Toyota Dealer 400: ABSA Off Road Champs ROUND TWO
– BMW enters another X3 – Lydenburg route improved – 60 vehicles starting at Prologues – Over 20 SP Class entries
This weekend will see the second round of the ABSA Off Road Championship, and it promises to be a good one. Various mishaps and bad luck struck leading teams at the opening round, all of which will be looking to gain some championship points in Lydenburg.
Round one results:
- Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst took a first for Ford in their Ranger after a near flawless run.
“We had a dream start to the season securing a 1-2 finish for Ford at the RFS Magalies 400. We’ll be going all out to ensure we repeat the feat at this month’s event although it will be no easy task,” commented Visser. “The competition in the SP class is very close and it’s a long season so it’s important to aim for a strong point haul while still keeping sight of the end result – the championship.”
- Lance Woolridge, who debuted at Lydenburg last year, came second with his navigator, Ward Huxtable – also in a Ford Ranger.
- Terrence Marsh and George Smallberger placed third in their Nissan Navara
- Young Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren were on their heels in their BMW X3, placing fourth. Duncan Vos and Robert Howie, plagued by punctures and poor performance at the prologues, but still managed fifth. Right behind them were Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege in their RFS BMW X3.
Last year’s Lydenburg event proved trying, thanks to heavy rainfall in the area resulting in an unforgiving route. Only eight production vehicles made it to the finish.
The Donaldson Prologue, which takes place on Friday the 13th, is a 60 kilometre route starting from Lydenburg Toyota at 12.30 PM and ending on the Roossenekal road about 30 kilometres from Lydenburg. Sixty cars will be under starter orders for Friday.
Then, Saturday’s route spans 175 km, with a brand new mountainous section that should prove to be a stern test of the country’s top off road racers. The race starts at 8:30 AM and finishes at Lydenburg Toyota, situated on the road from Lydenburg to the Long Tom Pass. This is also the designated service point, and acts as headquarters for the Toyota Dealer 400
The teams: Toyota Dealer 400
SP CLASS: Castrol Toyota Hilux
The Castrol Toyota Hilux team will feel they under achieved on the RFS Magalies event and Duncan Vos/Rob Howie, freshly installed as top 10 finishers on the Dakar Rally, and Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin will want to steady the ship. The fact that this is a Toyota backed event adds a little pressure on team principal Glyn Hall and his squad.
Toyota’s performance at the opening race was less than fantastic, and they’ll be hard pressed to perform.
“We’ve completed a significant amount of testing since the last event and have made quite a few changes to bring the two bakkies back to a set-up that is better suited to South African conditions after their success in South America in the Dakar Rally,” said Toyota team principal Glyn Hall.
SP CLASS: New entry – BMW X3
A new entry, by Willem and Dana Vos (father and son team), sees a third BMW X3 enter the Championship. For the two existing BMWs, piloted by Hannes Visser and Christiaan du Plooy (Jnr), it will be business as usual. Visser and navigator Ter Stege were plagued by punctures at Magalies, and will certainly be looking to regain some of last season’s momentum.
SP CLASS Forecast
The Castrol Toyotas are probably the biggest threat facing the Ford entries, but there are other potential dangers. Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (International Truck Toyota Hilux), Pikkie Labuschagne/Rikus Erasmus (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) and Gary Bertholdt, now partnered by Ralph Pitchford in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux, will want to put first event woes behind them.
Then there are the two Regent Racing Nissan Navara entries spearheaded by Terence Marsh and George Smalberger who got their season off to a solid start with a podium finish on the RFS Magalies event. Mike Whitehouse and Matthew Carlson scored a maiden national win on the Toyota Dealer 400 last year, but a reshuffle brings Archie Rutherford into the squad.
The Nissan challenge will be bolstered by Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr, who missed the opening event, in the Barden Tyre Services Nissan Navara. The pair were championship challengers throughout last season, and are listed among those crews who fancy their chances of an upset.
A trio of Ford privateers will also be happy to see out the distance. Louw de Bruyn/Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger), Kobus van Tonder/Freddie Kriel (Uni Freight Ford Ranger) and Graham and Trevor Leith, in the Transcor Ford Ranger, will be more than satisfied with top 10 finishes.
Toyota privateers Malcolm Kock/Johann Burger (Kock and Sons Hilux) and Hugo de Bruyn and Henri Hugo (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) also fall into the capable of upsets category. Both crews saw out the distance on the RFS Magalies but this time around will be hoping for runs free of the niggles that plagued them on the opening event.
- Former Toyota Desert Race winner Rob Wark returns with former motorcycle racer Chris Davies in an Aceco (previously campaigned by Motorsport SA Off Road Car Racing Commission president Richard Schilling, and Davies
- Botswana crew debut: Mogrey Mabille and Lepsy Mosope – in Zarco Lite
NEW CLASS D ENTRIES
- Jaco Visser and Werner Weiss will be out in Class D in the ex-Vos Toyota that started life as an SP Class entry,
- Johan Griffioen and Willem Marais enter in their Force Fuel Toyota Hilux
NEW CLASS E ENTRIES
– Rowan Lamb and Lyle Parker in a Ford Ranger
“It is nice to see new faces coming into the sport, particularly when they come through the ranks of the Northern Region and KwaZulu-Natal regional championships,” said Schilling. “That shows us that the sport is healthy at grass roots level, and the commission will continue to place a great deal of emphasis on further developing these championships.”