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ABSA 2011: Test of nerve in Production Vehicle Championship title fight 2011.





With no fewer than six crews in the running to win the Production Vehicle championship the RFS Magalies 400 on November 11 and 12, the final round of the South African Absa Off Road Championship, is going to be a test of nerve and resolve.

Just to sweeten the pot for what has the makings of an explosive end to the season, the six crews left in the title chase are separated by only 15,5 points. It is a measure of the competitive nature of the premier SP Class that three of the crews in the final six have not won this season, and there are at least half a dozen other teams that are capable of winning.

Championship leaders Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr (Barden Tyre Services Nissan Navara), third placed Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (International Toyota Hilux) and Terence Marsh/George Smalberger (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) have not won this season, and consistency has sustained their title challenges.

Reigning champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Team Ford Ranger TDCi) are second and have won twice, fourth placed Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) have won once and former champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie (Team Castrol Toyota Hilux), who are tied for fifth place with Marsh/Smalberger, have also won twice.

Other winners this season have been veterans Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege, who will be out in an RFS BMW X3 now fitted with a V8 petrol engine, and Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus in the Ruwacon Racing Toyota Hilux. Add them to the six crews in title contention and you have an idea of just how competitive it is at the sharp end of the stick.

But it does not end there. Anthony Taylor, partnered by Chris Birkin, will be looking for a third successive RFS Magalies 400 win in the second Team Castrol Toyota Hilux entry, Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) have a national win to their credit and teenager Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable have picked up two podium places in the last two races.

That is 11 crews who are winners or who have the ability to win. Then there are the ‘outsiders’ and here the likes of Malcolm Kok/Johann Burger (Kock and Sons Toyota Hilux), Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger), Christiaan du Plooy/Henk Janse van Vuuren (RFS BMW X3) and Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) come into the picture.

The end result, whichever way you look at it, is a finale that has the potential to produce high drama. Adding to the intrigue are the tactical equations and the choices between all out attack or a more conservative approach.

The title contenders will be well aware of that old adage that to finish first your first have to finish. Sticking your neck out to pick race and championship winners is asking to have your head chopped off, but the fundis would probably go along with those teams who have a winning culture. In pressure situations knowing how to win is half the battle.

There will be no pressure situation in Class D where Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen, in a Land Rover, have already clinched the championship. The Oosthuizens have been models of consistency throughout the season and will be looking to end their campaign with a 100 percent finish record.

The likes of reigning champions Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) and Louis Weichelt and Francis Boersma (N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser) have had the edge in pace, but reliability issues and irregular appearances have done nothing to help their cause. A string of three non finishes after an early win also helped blow Venter and Palmer out the water.

There will also be a little tension among the Class E ranks where Diederik Hattingh (Transcor Toyota Hilux) leads the driver championship by three points ahead of Dirk Putter (Zizwe Toyota Hilux) and Gerald le Roux in the Ruwacon Ford Ranger. It is not as close among the co-drivers where the major contenders are Koos Claasens, who sits alongside Putter, and Walter Hickley who linked up with le Roux in mid season.

Putter and Claassens dominated the recent Human Auto 400 in the Free State, and will start as race favourites. The pressure will be on Hattingh/Buks Cilliers, Putter/Claassens and le Roux/Hickley with teenagers Jason Venter and Vincent van Alleman (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) looking for a maiden win after an encouraging debut year.

Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service park will all be located at Tarlton International Raceway near Krugersdorp. Public entrance to these areas and spectator points along the route will be free of charge. The Donaldson Prologue to determine grid position for the race will start at 12:30 on November 11 and the race at 08:30 on November 12.

2011/11/09 | 13:47 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/FORTUNE


















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