document : Production Vehicle sparks set to fly on Nkomazi 450

Production Vehicle sparks set to fly 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 and 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 Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst (Ford Ranger); 2 Gary Bertholdt/Siegfried Rousseau (Toyota Hilux); 3 Duncan Vos/Rob Howie (Toyota Hilux)

The first two events of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship produced tit for tat situations, and sparks are set to fly in the Production Vehicle category at round three of the series, the Nkomazi 450, in Malalane on May 16 and 17.

The opening round of the championship, the RFS 450, saw the Team Castrol Toyota Hilux combinations of Anthony Taylor/Dennis Murphy and Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howie score a one/two, with Atlas Copco Ford Racing pair Manfred Schroder and Japie Badenhorst taking the final podium position. The roles were reversed in dramatic fashion on the Toyota Dealer 450 where Schroder/Badenhorst led home team-mates Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau, with privateers Johan and Werner Horn third in the Malalane Toyota Hilux.

Schroder and Badenhorst will take to Mpumalanga an 11 point lead over Poulter and Howie in the Production Vehicle overall standings. Reigning champions Taylor and Murphy are four points in arrears, with Bertholdt/Rousseau and the Horn brothers locked together a further two points behind.

The first two races confirmed that the two factory teams are the ones to beat, with the Nkomazi event returning crews to more familiar territory after the opening events broke new ground in Harrismith and Mooi River. Chris Visser and Badenhorst won last year’s race, with Bertholdt and Rousseau second in a Toyota Hilux, and the Atlas Copco Ford Racing squad will be hoping history will repeat itself.

Visser is out of action for the remainder of the season after surgery for a neck injury sustained on the Dakar Rally, and Ford stalwart Schroder has turned out to be an inspired choice as a ‘super sub’. The former Class D and E champion has been a revelation, with his place in the team confirmed for the remainder of the championship.

The two factory teams will face contrasting mind sets as their battle for bragging rights continues. Schroder/Badenhorst and Bertholdt/Rousseau will be on a high, while Taylor/Murphy and Poulter/Howie have a few Toyota Dealer 450 demons to lay to rest.

The other team on a high are the Horn brothers who were on the podium on the Toyota Dealer race in only their second outing in the premier Class T category. Going into the race as the local favourites provides them with a little extra pressure, but they have behind them two solid performances in an ex factory Toyota.

The battle of the privateers offers some intriguing possibilities. Kobus van Tonder and son in law Freddie Kriel (UniFreight Ford Ranger), and Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) have also picked up solid results, along with Hennie de Klerk/Johann Smalberger (Treasury One BMW X3) who go to Malalane on the back of an impressive performance last time out.

RFS crew, Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren, in a Ford Ranger, will be desperate to put an end to a disappointing run of results while both Regent Racing Nissan Navara crews, Mike Whitehouse and George Myburgh and Terence Marsh and Bafana Bafana soccer icon Neil Tovey, will be keen to build on encouraging results in Mooi River.

Youngsters Jason Venter and Vince van Allemann (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) also have some fences to mend after rolling out of the Toyota Dealer 450. Dakar Rally quad star Sarel van Biljon and Philip Herselman, in another Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux, are in much the same boat after a disappointing start to the season.

The battle in Class S, for vehicles up to four litres with solid rear axle suspension, also offers up intriguing possibilities. Pieter Ruthven/Hansie Rheeder (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) and Deon Venter/Ian Palmer (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) shared wins on the RFS 450 and Toyota Dealer 450.

However, Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) are the only crew in the class with a 100 percent finish record, and that has taken them to the top of the championship. There is little to choose between the top teams and that sets up some interesting racing.

Regent Racing Nissan Navara pair Archie Rutherford and Gerhard Schutte, Piet Kotze/Salomon Victor (Toyota Hilux), Luke Botha/Andre Vermeulen (Force Fuel Toyota Hilux) and former SA champions Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (RFS Toyota Hilux) all add quality to the Class S brigade. Newcomers Etienne Nienaber and Dewaal Ferreira will be out in another Toyota Hilux and are an unknown quantity.

Dewald and Anton Nienaber (Toyota Land Cruiser) have Class D to themselves while Doug Fear/Kurt de Villiers (Brytons Removals Toyota Hilux) and Reagan Austin and Warren Vos (Toyota Hilux) will fight it out in Class E.

Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service park 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.

The 100 kilometre qualifying race to determine start position will start at 11:30 on Friday, May 16 and the race at 8:30 the following day. The race will consist of two laps of approximately 175 kilometres, with a mandatory 15 minute halt after the first lap.

Follow the Donaldson Cross Country Championship action on:
Production Vehicle sparks set to fly on Nkomazi 450.pdf (260kB)

Nkomazi 450 Draft Entry List.pdf (112kB)

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