'Spirit' top 20 head for finals
TOP OF THE TOP 20: Husband-and-wife team Piet and Madeleine Kotze of Olifantshoek (1668 points) are Trophy favourites going into the Namibian rounds.
Two months’ of testing the off-road driving skills of nearly 500 entrants in the elimination rounds for the 2012 Amarok Spirit of Africa Trophy are over - now for the finals.
The top 20 pairs from the sessions in the Kondowe private nature reserve in Limpopo will now contest the finals over four days in southern Namibia from August 8-11.
'LONG, DUSTY PROCESS'
The finalists were chosen from 24 groups of 20 teams who travelled to the reserve 65km from Phalaborwa and close to the western boundary of the Greater Kruger National Park, to compete in the two-day challenge from May 3 to July 2.
The winners will receive a cash prize of R50 000, the runners-up R30 000 and third place is worth R20 000.
The top-scoring finalists were husband-and-wife Piet and Madeleine Kotze from Olifantshoek, winners of the trophy in 2007 and 2009. Reigning champion Christiaan Otto of Bultfontein, winner in 2010 and 2011, was with his wife Chane.
Spirit of Africa Trophy founder and convenor Sarel van der Merwe said: “It’s been a long and dusty process, but we’re happy to have completed the elimination rounds without any major incident."
The legendary former National rally and circuit racing champion, who also made a name for himself in international sports-car racing and won the 1984 Daytona 24 Hour in the US, declared himself satisfied with the results of the first half of the eighth trophy event.
“Kondowe, which means ‘place of the porcupine’, has proved to be a great venue and we’ll be returning there for 2013's elimination rounds,” SuperVan said. “The sandy tracks and dry river beds among the mopani forests of this beautiful community-owned nature reserve have provided the ideal test for the competitors.
“I set out a more technical challenge than in previous years and the contestants, many of whom have been with us before, welcomed this. The standard of driving was very high and we were pleased to welcome a lot of new, younger competitors.
“This was the third year we have used the VW Amarok but the first time for the single-cab two-litre TDI. It has proved to be a more than capable vehicle under very testing conditions and its overall performance impressed everybody. We experienced no major mechanical problems at all. Thanks to VW, the 20 finalists can buy their bakkies after the finals - I expect quite a few will do just that."
A special tented camp was set out in the Limpopo bushveld and, with some permanent structures built by Kondowe, will become a feature of the nature reserve which is owned by the Selwane community and operated by Kondowe.
“It took us a week to set up camp after eight tons of equipment arrived by truck. This included generators, 1.5km of electrical cabling, 150 light-bulb fittings, MTN and Vodacom signal booster masts, a kilometre of promotional bunting and flags," Van der Merwe said.
“Now we have a short, but welcome, break before our core team of six (including wife Danielle and brother-in law Charles Blignault) heads to Namibia for the finals. These will take place on Aussenkehr farm on the northern bank of the Orange River, 25km from the Vioolsdrif border post.”
The finalists are:
Piet and Madeleine Kotze of Olifantshoek (1668 points)
Jaacie and Natasha Visagie of Pretoria (1613 points)
Callie Otto and Neels Labuschagne of Bultfontein (1592 points)
Christaan and Chane Otto of Bultfontein (1588 points)
Jacques Viljoen and Wikus du Plessis of Kempton Park (1564 point)
CJ de Klerk and Fanie Spies of Randburg (1552 points)
Juan Grant and Douw Roode of Pretoria (1536 points)
Alwyn Jordaan and Melanie Barnard of Windhoek (1521 points)
Andre and Yvonne de Villiers of Pretoria (1503 points)
Renier and Renza Boshoff of Modimolle (1462 points)
Juan and Carla Engelbrecht of Kimberley (1450 points)
Carel Otto and Eddie du Plooy of Bultfontein (1442 points)
Lopie Jonck and Toppie Myburgh of Pretoria (1431 points)
Tian and Sanet Theunissen of Musina (1430 points)
Larry Landman and Tjaart van der Walt of Ellisras (1416 points)
Bennie Kotze and Bennie Maritz of Olifantshoek (1409 points)
Salmon and Anton Victor of Upington (1399 points)
De Wet Loubser and Louwrens Vermaak of White River (1387 points)
Leon and Lienkie Labuschagne of Tzaneen (1385 points)
Nico van Staden and Soon Bezuidenhout of Pretoria (1372 points)