|ABSA 2010: BMW enters South African ABSA Offroad Championship with X3.|
BMW enter the fray at the Atlas Copco Sugarbelt 400 to add an extra dimension to the Production Vehicle category at the third round of the Absa Off Road Championship in KwaZulu-Natal on May 21 and 22. The RFS BMW X3 will make its debut in the hands of Chris du Plooy and Thinus Janse van Rensburg with BMW joining Ford, Toyota and Nissan in a record field of 18 cars in the premier SP Class. The BMW is, along with the factory Ford Racing Ranger, the second vehicle in the SP Class to make use of diesel power.
While du Plooy and Janse van Rensburg will give the RFS BMW its debut, the car is earmarked for former South African champions Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege who will again be out in the RFS Toyota Hilux. It would appear du Plooy and Janse van Rensburg have been tasked with sorting out any teething problems while Grobler and ter Stege look to pick up points to strengthen their early hold on the championship.
The appearance of local legend and former Special and Production Vehicle champion Alfie Cox and German co-driver Jurgen Schroder in a Nissan Navara also adds a little extra spice to an already enticing menu. A quality field tackling a route that is always taxing is a sure recipe for potential drama.
After their historic victory on the Toyota Dealer 400 another local hero, Neil Woolridge, and Kenny Skjoldhammer will fancy their chances of back to back wins in the Ford Racing Ranger TDCi. The Ford has all the characteristics needed to win an event that provides for a variety of terrain and invariably produces a sting in the tail.
Back-up for the factory team comes from the steady Kobus van Tonder and Freddie Kriel in the Unifreight Ford Ranger, Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling in the Ruwacon Ford Ranger and Graham Leith and Mike Lawrenson who will be giving for Transcor Ford Ranger its first outing of the season. De Bruin and Greyling are one of only three SP Class crews with a 100 percent record this so far this season and will want to keep the momentum going.
Grobler and ter Stege also have a 100 percent finish record this season and their mission will be a rich haul of points. With all the experience in the world to call on the pair have the credentials to win with Grobler as competitive as ever.
Toyota, with nine cars, has a numerical advantage in the SP Class but Toyota runners are under additional pressure. Of their ranks only Grobler/ter Stege have an unblemished finish record this season, and with crews forced to drop one score at the end of the season, an early non finish is a millstone around the neck.
There is even more pressure on the Castrol Toyota Hilux factory pair of reigning driver’s champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie and Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton. High expectations have not materialised and a win for either crew would boost morale.
On the other side of the coin another non finish for either crew would be a hammer blow in terms of championship prospects. It all adds up to a difficult weekend for team boss Glyn Hall and his charges.
Of the privateer teams Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen, in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux, would love nothing more than to give the event sponsor a win. The pair won the Sugarbelt 400 a couple of seasons ago in a Special Vehicle and will be looking to complete a double in a Production Vehicle entry.
Adenco 400 winners Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (RFS/Visser Transport Toyota Hilux) have shown plenty of pace this season, and will want to bounce back after dropping out of the Toyota Dealer 400. Much the same applies to Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout (Red Star Raceway Toyota Hilux) and Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren (RFS Toyota Hilux), while George Barkhuizen/David van Wyck (AIM Toyota Hilux) will want to build on an encouraging Toyota Dealer result.
Nissan’s championship challenge is currently being led by Mike Whitehouse and brother-in-law Mathew Carlson in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara. The pair have built up enviable reliability records in both the Special and Production Vehicle categories and are the third crew to finish both events run so far this season.
Terence Marsh and former champion Buks Carolin, in the second Regent Racing Nissan Navara, will be looking to live up to potential while Thomas Rundle and former co-driver’s champion Juan Mohr will also want to build on a promising Toyota Dealer 400 debut in the Barden Tyre Services Nissan Navara.
In Class D reigning champions Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit will give the new Northam Toyota Hilux is first outing. The pair won the opening event of the season and missed the next race but, teething problems aside, look set to add to their championship tally.
Pikkie Labuschange and Rickus Erasmus (4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux) and Etienne Bezuidenhout/Hanro Visser (Adenco Ford Ranger) also missed the last event but are back in the Class E mix this time around. Both crews will provide stiff opposition for locals Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable (Ford Racing Ranger) who took the win on the Toyota Dealer 400.
The Class E field is bolstered by brothers Diederik and Danie Hattingh in the Transcor Toyota Hilux and Johan de Lange and Gert Ochse in a Nissan Hardbody.
Race headquarters, the start/finish and designated service area will also be situated at the Beaumont Eston Farmer’s Club outside Pietermaritzburg. The Donaldson Prologue to determine start position will start at 11h30 on May 21 and the race at 08h30 on May 22.
2010/05/17 | 11:47 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS