|ABSA 2010: Privateers look to extend Championship lead on Sun City 400.|
Privateers Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst will be looking to extend their Production Vehicle championship lead in round four of the South African Absa Off Road Championship at the Sun City 400 on July 16 and 17.
After a long break to accommodate the FIFA World Cup the off road fraternity will be raring to go on an event that is traditionally one of the toughest of the season. The Pilanesberg race also represents the halfway point in the Absa series and from here on in every point will be a precious one.
Only a handful of competitors have a 100 percent finish record and there is additional pressure on crews who already have a ‘did not finish’ to their names. Crews have to drop one result at the end of the season and an early DNF creates unwanted pressure.
Visser and Badenhorst, in the RFS/Visser Transport Toyota Hilux, are in this situation, but two wins so far see them five points clear of veteran former champions Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege. Grobler and ter Stege have a 100 percent finish record this season, and will be out for the first time in the diesel RFS BMW X5 which made its debut on the Atlas Copco Sugarbelt 400.
Chris du Plooy was at the wheel of the BMW’s debut but, as expected, hands over the car to Grobler and ter Stege. The BMW showed early potential but Grobler and ter Stege, given the teething problems Ford Racing encountered with the Ford Ranger TDCi, could have their hands full.
Where Ford is concerned former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer will fancy their chances on an event where conditions are likely to suit the factory Ford Ranger. The pair will also want to build on their historic Toyota Dealer 400 win, and that victory represents the lone factory success so far this season.
Team Castrol Toyota Hilux crews Duncan Vos and Rob Howie and Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton, in the other factory entries, look to be finally running into some sort of form. Both crews have been upstaged this season by Toyotas privateers and that is a situation they will want to address.
After a disappointing Atlas Copco Sugarbelt 400 outing Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen, in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux, will be keen to bounce back. Like Visser and Badenhorst they have the right credentials to be classified as potential winners.
Du Plooy senior and reigning Class E drivers champion Jannie Visser, who makes his first appearance this season as a co-driver, and Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren, both in RFS Toyota Hilux entries, will be looking for solid performances. Free State crew George Barkhuizen and David van Wyck (AIM Toyota Hilux) are in the same boat and also have top 10 potential, while Pieter Ruthven and Rudi Britz (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) make a welcome return to action.
Nissan’s challenge this year is being spearheaded by brothers-in-law Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson, in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara, who have put together an enviable reliability record. Former pro cricketer Terence Marsh and former SA champion Buks Carolin, in the other Regent Racing Navara, will be disappointed with their returns so far this season and Sun City provides the opportunity to turn it all around.
Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr, in the ex Vos Navara now running in Barden Tyre Services colours, will also want to get among the points. Two non finishes in a row are not indicative of potential.
In what is now a hugely competitive premier SP Class the factory Ford Ranger of Woolridge/Skjoldhammer also gets solid back-up from privateer crews. Kobus van Tonder/Freddie Kriel (Uni Freight Ford Ranger) and Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) have had their moments this season, while Graham Leith and Mike Lawrenson (Transcor Ford Ranger) have also made a welcome return.
As usual there are half a dozen crews who have the potential to produce the combination of speed and caution needed to win the Sun City 400. It makes for an intriguing race.
On the Class D front former champions Cliff Weichelt and son Louis make a welcome return in a new N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser. The pair will again lock horns with reigning champions Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit, in the Northam Toyota Hilux, who so far this season have had matters all their own way.
There is also a welcome return from former Class E contenders Deon Venter and Ian Palmer who move up a class in the 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux. Three quality crews in evenly matched machinery make for an interesting race.
The Class E entry is the biggest so far this season and includes crews that have each won this season. Gerald le Roux/Willem Pretorius (Ruwacon Ford Ranger), teenager Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable (Ford Racing Ranger) and Pikkie Labuschange and Rikus Erasmus (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) all have a victory to boast about this season, with experience leaning the way of Labuschagne and Erasmus.
Add to the list Etienne Bezuidenhout and Hanro Visser (Adenco Ford Ranger), Diederik and Danie Hattingh (Transcor Toyota Hilux) and Johan de Lange/Gert Ochse in a lone Nissan Hardbody and you have a race on your hands. Newcomers Barrie Drenth and Natasha Muller (Ultimate 4x4 Toyota Hilux) are an unknown quantity in a quality field.
Race control and the start/finish and designated service point will all be located at the Sun City complex. The Donaldson Prologue to determine start positions will start at 11.30 on Friday, July 16 and the race at 8:00 on Saturday, July 17.
The race is spectator friendly with viewing points all within easy access of Sun City. Public access to the start/finish, designated service point and spectator areas is free of charge.
2010/07/13 | 14:53 CET | Editor: MR/HS/FORTUNE