With two events to go in the Absa Off Road Championship there is no clear-cut favourite to win the overall Production Vehicle or Special Vehicle championships.
There are four likely winners of the coveted Production Vehicle championship with reigning champions Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke in the Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody holding on to a slender eight-point lead over teammates and former champions Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan. Grobler and Leeke have three wins to their credit while de Villiers and Jordaan have two under their belts.
Another Nissan crew, Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford in the Arnold Chatz Cars Nissan Hardbody, has five successive Class D wins and 165-points to its credit and could well clinch the championship if either of the factory crews falter on the Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga or the Carnival City Casino 400 in Gauteng in October and November respectively.
Team Ford Racing’s Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer haven’t won a race this season but their consistency has paid off and they are fourth and only trail the leaders by 30-points in the overall and Class T standings.
With the Class T field down to three cars it isn’t unlikely that a Class D crew could spring a surprise and snatch the title away from one of the big guns. Cox and Pitchford cannot afford to relax because reigning Class E champions Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin are still in with a chance of picking up a second class championship if the Nissan crew fails to finish the last two events. Cronje and Birkin’s four cylinder Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i has been outgunned by the more powerful V6 powered Nissan and Ford vehicles and they will have to depend on reliability if they hope to win back-to-back championships.
Sixth placed Hugo de Bruyn and his father, Jaap, have clinched the Class E championship in their Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i and with second placed Neels van der Walt out of action for the foreseeable future due to back injuries sustained when he and wife Zelda crashed their Nissan Hardbody into a donga during the Mafikeng 500 the battle for second and third place will be between four Class E crews.
Team Ford’s development crew, Baphumze Rubuluza and Khulile Vakalisa, Hein Moolman and Cecil Fincham (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux KZ-TE), rookie Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton (Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i) and brothers Jurie and Andre du Plessis (BB Auto Nissan Hardbody) are separated by 40-points and it’s anyone’s guess who will pocket the runner-up spot.
The battle for third place in Class D will be between seventh placed Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler who have finished every race in their trusty Master Craft / Playstation Pajero and former rally driver Paolo Piazza-Musso and Rod Hering who are 11th overall and fourth in the Class D Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i.
The Class F title will no doubt go to Andre Botha and beans Heydenrych in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chevy unless someone comes along and wins the class on the remaining two events.
Despite having an 85-point lead over his closest rivals and having won the Class A championship with two events to go Atang Makgekgenene (Total Jimco) is under threat from two Class A crews who have each won one event this season and could just steal his thunder in the overall Special Vehicle Driver’s Championship.
Finishing each of the remaining events will be top priority for the winner of the Nissan Dealer 400, the Toyota 1000 Desert Race and the Sun City 400 if he and co-driver Buks Carolin hope to win the Special Vehicle and Class A championships.
However, Mark Corbett (Century Property Developments BAT) and John Weir-Smith (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco) have each won an event this season and are within reach of the championship crown if either crew wins the last two events and the championship leader fails to finish.
Former Class B champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain (JRE) are second on the overall championship log and stand an outside chance of winning the overall championship if neither of the top three contenders finish and they finish on the podium on the next two events. However, ninth placed Adri Roets and Deon de Kock (Global DAD WPP) who led the Class B championship until the midway point in the season and reigning Special Vehicle Driver’s Champion Giel Nel (LUK/Ate Truggy) could well emerge the winners if the leaders fail to finish the remaining events.
Eleventh placed Mohammed (Zane) Noble and Richard Hope (Abe’s Furniture Raceco) have the Class S title in their sights but will have to compete in the Mpumalanga and Gauteng events if they hope to beat Nardus Alberts and Collin Hunter in the Wrapsa Raceco to the post.
The penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, the Toyota Dealer 400, will be based in Lydenburg with the Prologue to determine starting positions for the main event scheduled to start at 13h00 on Friday, October 22 and the main event at 08h00 on Saturday, October 23.