|ABSA 2012: Powerful Atlas Copco Challenge in KwaZulu-Natal on May 18-19.|
The Atlas Copco team will fancy their chances of winning their own event, the "Atlas Copco Timbertrack 400", when the South African "ABSA Off Road Championship" moves to KwaZulu-Natal for round three of the national series on May 18 and 19.
The Atlas Copco squad will have a powerful presence in both the Production and Special Vehicle categories. Team leader Gary Bertholdt and Ralph Pitchford, in a Toyota Hilux, and Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson, in a BAT, will be among the pre-race favourites on an event certain to produce highly competitive racing.
Bertholdt has won Absa national events in both Production and Special Vehicles and also has a KZN victory to his name on the Sugarbelt 400. With the experienced Ralph Pitchford sitting alongside him in the V8 powered Atlas Copco Toyota, the aggressive Bertholdt will be hoping to avoid reliability niggles that have hampered their progress so far this season.
For their part van Staden and Lawrenson will head for KZN as overall leaders in both the Special Vehicle and Class A championships. The pair won the opening race of the season, the RFS Magalies 400, and were first across the line on the Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga.
Van Staden and Lawrenson, however, were hit with a five minute penalty for deviating from the route and dropped down to fourth place. The Atlas Copco team, however, has lodged an appeal with Motorsport South Africa and Class A results in the Absa series are provisional.
There is no doubt that van Staden and Lawrenson are the Special Vehicle form team at the moment, and confidence will not be an issue for them. Reliability has also not been a problem so far this season, and they go into the race with strong credentials.
Organised by the Natal Off Road Motor Club the Richmond event will also be spectator friendly. Run predominantly in forest and sugar cane plantations, the route takes crews into the Umkomaas valley and includes a number of spectator points all within easy access of race headquarters at the Richmond Country Club.
There are three spectator points on the Donaldson Prologue to determine race start positions. Two of them – at the old shooting range on the Ixopo/Transkei road, and on the D59 district road –eight kilometres from race headquarters.
The third prologue viewing point is at the end of the route on the Hela Hela road. This point is approximately 20 kilometres from the Richmond Country Club.
The prologue viewing points will also be in operation for the race with a few additional spectator areas. These are on the Byrne village road and at the Greenham rail siding, on the R56 from Pietermaritzburg, approximately six kilometres from race headquarters.
The designated service park (DSP) will also be situated at the Richmond Country Club and public access to race headquarters, the DSP and spectator viewing points along the route is free of charge. A spectator guide that includes GPS co-ordinates will also be available at race headquarters.
The Donaldson Prologue to determine grid positions for the race will start at 12:30 on Friday, May 18 and the race at 08:30 on Saturday, May 19. The race will be run over two loops of approximately 175 kilometres with a compulsory 15 minute stop at the end of the first loop.
The Atlas Copco Timbertrack 400 will also incorporate round three of the KwaZulu-Natal regional off road championship with an entry of around 80 national and regional competitors expected. Regional competitors will complete one loop of the course.
2012/04/26 | 15:36 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/FORTUNE