun and games with some old hands at the game up against talented younger crews.

2009/03/30 | 18:30 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Charmaine Fortune

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