Crews fighting fit for Mega World
IN CONTENTION: Evan Hutchinson and Danie Stassen will be competing in the 4X4 Mega World 400 event at Carnival City this weekend.
The 4x4 Mega World 400, round six of the 2011Absa Off-Road championship, will be at Carnival City over September 9/10 in what is expected to be a mighty scrap for points.
With three races to go, only 17.5 points separate the first seven crews at the top of the points and there is the very real prospect of matters going all the way to the wire at the final event in November.
Toyota Hilux crew Duncan Vos and Rob Howie a leading the championship by a tenuous 5.5 points from Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr in a Nissan Navara.
The Navara pair has a 4.5-point lead over Terence Marsh and George Smalberger in another Navara and behind them just 3.5 points separate Mike Whitehouse/Mathew Carlson (Nissan Navara), reigning champions Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst (Ford Ranger), Anthony Taylor/Chris Birkin (Toyota Hilux) and Malcolm Kock and Johann Burger (Toyota Hilux).
The situation is just as tight in Class SP where variances in overall and class scoring have Marsh and Smalberger leading from Vos/Howie and Rundle/Mohr with the three crews separated by 1.5 points. Whitehouse/Carlson, Taylor/Birkin and Kock/Burger are also in the hunt and the 4x4 Mega World race offers the top crews the opportunity to break the shackles.
The top seven are all candidates for race wins but, with around 20 SP Class entries, the competition has never been tougher. The likes of former champions Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege (BMW X3), Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen (Toyota Hilux) and veteran crews Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (Toyota Hilux) and Hugo/Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) also come into the reckoning.
The previous event, the Sun City 400, also produced a couple of encouraging performances from crews returning to action after long lay-offs. Reigning Class E champions Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus were hugely impressive in a maiden outing in a Toyota Hilux; Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout showed plenty of pace in a Hilux.
Other crews such as Christiaan du Plooy/Henk Janse van Vuuren (BMW X3), Kobus van Tonder/Freddie Kriel (Ford Ranger) and Willem and Dana Vos (Toyota Hilux) could ruffle a few feathers. Recent events, however, indicate that the two Toyota factory crews are peaking at just the right time and will be hard to beat.
On the Class D front, current championship leaders Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen (Land Rover) will go to Carnival City with a 30-point lead over Louis Weichelt and Francis Boersma (Land Cruiser) and a 50-point advantage over reigning champions Deon Venter and Ian Palmer in a Hilux. The Oosthuizens acknowledge they cannot match Weichelt/Boersma and Venter/Palmer for pace but a 100 percent finish record again underlines the importance in winning championships.
The Class E championship is also a close affair with 3.5 points separating the first three crews. The dogged Piet Kotze and Salomon Victor (Hilux) lead Diederik Hattingh/Kristo Bosman (Hilux) by three points with upstart teenagers Jason Venter and Vincent van Alleman (Hilux) only a half-oint further back.
After the opening event of the season from which there were no Class E finishers, four crews have won subsequent events and the category is wide open.
Meanwhile crews who still think they have an outside hope of winning the Special Vehicle championship will have their last chance to prove it at the 400.
Two Sullwald crews dominate the Special Vehicle overall championship and nothing but a win is going to be good enough if teams on the fringe want to take the championship all the way to the final round in November. Reigning champions Kallie and Quintin Sullwald (BAT) will start at Carnival City with an 11.5-point lead over Hermann and Wichard Sullwald (SVR), who won this race last year.
Former champion Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen (4x4) trail the second Sullwald crew by 18.5 points with Class P leaders Archie Rutherford and Mike Lawrenson (Jimco) a further 9.5 points back. Behind them Boela Botes/Johann Pretorius (BAT), Richard Fuller/Geoff Minnitt (BAT) and Nick and Ryan Harper (Motorite BAT) are all locked together and trail the leaders by more than 40 points.
Of those doing the chasing, Hutchison and Stassen are the best-placed to apply pressure on the two Sullwald crews. Consistency has not been strong for many of the Class A and Class P crews and it is here that the Sullwalds have asserted their authority.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY
Apart from those heading the championship, there is no shortage of potential race winners. Reigning Class P champions Johan van Staden and James Rossouw (BAT) will feel they have not done themselves justice since moving into Class A and could use this event to put the record straight.
Two Class P crews – Colin Matthews/Alan Smith (CR2) and rookie Richard Fuller/Geoff Minnitt in a BAT – have won races this season. After a win on the first event of the season Matthews/Smith have posted four successive non finishes, but the Class P brigade will be looking at another upset.
There is no doubt Matthews/Smith will mount an all-out attack. Rutherford and Lawrenson, on the other hand, might think it more important to consolidate the Class P lead and take a more cautious approach.
The Class B championship is also a close affair with 4.5 points separating the top four drivers. Keith and Andrew Makenete (Zarco) will renew their rivalry with Coetzee and Sandra Labuschagne (Zarco) with veteran Wolf-Peter Pfumfei there to keep them honest in the WPP single-seater.
Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service point will all be at the Carnival City Casino complex. Public access to these areas is free, as is entry to spectator areas, all of which are within easy reach of Carnival City.
The prologue to determine start positions will start at 12.30pm on Friday, September 9, and the race at 8.30am on Saturday, September 10.