STEADY ON! KZN-based Lance Trethewey and Geoff Minnitt finished second in Harrismith. Image: Keino Davie
DURBAN, kwaZulu-Natal - Variety will be the name of the game, organisers say, when competitors take on the Sugarbelt 450, Round 2 of the 2015 SA Cross-Country championship, in kwaZulu-Natal over May 8/9.
Crews will, they add, feel at home with a race format that has characterised the series in recent seasons. With the exception of the Botswana 1000 Desert Race each previous event was run over about 450km.
The 2015 season will see races split into three categories – sprint, endurance and the Botswana classic which falls under the marathon category.
The recent Endurance event around Harrismith was run over just short of 700km. The switch to a sprint format will provide crews with a new set of tactical options. The Sugarbelt, once again based at the Beaumont Eston Farmers' Club on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg, has down the years provided crews with a harsh mixture of sugar cane, plantation and open veld sections.
The event will be made up of a 100km qualifying race to determine start positions and two loops of about 160km. There will be a compulsory 20-minute service halt at the end of the first loop. Route director Adri Roets told Wheels24: “It is a typical Sugarbelt 450 route. The variety of terrain will keep crews on their toes - maximum concentration will be needed."
From the start at the Farmers' Club crews will head north to cross the Stoney Ridge road that heads towards Tala Valley. The route crosses the Ingomankulu road towards Camperdown then swings west towards Richmond.
Competitors will travel parallel to the tar road and railway line towards Richmond then turn towards Hopewell. This section of the route is open veld and leads to a climb towards timber plantations at Mount Desire.
More timber plantation sections will be followed by a swing south towards the Mgwahumbe Nature Reserve and there are several river crossings on this section.
The route will then head back towards Eston and Mid- Illovo with a variety of cane fields, plantations and open veld on the way to the finish back at the Farmers' Club.
The route will, as always, be spectator friendly with many spectator points, each easily accessible on good roads from the start/finish and with free access.
Event HQ, the start/finish and the service point will all be at the Farmers' Club - again, with free access.
The qualifying race will start at 11:30 on May 8 and the race at 08:30 the following day. Spectator guides are available from HQ.
TOUGH TERRAIN: Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable of Ford Racing show what they can do. Image: Keino Davie