Toyota Dealer 400 a Special Vehicle battlefield
information supplied by: Cross Country Commission (Media)
05 October 2008
The Toyota Dealer 400 on October 10 and 11, the penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, looks likely to turn into a battlefield in the Special Vehicle category championship.
Tight situations have developed in both the overall and Class A championships and the Mpumalanga race is hugely important for those with title aspirations. And what looked like a three horse race has suddenly seen other crews come into late contention.
After the recent Limpopo 400 the Total Porter pair of former champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau have taken over the lead in both championships from early pacesetters Kallie and Quintin Sullwald in the Sullwald Racing BAT. Lurking in third place have been another former champion in Terence Marsh and Pieter Groenewald in the Regent Racing BAT.
A win for Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen (Atlas Copco Porter), their second of the season, on the Limpopo 400 has brought them into the picture. On the driver side Nick Harper, partnered by son Ryan in the Atlas Copco BAT, has also thrown his hat into the ring.
The advantage still lies with Variawa/Rousseau, the Sullwald’s and Marsh/Groenewald but a good result, or a disaster, for any of the top contenders could radically alter the entire situation. Then there is a further complication in that Variawa and Rousseau and the Sullwald’s have 100 percent finish records so far this season and still have to drop a result.
With so much at stake it appears certain that tactical battles will emerge. And there will also be the contrast in styles between out and out chargers like Bertholdt/Vermeulen and those with a slightly more conservative approach that is a Marsh hallmark.
The leading champions contenders could, however, find themselves taking a back seat to a couple of other crews who could upset the best laid plans. Reigning champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann, in the Motorite BAT, fall into this category along with Colin Mathews and Alan Smith in the Century Racing BAT.
Hutchison and Bergmann have had a dreadful season and a win would go a long way towards restoring a little pride, while Mathews/Smith are knocking at the door for a maiden win. Experienced Mark Corbett and Rudi Balzer, in the radical 4x4 Century Racing CR1, will also be hoping the vehicle finally lives up to potential and sees them home.
Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson (Regent Racing BAT) could also come into the picture along with Herman Sullwald and Paul Helberg in the new Sullwald Racing Zarco. John Moore and Tom Classen, in the Free Spirit, were an impressive fifth overall on the Limpopo event and they could spring a surprise.
There are also some interesting battles going on in Class B. Here 12 points separate the top three drivers with only eight points the difference between four title contenders among the co-drivers.
Louw de Bruin (Ruwacon BAT) leads the drivers from veteran Giel Nel (Luk Africa Zarco Truggy) and Bez Bezuidenhout in the Adenco BAT. Tiddo Voogt, who this season has sat alongside both Hendrik and Jan Kraaij in the Keymax BAT, leads the co-drivers with Deon de Kock, who sits alongside Nel, only five points in arrears.
A further three points off the pace are Johann de Bruyn, who co-drivers for Bezuidenhout, and Rudi Britz who partners de Bruin in the Ruwacon car. Britz missed an event earlier in the season and that set him back on his heels.
Nel and de Kock don’t have the pace of the other frontrunners and sheer consistency has kept them in the title race. A similar pattern looks likely to develop on the Toyota Dealer 400 and the winner should come from either of the Keymax, Ruwacon or Adenco teams.
Also capable of an upset is the Stafix Electric Fence racing pair of Marc de Chalain and Pieter de Wit. De Chalain takes over driving duties from Alastair Stubbs who sits this race out with his wife scheduled to give birth over the weekend.
The Limpopo 400 broke a logjam in Class P. Brothers Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout, in the Adenco BAT, now have a nine point lead over brothers David and Gary White in the Ruwacon BAT, with KZN crew Don Thompson and Don Blakey a further four points adrift in the Zarco.
A non finish on the Limpopo 400 hit Thompson and Blakey where it hurts and they will be looking to immediately bounce back. There is not much to choose between the three crews but the White brothers will be on a high after their Limpopo win.
Nic Goslar/Richard Carolin (Men’s Health International Zarco) are out of the championship race but could affect the fight going on between the three title contenders.
The overall and Class A titles look set for a thrilling climax. There are high stakes on the Toyota Dealer 400 and that sets the scene for what could be a dramatic race.