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ABSA 2009: Special vehicle category wide open for Eastern Cape 400.

After a dream win first time out in the Motorite Revo1 4x4 in the Special Vehicle category, it will be back to the real world for former South African champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann at the Eastern Cape 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, on April 17 and 18.

It is a little ironic that two teams that endured hugely disappointing 2008 seasons, Hutchison/Bergmann and Naeem Moosajee and Mohammad Moultson (TyreRack Jimco) should get off to flying starts this season. The two crews finished first and second on the Adenco 400 to help wipe away some of the scars picked up last year.

It is also a little ironic that reigning champions Kallie and Quintin Sullwald (Sullwald Racing BAT) who carved out a 100 percent finish record last season, should fall by the wayside on the opening event this term. A broken sideshaft 10 kilometres from the end was a cruel blow for the Sullwald’s and handed Hutchison and Bergmann a win on a plate.

The reality in the Special Vehicle category is that there are half a dozen or more teams capable of winning. Hutchison/Bergmann, Moosajee/Moultson and the Sullwald’s all fall into that category on what looks like being a difficult route on an event that now has its headquarters in Jeffreys Bay.

Colin Matthews and Alan Smith will he looking for an overdue win in the Century Racing BAT, and former champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter) and Nick and Ryan Harper (Atlas Copco BAT) have a winners look about them. Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson (Regent Racing BAT) got off to a solid start in the Western Cape as did Gary Gillingham and Danie Stassen in the Atlas Copco BAT.

Newcomers Jimmy Zahous and Stefan Coetzee (Atlas Copco Porter) showed plenty of promise on their debut and the likes of Herman and Wichard Sullwald (Sullwald Racing Zarco), former champion Atang Makgekgenene (Porter), Clint Gibson/Gary Campbell (Gibson Plant Hire BAT) and John Moore/Leander Pienaar (Groovebar Chev) are all capable of upsets. Solid performances can also be expected from Keith du Toit/Ashley Thorn (Babcock Raceco) and Nardus Alberts/Geoff Minnitt (Wrapsa BAT) with Mark Corbett and Rudi Balzer (CR1) finally looking for a good result in their 4x4 entry.

Adenco 400 winners Bes and Deon Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) will be the early favourites in Class B. They overcame early problems in the Western Cape to outpace the rest of the opposition. Their biggest challenge is likely to come from the Century Racing BAT pair of Simon Beckett and Steve Harris who have a solid look about them. The two teams had a good tussle in the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape could see a repeat.

The Adenco and Century Racing teams will be kept honest by the likes of the Makenete brothers (Zarco) who showed plenty of character on the Adenco 400, Derick du Toit and Ian Pienaar in the Orange Tree BAT and John Telford and Christo Volschenk in a Zarco.

The battle in Class P has taken on another dimension with the return of former Class B champions Jan and Hendrik Kraaij in the Keymax BAT and Ernest Corbett and Warwick Goosen in a CR2 V6. They add extra quality to a field already brimming with quality. For all that reigning champions Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout, in the Adenco BAT, were the only classified finishers on the Adenco 400. A terrific effort saw them home fifth overall – but they are unlikely to have it so easy this time out.

The Kraaij’s and Corbett/Goosen, who may be a little rusty, will be a major threat along with David and Gary White (Ruwacon BAT), KwaZulu-Natal flyers Don Thompson and Don Blakey (Zarco), veterans Richard Schilling and Chris Davies (Cultura Aceco RS) and John Weir-Smith and Richard Carolin in the Men’s Health International Zarco.

The field is rounded out by veteran Bodo Bertholdt and Phillip Herselman in the Atlas Copco BAT. A blend of youthful exuberance up against age and cunning adds another ingredient to an already tasty recipe in Class P. Race headquarters will be at the Mentorskraal Country Estate in Jeffreys Bay with crews in for another tough event. Documentation will start at 10:00 on April 17 with the prologue scheduled to start at 13h00 and the main race at 08:30 on April 18.

2009/04/14 | 20:53 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Charmaine Fortune

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