|ABSA 2011: Tough at the Top in South Africa´s Prod. Vehicle Championship.|
With only eight points separating the first six crews it is tough at the top of the Production Vehicle standings and the Sun City 400 on July 29 and 30, round five of the South African Absa Off Road Championship, will be a war zone.
Traditionally one of the toughest events of the year the Sun City 400 will this year will be run over a new route. That simply adds to the intrigue surrounding a race that could go a long way towards deciding the Production Vehicle championship over the second half of the season.
As matters stand Regent Racing Nissan Navara crew Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson lead reigning champions and Toyota 1000 Desert Race winners Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Team Ford Ranger TDCi) by just half a point. Thomas Rundle/Juan Mohr (Barden Nissan Navara), Anthony Taylor/Chris Birkin (Team Castrol Toyota Hilux), Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (International Toyota Hilux) and Terence Marsh/George Smalberger (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) complete the top six with potential winners popping out of the woodwork.
All the crews in the top six are among the potential winners, but a string of crews fall into the same bracket. Former champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie (Team Castrol Toyota Hilux), Gary Bertholdt/Andre Vermeulen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux), veterans Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege (RFS BMW X3) and Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Excel Toyota Hilux) will fancy their chances. Vos/Howie, Bertholdt/Vermeulen and Grobler/ter Stege all went through tough times in Botswana and will want to revive their championship hopes.
By the same token crews like Visser/le Roux and Malcolm Kock/Johann Burger (Kock and Sons Toyota Hilux) will want to build on Toyota 1000 Desert Race successes. In a record field of 21 SP Class vehicles there are other regulars like Willem and Dana Vos (Vossies Toyota Hilux), Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable (Team Ford Ranger), Kobus van Tonder/Freddie Kriel (Uni Freight Ford Ranger) and Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren (RFS BMW X3) who would like to rattle a few cages.
The SP Class also features some interesting developments. There are returns to action for Johan Ferreira/Nico Kotze (Toyota Land Cruiser), Dewald van Breda/Johann Du Toit (Potch Plastics Toyota Hilux), Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout (Botes Vervoer Toyota Hilux), Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) and reigning Class E champions Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus who make their first appearance of the season in a Ruwacon Toyota Hilux.
The last two events have been won by factory teams, and the Team Castrol Toyota and Team Ford squads would like to keep the momentum going. The likes of Taylor/Birkin, who led the Toyota 1000 Desert Race for all but 12 kilometres, team-mates Vos and Howie and Visser/Badenhorst are flexing their muscles and that is a worrying sign for the privateers.
On the Class D front Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen (Land Rover) will be defending a 100 percent finish record and a comfortable championship lead over Louis Weichelt and Francis Boersma in the N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser. After three non finishes in a row reigning champions and pre-season favourites Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) desperately need a win to revive a flagging season.
There is also a welcome return to action for the Horn brothers, Johan and Werner, in the Malelane Toyota Land Cruiser who missed the Botswana race. A lone Nissan Hardbody in the hands of Johan Steyn and Shaun van der Berg provides added interest.
Class E will be contested by the biggest entry of the season so far with seven crews – including three winners this season – set to do battle. Championship leaders Piet Kotze/Salomon Victor (Toyota Hilux), Dirk Putter/Koos Claasens (Toyota Hilux) and Diederik Hattingh/Kristo Bosman (Transcor Toyota Hilux) will all be looking for repeat wins.
Gerald le Roux/Willem Pretorius (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) will be a major threat and there are returns to action for Ian Boshoff/Douw Grobler and Gene Boshoff/Lotter Klein in the LG Toyota Hilux entries. After an impressive debut on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race youngsters Jason Venter and Vincent van Alleman (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) will be watched with interest.
Race headquarters, the start/finish and designated service point will all be located at Sun City. The Donaldson Prologue on Friday, July 29 will start at 12:30 and the race on Saturday, July 30 at 08:30, with public entry to the start/finish, designated service point and spectator areas free of charge.
2011/07/28 | 15:23 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/FORTUNE