|ABSA 2010: New look to Production Vehicle Category at Adenco 400.|
The Production Vehicle category will have a new feel about it at the Adenco 400, opening round of the South African Absa Off Road Championship, in the Western Cape on Friday and Saturday, 19 and 20 March.
The Darling-based race sees the debut of the Team Castrol Toyota squad under new team principal Glyn Hall who, over the last decade, engineered the near total SP Class dominance enjoyed by a string of Nissan factory teams. Nissan have withdrawn from motorsport and their challenge will be in the hands of capable privateer teams.
The Ford Racing team will also miss the opening event and the usual off season musical chairs provides for some interesting developments. Of particular significance here is veteran former South African champion Hannes Grobler, after 33 years of driving a variety of Nissan products, behind the wheel of a Toyota.
Also behind the wheel of a Toyota is reigning driver’s champion Duncan Vos who was part of the Hall dynasty at Nissan. Vos, looking for a third successive SA title, will have to do without the services of Ralph Pitchford, who has joined the rally ranks, and will be partnered by Rob Howie.
Vos/Howie will have Anthony Taylor/Robin Houghton as team-mates with the Toyota stalwarts staying with the new look squad. The pair won the final event of last season, but it is going to be interesting to see how they adapt to Hall’s management style.
Over the last couple of seasons the premier SP Class has shown phenomenal growth and there are no fewer than 14 entries this weekend. The two Team Castrol Toyota cars will be hot favourites but there are a couple of crews of whom they will be wary.
The charismatic Grobler, teamed up with experienced Hennie ter Stege in the RFS Toyota Hilux, will be one of the dangermen. Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen, the first privateers to win an event in the SP Class era, also fall into this category in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux.
Other Toyota teams expecting to do well include the highly capable Chris Visser and Jape Badenhorst (Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux), George Barkhuizen, now paired with David van Wyk and the ever improving Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren in a second RFS Hilux. Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout also move up a notch in a Red Star Raceway Toyota Hilux, and Ruwacon Racing will field a Toyota Hilux for Pieter Ruthven/Rudi Britz and a Ford Ranger for Louw de Bruyn and Riaan Greyling who move up from Class E.
A delay in obtaining parts from overseas and lack of testing will keep the Ford Racing pair of Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer at home, with the Ford challenge bolstered by the steady Kobus van Tonder and son in-law Freddie Kriel in the Uni Freight Ford Ranger. Kriel replaces Riaan Guelpa in the Harrismith-based team.
Two Regent Racing Navara entries carry the Nissan flag with former SA champion Buks Carolin returning from a lengthy sabbatical to partner Terence Marsh who won a South African title in the Special Vehicle category. Brothers in law Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson move from the Special Vehicle category into the SP Class with consistency likely to be a forte for both teams.
Class D will be a straight fight between reigning champions Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit in the Northam Toyota Hilux D4D, and former champion Cliff Weichelt, again partnered by experienced Johann Smalberger in a similar vehicle in N1 4x4 colours. The battle between the two crews went to the wire last year, and more of the same can be expected.
The Megaworld 4x4 Toyota Hilux pair of Pikkie Labuschagne and Rickus Erasmus will fancy their chances in Class E. The pair lost last year’s title race by a single point and will be looking to exert early dominance.
The Ford Racing pair of Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable sit this one out but there is an interesting new entry in the form of Etienne Bezuidenhout and Hanro Visser in an Adenco Ford Ranger. Bezuidenhout is the reigning Class B co-driver’s champion and switches from navigating to driving.
With Louw de Bruyn and Riaan Greyling moving into the SP Class, the Ruwacon Ford Ranger will be taken over by Gerald le Roux and Willem Pretorius with the Pretoria Motor Club pair an unknown quantity.
The start/finish and designated service point will all be situated at the Darling Club. The Donaldson Prologue to determine grid positions will start at 13h30 on Friday and the race at 08h00 on Saturday. The event is spectator friendly with a number of viewing points within easy reach of the Darling Club. Access to these areas and to the start/finish area is free.
2010/03/15 | 10:11 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/FORTUNE/MOTORPICS