Exciting Finale To Production Vehicle Championships
information supplied by: Cross Country Commission (Media)
23 November 2014
Exciting Finale To Production Vehicle Championships
They say the best is often kept for last, and that could well apply to the Production Vehicle category at the Atlas Copco Gold 450, the final event on this year’s Donaldson Cross Country Championship.
The overall championship along with the title races in Class T, Class S and the fledgling Class G, or Side by Side category, will all be settled one way or another at an event which will again have its headquarters at the Kloof Country Club in Glenharvie. Last year it was the Special Vehicle championship that went all the way to the wire, with the roles reversed this time around.
There are two horse races in the overall, Class T and Class G categories with three drivers and two co-drivers fighting for top honours in Class S. That situation developed when Deon Venter (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) swapped co-drivers in midstream with Jaco van Aardt replacing Ian Palmer.
The overall and Class T – for cars over four litres with independent rear suspension – title chases are a straight fight between reigning champions Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy, in the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux, and Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn in the Malalane Toyota Hilux. The champions lead the Horns by 14 points in the overall championship, and fourth place will be enough to give them back to back titles.
The situation in Class T is slightly different, and here the factory crew need third or better to take the title. In an unlikely scenario Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie in the second Castrol Toyota Hilux, if they win and Taylor/Murphy finish out of the points, could tie their team-mates.
Taylor/Murphy would take the title on a count out, but the danger over the race weekend for the Castrol Toyota crew is the dreaded ‘did not finish’ entry in the final scoring. Taylor and Murphy have two non finishes this season, and another lapse would open the door for the Horn brothers who have performed wonders in their first season in the premier category.
While Taylor/Murphy has a tactically open ended race, the Horns will be forced to go for broke. But, as usual, there are other teams that could influence the final outcome of the overall and Class T championships.
Chief among them are Poulter/Howie and the Atlas Copco Ford Ranger teams of Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau, and former South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst. All three teams will do Taylor/Murphy a huge favour if they finish ahead of the Horns, who will have to do away with the conservative approach that has been a hallmark of their season.
Bertholdt and Rousseau are assured of at least fourth place in the overall championship, but a good result on their own event would provide a huge boost in confidence and a perfect finish to a good season. Visser and Badenhorst were in contention to win last year’s championship, but neck surgery this season kept Visser out of action until the Vryburg 400.
Visser, reunited with Badenhorst, bounced back in style with a win in North West province and the pair will be hungry for more of the same. A little further incentive for the pair is that Badenhorst leads Howie by just two points in the co-driver championship.
Apart from the four factory crews and the Horns no one else has emerged, during the course of the season, as a major threat. Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Atlas Coco Nissan Navara) are preparing for the Dakar, Mike Whitehouse (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) is waiting for a new car, Christiaan du Plooy/Henk Janse van Vuuren (RFS Ford Ranger) have had a disappointing season and, after a bright start, Kobus van Tonder/Freddie Kriel (UniFreight Ford Ranger) have faded away.
A final little cameo that will hold some interest, however, will centre around a youth versus experience scenario in the driver championships. Youngster Jason Venter, partnered by Vince van Alleman in the 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux, leads Terence Marsh, in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara, by three points with another Imperial Auto Celebrity Challenge co-driver set to partner Marsh.
Class S, for cars up to four litres with solid axle rear suspension, is delicately poised with three drivers and two-co-drivers involved in the title chases. In a tight situation Free State crew Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) have a slender one point lead over former South African champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in the Ruwacon Toyota Hilux.
And, just to make it more interesting Deon Venter is another nine points adrift in the driver championship. The cancellation of the Thaba Nchu event provided some relief for de Bruin and Greyling, but the situation is one where the slightest mishap could see the status quo swing to and fro.
Pieter Ruthven/Hansie Rheeder (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) have a win to their credit this season while there has been a shake-up in the Regent Racing squad. Archie Rutherford will be partnered by the experienced Mathew Carlson, who will be having his first outing of the season, while Gerhard Schutte teams up with Sean Reitz who switches from the Special Vehicle category.
The Class G title races have also developed into two horse races. A strong run of results in the latter half of the season has taken Gareth Woolridge (Polaris) to the top of the driver standings where he leads Brian Capper (Regent Racing Polaris) by 18 points.
Where the co-drivers are concerned the boot is on the other foot. Jaco Swart, who navigates for Capper, has a five point lead over Boyd Dreyer who sits alongside Woolridge.
There is, however, a twist to the situation. Swart will miss the Atlas Copco outing, and is replaced by Michael Abramson who has spent most the season sitting alongside Jurgen Schroder in a Class T vehicle.
Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service park will again be located at the Kloof Country Club in Glenharvie. Public access to these areas and spectator points along the route will be free of charge.
The qualifying race to determine grid positions will start at 11:30 on Friday, November 28, and the race at 08:30 the following day.
Follow the Donaldson Cross Country Championship action on:
Exciting Finale To Production Vehicle Championships.pdf (241kB)