Close competition in ABSA Off Road Championship
information supplied by: Cross Country Commission (Media)
15 March 2007
Recent history suggests that the Special Vehicle category in the Absa Off Road Championship, which opens with the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape on March 16 and 17, could turn into one of the most competitive in South African motorsport this season.
In recent seasons championships in the various classes have gone all the way to the wire. The size, and quality, of the entries in the various categories once again points to some hugely competitive racing.
And, in the premier Class A, a little needle among some of the top teams adds to the intrigue. A couple of incidents last season left little love lost between a number of competitors, and there is going to be no quarter asked or given as the season unfolds.
There are no fewer than 18 entries in Class A for the Nissan Dealer 400 and half a dozen or more teams will feel they have a realistic chance of victory. Reigning champions Alfie Cox and Hennie Ter Steege, along with Motorite BAT team-mates Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergman will start as early favourites but the challengers are piling up behind them.
The Motorite teams face a stiff challenge from a two-car Atlas Copco challenge. Gary Bertholdt and Henry Kirstein (Atlas Copco Porter) will be joined this year by Nick and Ryan Harper in a new BAT Spec 2 S, with their old car going to Botswana pair Gary Gillingham and Peter van Vuuren who join the Kopanong Hotel Superteam.
There are also changes in the Nashua Mobile team with former SA champion Terence Marsh joined by Pieter Groenewald, with Mike Whitehouse switching to driving duties after a couple of seasons of sitting alongside Marsh. A third Nashua Mobile entry sees Archie Rutherford and Craig Doubtfire move into Class A from Class B.
The Ruwacon team this season mounts a two car challenge via Pieter Ruthven and Dewaal Boshoff and David and Gary White. Both teams will be out in BAT models with Ruthven and Boshoff out in one of the new spec 2 models.
The Sullwald brothers, Karl-Heinz and Herman, will be out in up rated Zarcos, Rob and Gareth Wark will be dangermen in the Superpave BAT as will Nardus Alberts and Collin Hunter in the Wraps BAT. KwaZulu-Natal crew Clint Gibson and Mike Brown, in the Absolute BAT, and former SA champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau in the Total Porter will also fancy their chances and predicting a Nissan Dealer 400 winner is a risky business.
Class B champions Ernest Corbett and Warwick Goosen (Century Property Development BAT) will miss the Darling race but here, too, the scene is set for a close contest. Jan and Hendrik Kraaij (Keymax BAT) will want to build on an encouraging 2006 and the Adenco BAT entries in the hands of Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout and Bez Bezuidenhout/Johann de Bruyn should be there or thereabouts.
The same applies to veteran Giel Nel, now partnered by Sandra Labuscagne, and Marius van Vuuren and William Elliott in the Bosal Zarcos. The experienced Alistair Stubbs and Marc de Chalain (AM/PM Viper) form a dangerous combination, as do former champion Marcus Taylor and Derek Keith (JRE) and brothers Rudi and Pierre van Graan, returning to regular competition in the Technochair Zarco, also have winning potential.
Class S will see the renewal of a rivalry between the Kopanong Superteam pair of Nic Goslar and Richard Carolin and veterans Richard Schilling and Chris Davies in the Plastotech Aceco. Goslar is the reigning drivers champion and Davies the co-drivers titleholder so there is unfinished business between the two teams.
They will be kept honest by Glen Gibson in an Absolute Aceco and Naazim Moti in the Tyre Rack Raceco. Gibson and Moti will be partnered by Mike Whitehurst and Feroz Doodha.
With quality and quantity throughout the various classes, an explosive start to the season is in the offing. And it could set the tone for the rest of the year with fur set to fly.