BATTLE ON AHEAD: Kallie and Quintin Sullwald in a BAT are favourite to win Round 6 of the South African Cross-Country championship in Vryburg on September 12/13. Image: Keino@snaps
VRYBURG, North West - The Special Vehicle championship has turned into something of a lottery and someone needs to pull a winning ticket out of the hat at the Vryburg 450, Round 6 of the South African Cross-Country championship, in North West province on September 12/13.
Current championship leaders Quintin and Kallie Sullwald, in the BAT Venom, take to the race a precious 29-point lead over Gerhard du Plessis and his teenage son Hardus in a Jimco of advancing vintage. Behind the du Plessis pairing only 14 points separate the next four drivers in the overall and premier Class A championship standings.
However, the championship is in a state of flux and it is a measure of the delicate state of affairs that for some drivers in the top six it is a case of championship survival or come back and try again in 2015. Reigning champions Evan Hutchison/Danie Stassen, currently fifth in the standings, are a perfect example.
Hutchison/Stassen have retired from three of the five events so far, and have not scored a win this season. A win in Vryburg and a little help from other results would, however, give them a glimmer of hope of back-to-back championships.
Just nine points separate Gerhard and Hardus du Plessis from Arthur Barnes/Anthony Usher (BAT), who missed the Force Fuel 450 and will also be sitting out this event, and Laurence du Plessis/Gielie le Roux in a Zarco.
A good haul of points will certainly be on the agenda for the Force Fuel 450 winners and the Vryburg outing, with cross-country racing returning to its roots, could set up a tremendous climax to the season over the two remaining events.
For the Sullwalds, however, the name of the game is consolidation. A win for the pair would be a bonus, but they are far too experienced to flirt with danger. The Sullwalds will also be aware that they have two non-finishes to their name and a third one – with crews having to drop an event at the end of the season, could be costly. They and the other top runners will also have to contend with a number of crews who could be described as dangerous floaters.
Chief among them will be Colin Matthews/Rodney Burke in the CR3. A puncture hit their hopes of a second successive Sun City win, but the pair have the pace to put a few Class A noses out of joint.
Among those that could cause surprises are Brett Parker/VZ van Zyl (Jimco), on a high after a podium on the Force Fuel 450, the Republic of Congo brothers Eduardo and Riccardo Argazzi, in a BAT, and Lance Trethewey/Geoff Minnitt.
If they see out the full race distance Matthews and Burke are likely to run away with the Class P honours. The pair are in third place in the championship but 39 points behind Class P crew James Watson/John Thompson in a BAT, and have some leeway to make up.
A disappointing Force Fuel 450 outing saw Watson and Thompson fall nine points behind reigning champions John Thomson/Maurice Zermatten and their battle could also have a telling affect on the final championship outcome.
There is also plenty other opposition in the form of Sean Reitz/Michael Abramson, Nic Goslar/Andrew Massey, Keith Makenete/Moalosi Borotho, Rob Wark/Ashley Thorn and the evergreen Coetzee Labuscagne and daughter Sandra in a Zarco.
Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service park will all be located at the Vryburg Motor Club. Entrance is free.
The qualifying event to determine grid positions will start at 11.30am on Friday, September 12, racing from 8am on September 13 2014.