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ABSA 2010: Unfinished Business in Production Vehicle Championship.





The overall championship might be done and dusted, but there is other unfinished business in the Production Vehicle category at the RFS Magalies 400, the final around of the South African Absa Off Road Championship, at Tarlton International Raceway on Friday and Saturday.

The RFS Toyota Hilux pair of Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst made certain of the overall championship with a win on the Human Auto 400 in the Free State last month. Veterans Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege can finish level on points with the new champions if they win, and Visser/Badenhorst fail to score.

Should this happen the title will go to Visser and Badenhorst on a count out of wins. Because of anomalies in off road scoring the situation is a little different in the premier SP Class where Grobler and ter Stege still have a chance of pipping Visser and Badenhorst for the title.

This would lead to a situation where Visser/Badenhorst would be overall champions, with Grobler ter Stege the SP Class titleholders. But there is other unfinished business with both the Class D and Class E championships up for grabs.

With everyone chasing a win on the last event of the season the SP Class will be no place for the faint of heart. There are one or two interesting championship battles further down the pecking order and, allied to the Class D and E situations, the weekend promises to produce some highly interesting racing on a route which includes new sections of road.

Visser and Badenhorst are in the happy position of being able to go out and enjoy themselves, whatever the result. But there is no doubt the red mist will descend on the pair, and they will be in there fighting for a fifth win.

Behind them only 11 points separate Grobler/ter Stege and the Team Castrol Toyota pair of outgoing drivers champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie. And behind them six points separate Terence Marsh, reunited with Buks Carolin in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara, Neil Woolridge/Kenny Skjoldhammer (Team Ford Ranger TDCi) and Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux.

Of the trio only Bertholdt and Vermeulen have not won this season. The pair would love nothing better than to end on a high note a season that has turned pear shaped away from the competition side of off road racing.

Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton, in the second Team Castrol entry, would also like to add respectability to a frustrating season. Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr (Barden Tyre Services Nissan Navara) and Mike Whitehouse/Matthew Carlson, in the second Regent Racing Nissan Navara, are in the same boat while there a number of teams who would like to continue a run of late season form.

Among these crews are Free State teams George Bezuidenhout/David van Wyck (AIM Toyota Hilux), Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger), Pieter Ruthven/Rudi Britz (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) and the father and son pair of Willem and Dana Vos in the Vossies Toyota Hilux. Also included in this bunch are Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren who produced their best result of the season with a podium finish on the Human Auto 400.

There are no fewer than 17 SP Class runners entered with the return of teams like Jaco Swanepoel/Keith Solomon (JAM TEC Toyota Hilux) and Graham and Trevor Leith in the Transcor Ford Ranger. Add to the list regulars like Kobus van Tonder and Freddie Kriel (Uni Freight Ford Ranger) and you have a recipe for good racing throughout the field.

The Class D scrap is a straight fight between current leaders Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (4x4 Mega World / RFS Toyota Hilux) and reigning champions Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit in the Northam Toyota Hilux. Venter/Palmer have won twice in a row while technical issues saw the Northam Toyota bumped up into the SP Class in the Free State.

The 4x4 Mega World team took advantage of the situation to open up a nine point lead with van Breda and du Toit hauling out of mothballs the car in which they won last year’s championship. Former champion Cliff Weichelt, in his first outing of the season, and Johan Smalberger (N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser) could throw a cat among the pigeons in a vehicle that has shown plenty of potential.

Looking to spring surprises will be the Land Rover crews of Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen and Johan Steyn and Paul Jonker. The two Land Rover teams could also find themselves in a tight battle with Johan Steyn and Wentzel Pretorius in a Mitsubishi.

Nine points is also the gap in Class E between championship leaders Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable (Team Ford Ranger), and Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus in the 4x4 Mega World / RFS Toyota Hilux. Labuschagne and Erasmus lost last year’s championship by a single point, and are in a challenging position courtesy of the Human Auto 400 accident that put teenager Woolridge and Huxtable out of the running.

Woolridge’s back injury might still be a problem, along with the second 4x4 Mega World / RFS Toyota Hilux entry of Hein Moolman and JD Wolfaardt. Gerald le Roux and Willem Pretorius (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) will also be a threat along with Malcolm Kock and Johan Berger in another Toyota Hilux.

The bevy of Toyota entries ganging up on young Woolridge and Huxtable is completed by brothers Diederik and Danie Hattingh (Transcor Toyota Hilux), and Barrie Drenth and Natasha Muller (Ultimate 4x4 Toyota Hilux) who take a step up from the Northern Regions championship.

Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service point are all located at the Tarlton complex near Krugersdorp. The Donaldson Prologue on Friday starts at 12:00 and the race at 08:30 on Saturday.

2010/11/15 | 12:04 PM CET | EDITOR: MR/HS/FORTUNE












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