|ABSA 2011: Production Vehicle Category wide open on Toyota Dealer 400.|
With the Production Vehicle category a potpourri of possibility it would take a brave person to predict a winner at the Toyota Dealer 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, in Mpumalanga on April 8 and 9.
There are some new faces and some returning old friends in the premier SP Class with potential winners coming out of the woodwork. There are 20 SP Class vehicles entered with their number bolstered by teenager Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable, in a second factory Ford Racing Ranger, and old stalwarts Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn who return to action after missing last season.
After a season in Class E and one race in Class D, young Woolridge is fast tracked into the premier class where he joins reigning South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst. Woolridge’s father, Neil, and Kenny Skjoldhammer won this race last year and if history is to repeat itself, one fancies the smart money will be on Visser and Badenhorst.
There will also be a good deal of smart money on the indefatigable Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege, in the diesel powered RFS BMW X3, who got their season off to a flying start with a win on the Adenco 400 in the Western Cape. Grobler just keeps on doing what is needed to win races, with the crew scheduled to be joined by Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren in a petrol engine RFS BMW X3.
Visser/Badenhorst and the two Team Castrol Toyota crews of Duncan Vos/Rob Howie and Anthony Taylor/Chris Birkin went through difficult times in the Western Cape. All three crews will be looking to bounce back with the Toyota teams hoping to have sorted out the teething problems that plagued the new Castrol Toyota Hilux double cabs on the Adenco 400.
The de Bruyn’s, in the ex Taylor factory Toyota Hilux now in Micaren Exel colours, bolster a strong privateer supporting cast for the factory Toyota team. They may be a bit ring rusty but the likes of Adenco surprise packages Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux, who picked up a maiden podium finish, and Gary Bertholdt/Andre Vermeulen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) will have their sights set on top five or better finishes.
Also in the Toyota mix are Pieter Ruthven/Rudi Britz (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux), Malcolm Kock/Johan Burger (Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux) and Willem and Dana Vos in the Vossies Toyota Hilux. The strong privateer support gives Toyota a powerful hand when it comes to the prestige SA Manufacturers Championship where they have an early lead over Nissan.
There will be a fair bit of confidence floating around the Nissan camps after encouraging results for Thomas Rundle/Juan Mohr (Barden Tyres Services Nissan Navara) and Terence Marsh/George Smalberger (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) in the Western Cape. Rundle and Mohr were a little unlucky with punctures that took most of the sting out of their challenge for the lead.
Marsh was as steady as ever with new co-driver Smalberger settling in nicely, while Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson, in the second Regent Racing Navara, were always on the back foot after picking up a penalty on the Donaldson Prologue. For both teams consistency will again be a key factor.
Back-up for the Team Ford factory squad comes by way of two Free State crews in Kobus van Tonder and Freddie Kriel (Uni Freight Ford Ranger) and Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling in the Ruwacon Racing Ford Ranger. The opening race provided a mixed bag for the two crews, but the potential to produce top five results is there.
With Woolridge and Huxtable moving up a rung reigning champions Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) will be outright favourites in Class D. They will, however, face some potentially dangerous opposition.
Former champion Cliff Weichelt and Johann Smalberger and Louis Weichelt and Francis Boersma will be out in a pair of N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruisers, and might be a little ring rusty. Brothers Johan and Werner Horn, in the Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser, may also feel the effects of a period of inactivity but have the ability to make life uncomfortable for Venter and Palmer.
Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen, in a Land Rover, are also making steady progress now that they are regulars on the national front. The possibility of an upset result is there.
On the Class E front, a trio of newcomers join regulars Gerald le Roux/Willem Pretorius (Ruwacon Racing Ford Ranger) and Diederik Hattingh/Kristo Bosman in the Transcor Toyota Hilux. Ian Boshoff/Douw Grobler, Gene Boshoff/Lotter Klein and Dirk Putter/Koos Claassens will all be out in Toyota Hilux models and at this stage are unknown quantities.
2011/04/06 | 16:27 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY