The co-drivers overall championship is still up for grabs as are the Class D and Class E championships. And it is Class D, where there is a huge dogfight, which is going to hold much of the interest.
And there are other little cameos which make sure the end of season race is not lacking in interest. Ford and Toyota will be determined to put an end to a Nissan winning streak that takes in seven successive events this season, with Toyota hoping to emulate last year’s win by Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton.
The win by Vos and Pitchford, in the factory Nissan Navara, on the recent Toyota Dealer 400 wrapped up the overall drivers title for Vos. But Pitchford has missed two races this season through overseas commitments, and trails team-mate Francois Jordaan by just seven points in the co-driver championship.
Vos/ Pitchford and, on occasion, Vos and deputy co-driver Richard Leeke, have had some interesting confrontations down the year’s with Jordaan and veteran Hannes Grobler. Another clash between the two factory Nissan teams with a title at stake is an enticing prospect.
Ivar Tollefsen, in a third works Navara, again partnered by VZ van Zyl in the absence of the injured Quin Evans, has the inside track on third place in the driver championship. Behind him there is an interesting situation with the two Ford Ranger factory crews, former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, and Brandon Harcus and Juan Mohr, locked in a tie.
Newcomers Mark Ferguson and Craig West (Special Steel Ford Ranger) and the consistent Kobus van Tonder/Riaan Guelpa (Unifreight Ford Ranger) supplement the Ford challenge. Ford would love to win their event and, like Toyota, put an end to Nissan’s domination.
For their part Toyota have twice come close to winning this season with Castrol Toyota Hilux pair Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin, literally, tossing away wins on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race and Amathole 500. They will be looking to end on a high note and team-mates Bertholdt and Houghton will be looking for a history repeat to salvage their season.
Back-up will come from Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, in a third Castrol Toyota Hilux, and Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux. Both teams have performed consistently but would be surprise winners.
It is Class D, however, that will hold most of the interest. Mathematically there are seven crews who could win the title, although some of the permutations are highly unlikely.
The water is also muddied a little by Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody. Gerber missed the Sun City 400 which Labuscagne finished on his own, and that puts him third in the drivers championship with Gerber seventh in the co-driver stakes.
Ahead of Labuscagne are Cliff and Louis Weichelt (Bosal Toyota Hilux D4D) who are five points ahead of Henri and Maurice Zermatten in the Ryobi Nissan Hardbody. Impressive Toyota Hilux rookies Ramon Bezuidenhout and Stefan Lock are fourth and third respectively in the driver and co-driver championships, with Jurie du Plessis/Andre du Plessis (BB Auto Nissan Hardbody) and Harold and Tiaan Coen (Land Rover) also in the championship frame.
Only 11 points separate the first five crews and that sets the scene for a dogfight. The Zermatten’s have won three times this season while consistency has kept the other teams in the picture, and anything could happen at Carnival City.
Class E also has a back to front picture when it comes to the driver and co-driver titles. Jack Peckham , in the factory Ford Ranger, leads the driver stakes from Jannie Visser in the Castrol Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux with 10 points the difference.
But on the co-driver side it is Joks le Roux, who sits alongside Visser, who leads the title race, also by 10 points, from Lucio Santoro who partners Peckham. That situation is the result of Santoro falling ill during the Amathole 500 with Peckham finishing the event on his own.
Mathematics also keeps Sharon Barkhuizen, who partners husband George in the Ruwacon Toyota Hilux, in the hunt for the co-drivers title. She is only five points behind Santoro and the battle between the three crews will be another highlight of the event.
Other crews, however, could add to the drama. Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie (Castrol Toyota Hilux) and Thomas Rundle/Brian Roberts (Barden Tyres Services Nissan Hardbody) will be looking to rescue disappointing seasons and brothers Mark and Stuart Moffatt (Bosal Toyota Hilux) are also potential winners.