|Donaldson CC: Production class poised for drama in Kalahari Botswana 1000.|
With two teams tied at the top of the overall championship and one point separating them in the class title race, the Production Vehicle category is set to provide for high drama at the "Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race", round four of the South African "Donaldson Cross Country Championship", from June 27 to 29.
The two factory teams involved, reigning champions and last year’s race winners Anthony Taylor/Dennis Murphy (Team Castrol Toyota Hilux) and Manfred Schroder/Japie Badenhorst (Atlas Copco Ford Racing Ranger) are locked together in the overall championship. In the Class T battle Schroder/Badenhorst have a single point lead over the Castrol Toyota pair.
With double points on offer for the only marathon event on the Donaldson Cross Country calendar, it is a high stakes race for the championship leaders and the rest of a high quality field. For championship frontrunners the opportunity is there to go into the second half of the season in a strong position, and for the under performers a rich haul of points can breathe new life into flagging title hopes.
Between them Taylor/Murphy and Schroder/Badenhorst have done all the winning so far. The Toyota pair has two wins, with a non finish to blot their copybook, and both teams will be among the pre race favourites.
Taylor/Murphy will have back-up from team-mates Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howie and the Atlas Copco Ford Racing pair will be supported by Gary Bertholdt/Siegfried Rousseau. Both Poulter/Howie and Bertholdt/Rousseau have produced patchy form up to now, and will be keen to grab with both hands the chance to put pressure on the championship frontrunners.
A third Team Castrol Toyota Hilux entry will see Brazilians Reinaldo Varela and Gustavo Gugelmin bring an international flavour to proceedings. The pair has Dakar Rally experience and should adapt to Botswana conditions.
The race also provides brothers Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) a golden opportunity to prove that two podium finishes in their first three Class T outings were no flash in the pan. The Horns will have fond memories of a race that gave them their first national victory when they were campaigning in Class D.
Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Atlas Copco Nissan Navara) will be keen to build on their third place on the "Nkomazi 450", and have a reliability record that suggests they can get the job done. Team-mates Sarel van Biljon and Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) come off two solid performances.
Mike Whitehouse/George Myburgh (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) and team leader Terence Marsh and rugby legend Stefan Terblanche in the second Regent Racing Nissan Navara, will also fancy their chances after steady recent performances.
At the other end of the scale youngsters Jason Venter and Vincent van Allemann (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) will be out to turn around a disappointing start to their Class T career, and RFS Ford Ranger pair Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren are in the same boat after a string of wretched results.
There is also a tight battle in Class S where a single point separates Deon Venter/Ian Palmer (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) and Bloemfontein crew Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling in the diesel powered Ruwacon Ford Ranger. Venter/Palmer have picked up two wins in a row, but de Bruin/Greyling are the only Class S team with a 100 percent finish record – and that might give them the edge.
Archie Rutherford/Gerhard Schutte (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) will be high on confidence after two solid results, while North West veterans Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) will be the crew to look out for. The pair will relish the conditions and a lot of smart money will be on the former South African champions.
The experienced Pieter Ruthven, partnered by Hansie Rheeder, will be out in the other Ruwacon Toyota Hilux with Luke Botha/Andre Vermeulen (Force Fuel Toyota Hilux) looking for a change in fortunes. For Etienne and Dewaal Nienaber, in another Toyota Hilux, a first Desert Race outing promises to be an adventure.
The trick for both the Class T and Class S runners will be to be in contention on the final day of the race. An over ambitious approach to the 100 kilometer qualifying race and day two of the race itself, has in the past led to much weeping and wailing.
For the third race this season competitors also venture into the unknown. With the race moved from Kumakwane to Jwaneng, about 160 kilometers west of Gaborone, the route is completely new.
While the route will be “typically Botswana” with plenty of thick sand, bushes and trees a new location always provides for a bit of extra pressure. For competitors in the Class G or Side by Side category it is going to be hard work.
The Class G competitors will qualify over a 60 kilometer course, and will then complete one loop of the approximately 450 kilometer route on day two and day three. Competitors in the other Production Vehicle classes will complete two laps of approximately 225 kilometers and 190 kilometers respectively, with a compulsory 15 minute halt at the end of the first loop each day.
Championship leaders Brian Capper and Jaco Swart (Regent Racing Polaris) will be pre race favourites with tough challenges coming from Leander Pienaar/Stephan Marais (Can-Am Maverick) and Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer in another Polaris.
Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service point will all be located at the Jwaneng sports complex and adjoining showground area. Public entry to these areas will be restricted, but there will be free entry to spectator points along the route.
The qualifying race to determine grid positions will start at 11:30 on Friday, June 27, and day two and day three of the race at 8:00 on June 28 and 29.
2014/06/23 | 19:41 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/FORTUNE