Caution and concentration the key factor in the Eastern Cape 500
information supplied by: Cross Country Commission (Media)
01 April 2008
Crews with rally experience will be hoping they have a slight advantage on the Eastern Cape 500, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, on April 18 and 19. A substantial part of the event, reduced from 1 000 kilometres to 500 kilometres because of recent fuel price hikes, is to be run in the Longmore Forest area. The area also plays host to the VW Rally, a round of the Sasol South African Rally Championship, and crews with rally experience will have a good idea of exactly what to expect in the sort of terrain the off road fraternity don’t often visit. Although the Longmore Forests only cover an area of 40 square kilometres the Algoa Motorsport Club, organisers of the event, have managed to find 240 kilometres of roads in the region. And, according to chief organiser Joe Fourie, this section of the race route provides a little bit of everything. “There are fast sections, tight and tricky sections and the route also includes some interesting mountain terrain,” said Fourie. “Some of the roads are rough and it is the sort of event you will need to drive with your head and not your foot.” A number of crews currently competing in the Absa Off Road Championship have rally experience. By far the most experienced are Hannes Grobler (Nissan Navara) and Richard Leeke (Motorite BAT) who are former multiple SA rally champions. Mark Cronje/Chris Birkin (Castrol Toyota Hilux) are the current Class A7 rally champions and champion navigator Pierre Arries has joined Gary Bertholdt (Atlas Copco Porter) in the Special Vehicle category. Arries, who started his rally career alongside Grobler in a Nissan Sentra, had his first off road outing on the recent Nissan Dealer 400 in Darling. “The Longmore section is going to be tricky,” said Cronje. “There are going to be lots of blind rises and corners with drop offs. You also have to be wary of off camber corners. “As with the forest section on the Toyota Dealer 400 event in Mpumalanga the conditions are often slippery and it is very easy to slide off the road.” The event will still start in Port Elizabeth on April 18 with documentation and scrutineering at the Kings Beach Garden Court. The prologue, to determine start position for the race proper, will start from the King’s Beach parking area, and will be run over a distance of 70 kilometres in the Coega/Uitenhage area. The race proper will start at King’s Beach at 08h00 with the route, made up of two legs, covering a distance of approximately 430 kilometres. The first leg will take in Coega to Rocklands and will return to the designated service point (DSP) at King’s Beach. There will be a compulsory 15 minute stop for all cars before the start of leg two. This will take competitors into the Longmore region before the finish back at King’s Beach.