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Sparks will fly in Malelane Nkomazi 450

2014-05-12 11:44

BATTLE ON: Tough duels are set for the upcoming Nkomazi 450 event in Malalane, Mpumalanga in the Special Production Vehicle class on May 16/17. Image provided by: Charmaine Fortune


Location: Malalane, Mpumalanga 25 29S 31 31E
Directions: East on the N4 highway from Nelspruit (147km)
Race HQ, start/finish, service park: Riverview Preparatory School
Weather: May 16 sunny 12/30. May 17 sunny 14/29
2013 result: 1 Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst (Ford Ranger), 2 Gary Bertholdt/Siegfried Rousseau (Toyota Hilux), 3 Duncan Vos/Rob Howie (Hilux).

The first two events of the SA National Cross-Country championship produced tit-for-tat situations so sparks will fly in the Production Vehicle category at Round 3 of the series, the Nkomazi 450 in Malalane over May 16/17.

The opening round of the championship, the RFS 450, saw the Toyota Hilux combinations of Anthony Taylor/Dennis Murphy and Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howie score a 1-2 with Ford Racing pair Manfred Schroder and Japie Badenhorst third but the roles were reversed in a dramatic fashion on the Toyota Dealer 450 where Schroder/Badenhorst led home team mates Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau, with Johan and Werner Horn third in a Hilux.


Schroder and Badenhorst has an 11-point lead over Poulter and Howie in the Production Vehicle overall standings. Reigning champions Taylor and Murphy are four points behind, with Bertholdt/Rousseau and the Horn brothers locked together lagging with six points.

Chris Visser and Badenhorst won 2013’s race, with Bertholdt and Rousseau second in a Hilux, and the 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 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 battle of the privateers offers some intriguing possibilities. Kobus van Tonder and son-in-law Freddie Kriel (Ford Ranger), and Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Toyota Hilux) have also picked up solid results, along with Hennie de Klerk/Johann Smalberger (BMW X3) who go to Malalane on the back of an impressive performance last time out.


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

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 (Hilux) and Deon Venter/Ian Palmer (Hilux) shared wins on the RFS 450 and Toyota Dealer 450.

However, Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling (Ford Ranger) are the only crew in the class with a 100% 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.

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

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

The 100km qualifying race to determine start position will start at 11.30am on Friday May 16 and the race at 8.30am the following day. The race will consist of two laps of about 175km with a mandatory 15-minute stop after the first lap.

Read more on:    toyota  |  ford  |  bmw  |  mpumalanga  |  rally  |  motorsport

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