With matters in the various categories tightly contested the Mpumalanga event, based in Lydenburg, could make or break a couple of title challenges. It is going to be white knuckle time for those involved in title fights, while for those who feel they have under achieved the weekend provides a late opportunity to make a statement.
Going into the Mpumalanga event the drivers championship appears to have developed into a two-horse race between Motorite BAT team-mates Alfie Cox and Brandon Harcus. Motorcycle legend Cox has a 15 points cushion over Harcus, the only two-time winner so far this season, with reigning champion Terence March (Nashua Mobile BAT) a further 18 points in arrears.
On the co-drivers front Hennie Ter Stege, who partners Cox, has a healthy 33 point lead over reigning champion Mike Whitehouse, who sits alongside Marsh. Given the vagaries of motor racing, points positions fluctuate, and no one knows this better than competitors, with the Toyota Dealer 400 an opportunity to either consolidate or make a late run at those on top of the points pile.
It is a given that Cox/Ter Stege and Harcus and Marcelle Trethewey, who won the recent Sun City 400, will again be among the frontrunners. They will be joined by team-mates Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann and a string of crews who are all capable of winning.
Gary Bertholdt and Henry Kirstein, in the Atlas Copco Porter, have the raw pace to dominate while Nardus Alberts/Collin Hunter (Wrapsa BAT), former champion Shameer Variawa and VZ van Zyl (Total Porter), Clint Gibson/Mike Brown (Absolute BAT) and Toyota Desert Race winners Nick and Ryan Harper (Kartek BAT) could all upset the applecart. Rob and Gareth Wark will be looking for better luck second time out in the recently purchased Superpave BAT singleseater, and crews like Lesotho pair John Moore and Ashley Thorn (Leo/Connix Internet Koloi) are capable of producing something unexpected out of the hat.
Class A these days is hugely competitive and picking winners is a risky business. The three Motorite BAT cars have, however, been up front throughout the season and will again be major challengers, as will Bertholdt and Kirstein.
On the Class B front a hugely interesting scenario – and one that looks like going to the wire – has developed. Only 10 points separate the first three crews and the Mpumalanga outing carries high stakes for all three.
Jan and Hendrik Kraaij (Keymax BAT), in the first season of off road racing, go to Lydenburg with a five point advantage over veterans Ernest Corbett/Warwick Goosen (Century Property Development BAT) who have won twice in a row. Corbett/Goosen, in turn, lead Bes Bezuidenhout/Johan de Bruyn (Adenco BAT) by five points and all three crews will be living on their nervous. Corbett and Goosen are the form team, while the Kraaij and Bezuidenhout/de Bruyn combinations have performed consistently throughout the season. Once again, however, there is no shortage of challengers.
Rudi and Pierre van Graan (Technochair Zarco) have won this season, the Bosal crews of veteran Giel Nel/Johann Smalberger (LUK Bosal Truggy) and Marius van Vuuren/Johan Coetzee (Bosal Zarco) are consistent finishers and Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) and Swazi pair John Thompson and Clinton McNamara are capable of producing wins.
One can also not dismiss the claims of the likes of Alistair and Hamish Stubbs (Viper) and the season’s biggest under achievers in former champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain in the JRE. But, with a great deal at stake and so many potential winners, the Class B battle in Mpumalanga is going to be hugely interesting.
Class S sees Nic Goslar (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco) suddenly enjoying a comfort zone in the drivers championship, with reigning champion Chris Davies now under pressure in the co-drivers championship. Two wins in a row have lifted Goslar 29 points clear of reigning champion Richard Schilling (Plastotech Aceco) who needs to pull something out of the bag.
Schilling and Davies, who now leads Richard Carolin by just seven points, were excluded from the results of the Sun City 400 and will want to bounce back. Goslar and Carolin will be equally determined and a good battle looks to be on the cards.
Archie Rutherford and Craig Doubtfire (Nashua Mobile Raceco) were also among the Sun City 400 exclusion casualties, and they will also want to get matters back on an even keel. In a straight fight one would tend to go with the experience of Schilling/Davies, but they have to throw caution to the winds and in those circumstances anything could happen.
With so much at stake the Toyota Dealer 400 has the makings of turning into the most exciting event of the season. For some crews it could turn out to be the most important race of the year.