|ABSA 2012: Three-way batlle in Special Vehicle Class chase in South Africa.|
A three-way battle to settle the Special Vehicle overall and premier Class A championships provides for a tense and exciting climax to the "ABSA Off Road Championship" at the "Gold 400", the final race of the South African season, on the West Rand on November 23 and 24.
During the latter part of the season it looked increasingly as though the overall and Class A title chases had turned into a two horse race between leaders Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen (Motorite BAT Venom) and Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson in the Atlas Copco BAT. Brothers Laurence and Gerhard du Plessis (Zarco) then threw their hats into the ring with two successive wins to set up an explosive finale to the last off road championship race to be run under the Absa banner.
With the Class P and Class B title races also still to be settled the third new event on the championship calendar this year is set to provide an explosive finale to the season.
The three crews involved in the overall championship and Class A fights go into the shootout separated by 22,5 points in a championship where the du Plessis brothers are the only multiple winners this season. Both Hutchison/Stassen and van Staden/Lawrenson go into the Gold 400 still having to drop a result, but the various permutations are relatively simple.
For van Staden/Lawrenson and the du Plessis brothers nothing but a win will do. Hutchison and Stassen, however, need only finish in the top three to clinch the championship.
Van Staden and Lawrenson scored their only win so far at the first race of the season while Hutchison/Stassen took the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana. For both crews consistency has kept them in the title hunt with convincing performances on the 4x4 Mega World 400 and Human Auto 400 bringing the du Plessis brothers into the picture.
The championship situation brings into play some fascinating tactical choices for the title contenders. In this respect Hutchison and Stassen have a little leeway while van Staden and Lawrenson and the du Plessis pair need to banish thoughts of caution.
There are, of course, other permutations offered up by other crews who will want to end on a bright note a season that for the most part has been disappointing. Included here are outgoing SA champions Hermann and Wichard Sullwald (Elegant Fuel Porter), former champions Quintin and Kallie Sullwald (Elegant Fuel BAT), Marius and Jolinda Fourie (PHB BAT) and Mark Corbett and Julien Hardy in the Century Racing CR4.
KwaZulu-Natal crew Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell (Gibson Racing Porter) also pose a threat and Nick and Ryan Harper, in the second Motorite BAT Venom, will have a role to play. The Harpers will be expected to make life uncomfortable for the brothers du Plessis and van Staden/Lawrenson and add another string to the Hutchison/Stassen bow.
Midway through the season it looked as though the Class P battle was a foregone conclusion. Colin Matthews and Alan Smith, in the Century Racing CR3, were quick out the starting blocks and three wins in a row included an overall victory on the Atlas Copco Timbertrack 400.
Since then the wheels, literally, have fallen off and two non finishes in three races have left them with a tenuous 13 point lead over Richard Fuller and Dennis Murphy in the Regent Racing BAT. None of the Class P runners have managed this season to match Matthews and Smith for pace and the Gold 400 boils down to a matter of reliability.
Matthews and Smith are flyers but simply cannot afford another non finish. Apart from one retirement Fuller and Murphy have been models of consistency and a straight fight between the two crews provides a fascinating contrast in styles and approach.
Sidriaan de Villiers and Dwayne Voogt, in the little UTV, are the Class B championship frontrunners. The Gold 400, however, sees runaway Northern Region crew Tony and Michael Gouveia (Gearbox Services BAT) make their first national appearance of the season, and they will start outright favourites for victory.
Race headquarters, the start/finish and designated service point will all be located at Kloof Country Club in Glenharvie. This is approximately 70 kilometres from Johannesburg with public access to these areas and spectator points on the route free of charge.
The Donaldson Prologue to determine race grid positions will start at 12:30 on November 23 and the race at 08:30 the next day.
2012/11/19 | 12:55 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/FORTUNE