document : Special Vehicle Category poised for drama on Nkomazi 450

Special Vehicle Category poised for drama on Nkomazi 450
information supplied by: Cross Country Commission (Media) 10 May 2014


Location: Malalane, Mpumalanga 25 29S 31 31E
Directions: N4 highway from Nelspruit
Race headquarters/start and finish/designated service park: Riverview Preparatory School
Weather forecast: May 16 – Sunny. Min 12 Max 30 May 17 - Sunny. Min 14 Max 29
2013 result: 1 Colin Matthews/Alan Smith (CR3); 2 Herman Sullwald/Wichard Sullwald (BAT); 3 Quintin Sullwald/Karl-Heinz Sullwald (BAT)

The Special Vehicle category is poised for drama on the Nkomazi 450, round three of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, in Malalane on May 16 and 17.

Gerhard du Plessis and his teenage son, Hardus, go into the Mpumalanga outing in an ageing Jimco with an early season 15 point lead over another father/son pairing in Quintin and Kallie Sullwald, in the Elegant Fuel BAT Venom. The catch, however, is that only 15 points separate the Sullwalds and the next 10 crews in the overall championship – with a couple of Class P teams in among the Class A big guns.

Consistency and reliability are key ingredients when it comes to winning championships, and the du Plessis combination are the only Class A crews to have finished both events this season. Non finishes have put some early pressure on the likes of the Sullwalds, reigning champions Evan Hutchison/Danie Stassen (Motorite BAT Viper), Clint Gibson/Gary Campbell (Dirt Sport Components Porter) and Daniel Brookes/Gavan Gray in the Ducatus Property BAT.

In a congested log table the Sullwalds have a six point lead over Hutchison/Stassen and Brookes/Gray who scored a maiden podium finish on the Toyota Dealer 450 in Mooi River. Next up, four points in arrears, are Derick du Toit/Craig Gray (CRC Racing BAT) and Class P leaders John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten (Zarco Magnum) with two points separating the next six crews.

Included in this number are newcomers Arthur Barnes and Anthony Usher (BAT Venom), Laurence du Plessis, who will have newcomer Giel le Roux as co-driver in a Zarco, Gibson/Campbell and the husband and wife pair of Marius and Jolinda Fourie in the PHB BAT. Du Toit/Gray and du Plessis made their first appearances of the season in Mooi River, and came up with impressive performances from the back of the field.

Early season non finishes leave the affected crews skating on thin ice. At the end of the eight event championship crews have to drop one score, and failing to make it to the end on any of the remaining six events could deal championship hopes a devastating blow.

On this score two Class A crews – former South African champions Hermann and Wichard Sullwald (Elegant Fuel Stryker), and Lance Trethewey and Geoff Minnitt in the newly acquired LTE Mortimer Toyota BAT Venom,
have two strikes against them and are particularly vulnerable. After a horrid run of results that date back to last season, the Sullwalds will be happy to simply make it to the finish.

Brett Parker/VZ van Zyl (Sizanani Plastics Jimco) are also due a good result, while Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr, after an outing in the United Arab Emirates, will make their first appearance in the new Century Racing CR5. Their progress will be watched with interest.

There is not much to choose between the top Class A teams and the blindfold and pin method, while not that scientific, is probably the best way to go about choosing a winner. For some teams it is a question of bouncing back with a good result, and for others keeping the momentum going is top of the agenda.

Either way the stakes are high - even at this early stage of the season. Crews will, however, welcome a return to more familiar territory after the RFS 450 and Toyota Dealer 450 took teams into the unknown.

As is the case in Class A reliability is turning into an issue in Class P. Only reigning champions Thomson and Zermatten and Nic Goslar, among the drivers, are batting two for two.

That has taken Thomson/Zermatten to the top of the championship ahead of first race winners John Telford and Andrew Makenete in the Calcamite/Rhino Tanks BAT. Goslar is third among the drivers but all the Class P crews – along with the Class A brigade - will be keeping an eye out for Colin Matthews and Rodney Burke in the Century Racing CR3.

Matthews is among those with two successive non finishes. But given a clean run Matthews, who won last year’s event with Alan Smith ahead of the Class A opposition, is a distinct threat when it comes to overall honours.

There is a fair mix of quality and quantity in the Class P field. Some close battles are likely to develop with James Watson/John Thompson (BAT), veterans Rob Wark/Ashley Thorn (K9 Racing Aceco), Coetzee and Sandra Labuschagne (Chemsystems Zarco) and Keith Makenete/Moalosi Borotho (Zarco) offering an interesting mix of experience and a blend of aggression and caution.

Sean Reitz links up with youngster Adriaan Roets in the Regent Racing Jimco with Frikkie Botha and Koos Visser also part of the mix in a BAT. With an entry of 10 cars the class looks healthy.

Race headquarters, the stat/finish and the designated service point will all be located at the Riverview Preparatory School on the outskirts of Malalane. Public entry to these areas and viewing points along the route is free of charge, and spectator guides will be available at race headquarters and Malalane Toyota.

The 100 kilometre qualifying race to determine grid positions will start at 11:30 on Friday, May 16 and the race at 8:30 the following day. In the race crews will complete two laps of approximately 175 kilometres, with a compulsory 15 minute halt at the end of the first loop.


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