43-year-old Henri Zermatten’s youthful looks belie the fact that he has been involved in off road racing since the age of 19.
The father of two sons first became involved in the sport in 1969 when at the age of nine he assisted with the preparation of his father Han’s off road racing car and then ten year’s later he made his racing debut as driver in a Maseru Marauder on the Roof of Africa.
This year marks his 25th season of off road competition and he and navigator Bodo Schwegler are lying third in Class D of the Absa Off Road Championship in the Master Craft / Playstation Pajero.
From 1980 to 1987 Zermatten drove a variety cars and managed to record a 73% podium finish rate while in 1988 he secured a factory drive from Toyota and finished on the podium in every race, won the class championship and was awarded national colours for his achievements.
Following an eight-year lay-off he started competing in the Mitsubishi Pajero and finished second in the Class D championship in 2002.
“The key to our consistency and ongoing success is good preparation, which is something my father Han instilled in me,” said Zermatten. “Preparation of the Pajero is almost like a religion in that we start the process on the Monday after each event.”
“The only event the Pajero hasn’t finished in five year’s of competition was the 2002 Nissan Sugarbelt 400 when an aftermarket fuel tank split and we withdrew for safety reasons.”
While Zermatten runs a shoestring operation he never skimps on cheap parts and is grateful for the sponsorship he receives from Master Craft, Playstation, Pirelli, Sasol and the long suffering Roberto’s Autobody who are tasked with making sure that the race battered Pajero arrives at races in ship shape condition.
Zermatten and Schwegler will be in action on the Mafikeng 500 on September 24 and 25 and intend adding another Class D podium finish to their 100% finish rate to date.