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Donaldson CC: Desperate times for Special Vehicles in Botswana 1000 desert







A number of Special Vehicle category teams will be desperate to come away with a large slice of the double points cake on offer at the "Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race", round four of the South African "Donaldson Cross Country Championship", in Jwaneng from June 27 to 29.

As the season reaches the halfway mark two father and son teams are threatening to walk away with the series. Gerhard and Hardus du Plessis (Jimco) go to Botswana with a nine point lead over former South African champion (Quintin and Kallie Sullwald (Elegant Fuel BAT Venom), with third placed Daniel Brookes/Gavan Gray (Ducatus Property BAT) a further 20 points off the pace.

Among those who will be looking for the extra points on offer to resuscitate their championship challenge are reigning champions Evan Hutchison/Danie Stassen (Motorite BAT Viper), and former champions Hermann and Wichard Sullwald in the Elegant Fuel Porter Stryker. Reliability problems and missed races have hit those teams looking to take advantage of the double points situation.

Hutchison and Stassen, after two successive non finishes, trail du Plessis and his teenage son, Hardus, by a whopping 40 points. Lance Trethewey/Geoff Minnitt (Mortimer Toyota BAT) are another four points in arrears and for Hermann and Wichard Sullwald it is perhaps a last throw of the championship dice.

The Sullwalds last year won the race that developed into a war of attrition with some major surprises. It was a win that took the Sullwalds to the top of championship table, but a horrid finish to the series put an end to their title hopes.

For the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race the Sullwalds will swap roles with Wichard taking over driving duties from his father – although this may be a drawback. Start positions for the qualifying race are determined on a driver seeding, and the Sullwalds will find themselves starting way down the field.

Although the du Plessis and Sullwald pairings have sizeable advantages at the top of the table the race is, in fact, wide open. The Toyota Desert Race is the only marathon event on the Donaldson calendar and, down the years, has been famous for a sting in the tail.

It is also an event that is not won on either the qualifying race or the second day of the real business. It is, however, a race that can be lost on these days, and the more experienced teams will be fully aware of the need to mix aggression with a healthy dollop of caution.

One also needs to take into account that, for the third time this season, teams will be venturing into uncharted waters. With the event moving from Kumakwane to Jwaneng, about 160 kilometers west of Gaborone, the entire route is new. Although the route will be “typically Botswana” moving to new territory always plays a role, with increased pressure on co-drivers. Once again experience is a key factor.

With a quality field on show and given the Toyota 1000 Desert Race propensity for shocks and surprises, it is almost impossible to pick a winner. Current form obviously suggests the du Plessis and Sullwald crews, leading the overall and Class A championships, will be among the favourites.

Brookes/Gray, Derick du Toit/Craig Gray (CRC BAT), newcomers Arthur Barnes/Anthony Usher (BAT) and Trethewey/Minnitt will have their supporters with Marius Fourie and Hendrik Pienaar (PHB BAT) in their first outing this season also in the picture. There will also be a lot of support for Hutchison/Stassen and with so much at stake for the pair, bookmakers would offer short odds on them.

Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr, in the new Century Racing CR5, will top the list of ‘outsiders’. Corbett is a former Desert Race winner but the fickle nature of new race machinery could be a problem for the pair.

Local interest in Class A will come from Keith du Toit – on the podium last year – and Xander Mare (White Star Racing BAT) and Mogrey Mabille who will again be partnered by Zelda Niemandt. For Mabille/Niemandt it will also be their first outing of the season.

On the Class P front bookmakers would also be a bit stingy on odds offered on reigning champions John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten, in a Zarco, who were third overall last year. The pair go into the race with healthy leads in the driver and co-driver championships, and have the sort of reliability record that breeds success in Botswana.

There is no shortage of Class P challengers with Colin Matthews and Rodney Burke the standout crew in the Century Racing CR3. None of the other Class P entries can match Matthews for sheer pace but that is a commodity, on its own, that is not going to win the Toyota 1000 Desert Race.

The ever steady Thomson also has a championship advantage in that second placed Rob Wark, a former overall winner of the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, sits out this race. Major opposition will come from KZN pair James Watson and John Thompson (BAT), brothers Keith and Andrew Makenete (CRC Zarco), Nic Goslar/Andrew Massey (SA Clinics Zarco) and the father and daughter pairing of Coetzee and Sandra Labuscagne (Chemsystems Zarco) who are due a good result.

Two local crews – Thulani Dube/Don Mahlanza (Zarco) and Asante Sebego/Onkabetse Keletso (Sandmaster) – will have passionate support from local enthusiasts. Sean Reitz/Michael Abramson (Regent Racing Jimco) and KZN crew Iain MacLean/Luke van Doort (BAT) add to a class that looks to be highly competitive.

The qualifying race to determine grid positions will be run over a 100 kilometer route and will start at 11:30 on Friday, June 27. Day two and day three of the race will start at 8:00, and will be made up of two loops of approximately 225 kilometers and 195 kilometers respectively with a compulsory 15 minute halt at the end of the first lap on each day.

Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service park will all be located at the Jwaneng sports complex and adjoining showground area. Public entry to these areas will be restricted, but there is free entry to spectator points along the route.

2014/06/25 | 13:53 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/FORTUNE











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