|ABSA 2012: Make or break for Production Vehicle Championship contenders.|
The battle for the South African Production Vehicle championship could fizzle out or be carried over to a dramatic finale at the Human Auto 400, the penultimate round of the "ABSA Off Road Championship", in Thaba ‘Nchu on October 19 and 20.
There are three crews left in the title race with a Ford Racing team the meat in a Team Castrol Toyota sandwich. Castrol Toyota pair Duncan Vos and Rob Howie will go to the Free State with a precious 24,5 point advantage over Ford Ranger crew Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst with Anthony Taylor/Chris Birkin, in the second Castrol Toyota entry, a further 10,5 points in arrears.
The one given for Visser/Badenhorst and Taylor/Birkin is that nothing short of victory will do. After a disappointing run Visser and Badenhorst rekindled their title hopes with a timely win on the 4x4 Mega World 400 while Taylor and Birkin have yet to win this season.
The lead Vos/Howie carry into the race is a major advantage and could be worth its weight in gold. It means they can race for position rather than a win - but when the red mist comes down racing crews don’t think that way!
The rest of a quality field in the premier SP Class will be racing for pride but there are a number of crews who could influence championship issues. In particular Visser and Badenhorst will be looking for team-mates Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable in the second Ford Ranger to make life a misery for the two Castrol Toyota teams.
After blowing their title chances with a roll on the 4x4 Mega World 400 RFS BMW X3 youngsters Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren will want to bounce back. For different reasons, the pair are scheduled to retire at the end of the season, team-mates Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege would also welcome a win.
Pikkie Labuschagne/Rikus Erasmus (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux), Gary Bertholdt/Ralph Pitchford (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) and Alfie Cox and German co-driver Jurgen Schroder (PS Laser Nissan Navara) also figure among teams that have the potential to win.
The quality of the SP Class is further underlined by crews like Terence Marsh/George Smalberger in the new V8 powered Regent Racing Nissan Navara, team-mates Mike Whitehouse and Matthew Carlson in the V6 Navara and Bloemfontein crew Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling in the Ruwacon Racing Ford Ranger.
The pair are unlikely to challenge for a top five place but there will be a great deal of interest around the SA Warranties Nissan Navara that runs under the Regent Racing banner. The experienced Archie Rutherford will be joined by Paralympics swimming legend Natalie du Toit who follows in the footsteps of cricketer ‘Vinnige Fanie’ de Villiers and rugby player Stefan Terblanche.
Crews will be heading into the shadow of the Lesotho Mountains for the first time and that adds another twist to the tale. With everyone in the same boat the playing field will be absolutely level with the scene set for what could turn into an epic race.
The Class D and Class E championships look likely to be settled in Thaba ‘Nchu. Cliff Weichelt and Johann Smalberger (N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser) have a tight hold on the title race, but the category looks certain to produce some competitive racing.
Weichelt/Smalberger beat Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser) by the narrowest of margins on the 4x4 Mega World 400 and the Mpumalanga brothers will be thirsting for revenge. Weichelt’s son Louis and Maret Bezuidenhout, in the second N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser complete a trio that could provide for the most entertaining battle of the weekend.
On the Class E front Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) will be looking to put the finishing touches to the title battle. The rest of the opposition have not been able to match Putter and Claasens for pace this season, and with five wins from six events few would risk a bet against the pair.
Race headquarters, the start finish and the designated service park will all be located at the Black Mountain Hotel with free public entry to these areas. Public entry to spectator points along the route is also free with spectator guides available at race headquarters and Human Auto in Bloemfontein.
The Donaldson Prologue to determine grid positions for the race will start at 12:30 on October 19 and race at 08:30 the following day.
2012/10/18 | 13:25 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/FORTUNE