|ABSA 2012: Pressure mounts for Production Vehicle Championship leaders.|
There will be a tense atmosphere in the Team Castrol Toyota and Ford Racing camps at the Human Auto 400 in Thaba ‘Nchu, the penultimate round of the South African "Absa Off Road Championship", on October 19 and 20.
Victory on the recent 4x4 Mega World 400 at Carnival City brought former South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Ford Racing Ranger) within sniffing distance of Production Vehicle championship leaders Duncan Vos and Rob Howie in the Team Castrol Toyota Hilux. The Ford pair now trail the Toyota crew by 24,5 points with the Human Auto crucial to both camps.
Vos/Howie and Visser/Badenhorst are the only Production Vehicle category crews still with 100 percent finish records this season, and both have to drop a score. At this stage that would represent a two point swing in favour of Visser/Badenhorst, but the advantage going into the Free State race lies with the Castrol Toyota team.
Anthony Taylor/Chris Birkin, despite a first non finish of the season at Carnival City remain in the championship mix but would require a spectacular shift in fortunes to sneak in the back door. Sun City 400 winners Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren (RFS BMW X3) are in the same boat and after rolling out of the 4x4 Mega World 400 they are effectively out of the running.
It is much the same story in the premier SP Class where Vos/Howie lead Visser/Badenhorst by 16 points. There is an 11 point gap between the Ford crew and Taylor/Birkin with du Plooy/Janse van Vuuren and Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable (Ford Racing Ranger) separated by only two points.
A win at Carnival City has left Cliff Weichelt and Johann Smalberger (N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser) with one hand on the Class D championship. A first non finish in 14 events has left reigning champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen (LMC Land Rover) with a 23,5 point deficit, and they have done nothing during the season to suggest they can change the status quo.
Second place behind Weichelt/Smalberger at Carnival City, with only four seconds separating the crews, lifted Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn into third place in the Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser. They now trail the Oosthuizens by 7,5 points.
The Class E championship is all but done and dusted with Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) needing only a handful of points from the final events to clinch matters. They scored their fifth win in six outings at Carnival City and have been standout performers throughout the season.
With the Human Auto 400 moving from the Bloemfontein area to under the shadow of the Lesotho mountains an air of uncertainty is added to the championship battle. Crews will have to expect the unexpected and that adds a dollop of hot sauce to an already enticing end of season dish.
2012/09/11 | 16:44 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/FORTUNE