|ABSA 2012: Special Vehicle Class wide open - kickoff with RFS Magalies 400|
This year’s South Africa´s "Absa Off Road Championship" kicks off with the RFS Magalies 400 at Tarlton International Raceway this weekend (March 9 and 10) and a quality field suggests the Special Vehicle champion is wide open this season.
The 2011 championship went to the wire - but with three drivers and two co-drivers in the final mix. Early indications are that a number of other crews could throw their hats into the ring this season with an interesting title chase ahead.
Reigning champions Hermann and Wichard Sullwald, now in a Porter, join former champions Kallie and Quintin Sullwald, in a BAT, in the Elegant Fuel camp. Another change sees Quintin Sullwald this season taking over driving duties with father Kallie in the co-driver seat.
Both teams are likely to be in the thick of the championship throughout the season, but there are plenty of crews who will feel they have championship potential. The Motorite Racing teams of former champion Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen, in a new BAT Spec 5, and the father/son combination of Nick and Ryan Harper will be among them.
The Harpers will run the ex Hutchison 4x4 Revo until they take delivery of a new BAT Spec 5. Both crews, along with other title hopefuls, will be looking for greater consistency this season.
Johan van Staden, now partnered by Class P champion Mike Lawrenson in the Atlas Copco BAT will feel he under achieved last year, and have the potential to emerge as strong title challengers. Dakar Rally hero Mark Corbett will also have a new navigator in race engineer Julien Hardy in the Century Racing FGT and will feel the same way while there will be huge interest in Class P frontrunners Marius and Jolinda Fourie who move into Class A in the ex Harper BAT.
There will also be a great deal of interest in the return of John Weir Smith, partnered by Richard Foyn in a Porter, and Laurence and Gerhard du Plessis in a Zarco. KwaZulu-Natal crew Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell (Gibson Racing Porter) and brothers David and Gary White (Ruwacon Racing BAT) both have race winning potential and greater consistency will also be on their agenda.
Veteran Nardus Alberts, partnered by son Louis in the Wrapsa BAT, is a former race winner and the likes of Naeem Moosajee/Rayhan Bodhanya (TyreRack Porter) and Steve Parker/VZ Van Zyl (Sizanane Plastics Jimco) are capable of upsets. The futuristic looking Zarco of Neil Meyer and Leon Muller also looks to have potential with Pieter Ruthven now partnered by Charl van Heerden in another Ruwacon BAT.
Class P crews last year won three of the eight national races with Colin Matthews and Alan Smith (Century Racing CR3) victims of reliability problems throughout the season. They won the opening event in the Western Cape and after that did nothing to write home about.
The category has lost last year’s champions, Archie Rutherford and Mike Lawrenson and the Fouries who have departed for Class A. By way of replacements Keith and Andrew Makenete (Zarco) and Coetzee and Sandra Labuscagne (Raysonics Zarco) both move to Class P from Class B and along with Nic Goslar/Andrew Massey (Men’s Health International Zarco) give the category a solid look about it.
John Telford and Jaco Swart (Calcamite BAT) have plenty of experience while newcomers Ferdie Pieterse and Craig Galvin, in a Raceco, are unknown quantities. With flyers and stayers providing contrasting approaches Class P won’t lack for interest.
Contrasting styles also add a dollop of extra interest to the Class A battle. It is consistency, however, that is likely to hold the key to the championship.
The Donaldson Prologue to determine grid positions will start at 12:30 on Friday, March 9 and the race at 08:30 on Saturday, March 10. Race headquarters and the designated service park will both be located at Tarlton International Raceway, and public access to these areas and spectator points on the route is free of charge.
2012/03/02 | 17:43 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/FORTUNE