The Carnival City Casino 400 on November 19 and 20 promises to be a nail biting finale to the Absa Off Road Championship with the Overall Production Vehicle, Class B, Class D, Class E, Class S and Class T titles still to be decided.
Atang Makgekgenene and Buks Carolin wrapped up the Overall and Class A Special Vehicle Drivers and Co-drivers Championships when they powered their Total Jimco to a 15 minute win over arch rivals Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr (Century Property Developments BAT) while former Class E champions Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn from Vryburg clinched the Class E title for the second time in their Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i on the Toyota Dealer 400 in Lydenburg recently.
The fight for the Overall and Class T Production Vehicle Championship titles will be between three crews, all of who have won the championship in the past. Victory on the Toyota Dealer 400 saw Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan (Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody) edge two points ahead of teammates and reigning Production Vehicle champions Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke. Grobler and Leeke have to finish ahead of de Villiers and Jordaan if they hope to chalk up back-to-back championship wins while former Production Vehicle champions Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer, who are third in the Team Ford Racing Ranger, will have to rely on the Nissan’s retiring and themselves scoring their second successive win on the Carnival City Casino 400 if they hope to win the championship.
The battle in Class D is as closely fought with the main protagonists, Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford and Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin, separated by 16-points. Cronje and Birkin finished fourth overall and first in class in the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i while Cox and Pitchford struggled to finish 14th overall and sixth in class in the Arnold Chatz Cars Nissan Hardbody on the Toyota Dealer 400, which put paid to any chance of Cox challenging for the overall championship crown. The Castrol Toyota crew has to finish at least two positions ahead of their Nissan rivals if they hope to add the Class D title to the Class E championship they won last year.
The ever-consistent Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler have already secured third place in the Master Craft / Playstation Pajero.
While Hugo de Bruyn and his father, Jaap, have wrapped up the Class E championship in their Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i the battle for the runner-up position will be fought between Team Ford Racing’s development team, Baphumze Rubuluza and Khulile Vakalisa who have a one point lead over Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton in the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i. The Ford crew failed to finish the Toyota Dealer 400 while rookie Cronje scored a maiden class win that certainly helped his cause.
Andre Botha and Beans Heydenrych (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chevy) have been the lone entry in Class F for unlimited two-wheel drive production vehicles and are almost certain to win the title unless someone from the Northern Regions Off Road Championship enters the Carnival City Casino 400 and upsets the applecart.
On the Special Vehicle front Makgekgenene romped to his fourth win of the season and, along with co-driver Carolin, secured the overall and Class A title in the Total Jimco. It is a maiden championship win for the amiable Motswana and Carolin’s second as a co-driver, his previous win being with Shameer Variawa in 2001.
The Toyota Dealer 400 proved to be a tough challenge and only eight Special Vehicle crews managed to make it to the finish. Casualties included championship contenders John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco and Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain in the Class B JRE.
Four crews – Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr (Century Property Developments BAT), Clint Gibson and Mike Brown (Praesidium Financial Services BAT), Taylor and de Chalain and Weir-Smith and Minnitt – will fight it out for second and third place in the Overall Special Vehicle Drivers and Co-drivers Championship. Whatever their strategies may be they will also have to contend with the likes of Mafikeng 500 winners Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau in the Advansoft BAT, Brandon Harcus in the single seater BAT, Shameer Variawa and Nadeem Dudhia in the Oven Fresh Biscuits Porter and Bevan Bertholdt and Nick Selamolela in the Itech BAT who are not in the championship hunt but intent on winning overall, which could cause a major reshuffle of the points table.
The Class B championship battle has been an interesting one to say the least.
Adri Roets and Deon de Kock in the Global DAD WPP led the championship until midway into the season and were then overtaken by Taylor and de Chalain. Reigning Special Vehicle Drivers Champion Giel Nel had a slow start but consistent performances in the latter part of the season and a class win on the Toyota Dealer 400 have seen him move to within four points of Taylor. As matters stand the drivers title will be awarded to either Taylor or Nel with the co-drivers title going to either de Chalain or de Kock.
Class S has not enjoyed much support this season. Nevertheless, the likely winners are Zane Noble and Richard Hope in the Abe’s Furniture Raceco with Nardus Alberts and Collin Hunter in the Wrapsa Raceco and Archie Rutherford and Evan Hutchinson in the Ruthcon Raceco fighting it out for the remaining podium positions.
The Carnival City Casino 400 gets underway with a Prologue, which will comprise three laps of the 6km stadium course at the casino complex, at 12h00 on Friday, November 19 with the main event, which consists of three laps of a 135km route, starting at 08h00 on Saturday, November 20.