|ABSA 2012: SA´s Swimming legend Natalie du Toit to start Off Road Racing.|
South African Paralympics swimming legend Natalie du Toit is the next sports personality who will experience the thrill of off road racing.
Du Toit will swap her swimming costume for racing overalls to co-drive for Archie Rutherford in the SA Warranties Nissan Navara at the Human Auto 400, in Thaba ‘Nchu on October 19 and 20.
She follows former Proteas fast bowler ‘Vinnige Fanie’ de Villiers and former Springbok rugby star Stefan Terblanche who sat alongside Rutherford at the Sun City 400 and the 4x4 Mega World 400 respectively.
The most successful South African Paralympian off all time, du Toit retired from competitive swimming after this year’s London Paralympics following a glittering career that saw her become one of the most recognisable athletes in the world.
After losing her left leg below the knee in 2001 in a scooter accident on the way home from a training session, du Toit emerged as one of the most "influential figures in the history of disability sport."
Du Toit retired with more than a dozen gold and silver medals to her name along with numerous other accolades, and made sporting history at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester when she qualified for the 800 metres able bodied final. It was the first time that an athlete with a disability had qualified for an able bodied event.
The Cape Town swimmer also made history in 2008 when she became the first athlete to carry the flag at the Olympic Games and the Paralympics in the same year. She was also the first amputee in more than a century to compete at the Olympics in 2008.
Two years ago du Toit was also honoured with a Laureus Sportsperson of the Year award for ‘breaking down the barriers between disabled and able bodied sport.’
"Natalie’s courage and determination have been an inspiration to people throughout the world, and we were delighted when she accepted our invitation to co-drive with Archie on the Human Auto 400," said Regent Racing team principal Terence Marsh.
The SA Warranties car races under the Regent Racing umbrella with Rutherford and Terblanche scoring a top 10 finish on the 4x4 Mega World 400 at Carnival City.
"We have no doubt Natalie is going to be a smash hit with competitors and off road enthusiasts alike," said Marsh. "Introducing sports personalities to off road racing is part of our campaign to increase an already healthy profile and awareness for the sport, and this time I believe we have hit the jackpot.
"Apart from acting as Archie’s co-driver Natalie will also be the guest speaker at the prize-giving, and that is going to be a highlight of the weekend."
Du Toit, as was the case with de Villiers and Terblanche, won’t be thrown into the deep end on race day. Prior to the event she will have seat time in the SA Warranties Nissan Navara, and will also be shown the finer points of navigation by regular Regent Racing co-drivers George Smalberger and Matthew Carlson.
The Human Auto 400 race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service park will all be located at the Black Mountain Lodge Hotel in Thaba ‘Nchu. Public entry to these areas and spectator viewing points along the route will be free of charge.
The Donaldson Prologue to determine race grid positions will start at 12:30 on Friday, October 19, and the race at 8:30 on Saturday, October 20.
2012/10/11 | 10:57 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/FORTUNE