The SA Off Road Car Racing Championship Special Vehicle category is developing into a horsepower war, especially for competitors in the hotly contested Class A for unlimited space-frame vehicles, and the first event of the season, the Nissan Dealer 400 in Darling on March 19 and 20, has the makings of a dogfight.

Special Vehicles are not subject to the performance restrictor rule in force for Production Vehicles until June this year and in the interim crews will take full advantage of the massive power developed by the various power plants, which include Porsche, Chevrolet LT1, BMW 540 V8, Mitsubishi supercharged 3.5 V6, Nissan V6, Audi V8 and Lexus V8 units fitted to Class A vehicles weighing between 1000kg and 1400kg.

Former Special Vehicle champion Shameer Variawa and co-driver Zeyn Moolla return to competition in the brand new Oven Fresh Biscuits Porter, which is fitted with a Schnitzer BMW 4.6 litre, V8 engine developing over 500hp and reputed to be the most sophisticated special vehicle ever to reach our shores. The Oven Fresh Biscuits team will be bolstered by a Scat Chevrolet V6 engined Jimco to be driven by Sam Moolla and Zaheer Bodhanya.

Last year’s Toyota 1000 Desert Race winners John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt will again be in action in the completely rebuilt Class A Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco, which is fitted with a BMW 540 V8 motor.

2003 Nissan Dealer 400 and Oven Fresh Biscuits 500 winners Atang Makgekgenene and Mike Stangl have opted for a Chevrolet LT1, V8 engine in the Total Jimco and if past performances are anything to go by they are strong candidates for the championship crown.

Two other Botswana-based Chevrolet powered Special Vehicles will swell the Class A. Rashid Noble and nephew Faizel Noble will again be in action in the 440hp Chevrolet V6 powered Abe’s Furnishers / STC Chemicals Aceco with nephew Zeyn Noble and Richard Hope entered in a Chevrolet LT1 powered Raceco.

Frikkie Botha and Melville Priest acquired the 2002 championship winning Lexus V8 powered Jimco from Greg Harvey towards the end of last year and soon got to grips with the unique handling of the A-arm suspension chassis after previously racing an aging trailing arm suspension Raceco chassis.

Winner of last year’s inaugural Toyota Dealer 400 in Lydenburg, Mark Corbett and new co-driver Gavin Kelsey, will again be in action in the Audi V8 powered Century Property Developments BAT in which they won the Special Vehicle category on the recent Nampo 400.

Clint Gibson and Mike Brown made their Class A debut in the Audi V8 powered Praesidium Financial Services BAT late last year and went on to lead the Toyota Dealer 400 only to wrong slot metres from the finish and be beaten across the line by mere seconds by Mark Corbett. The KwaZulu Natal based crew is a definite contender for the Special Vehicle championship.

Nissan V6 engines are fitted to a number of BAT Racing chassis with the main contender for the championship title being reigning Special Vehicle Co-driver champion Brandon Harcus in the Adrenalise Corporate Entertainment BAT that he will share with Achim Bergmann. Nissan Sugarbelt 400 winner Gerald Mundell and new co-driver Kingsley Nurden in the BAT are also contenders for the title. Newcomers Philip Vosloo and Evan Hutchison will be in action in the Adrenalise Corporate Entertainment BAT with last year’s debutantes Danie Marais and Andrew Utterson entered in the Intelegence BAT.

Nashua Mobile Racing’s Terence Marsh and Trevor Ahier regarded last year as a development year for the Mitsubishi 3.5, V6 supercharged Jimco and will be launching a full onslaught on the 2004 championship.

Class S for space frame chassis fitted with trailing arm or beam front suspensions could pose a threat to some in the Class A ranks with the crew line-up reading like a Roll of Honour at an ‘Old Boy’s Reunion’. Three crews, who between them have won dozens of races and seven championships over a span of 20 years, will do battle.

Two times Special Vehicle championship winners Richard Schilling and Ashley Thorn will be a force in the Nissan V6 powered Plastotech Raceco but can expect a tough fight from five times Special Vehicle champion, three times as a driver and twice as a co-driver, Buks Carolin and Archie Rutherford in the Buick V6 engined Nashua Mobile Racing Raceco and Nardus Alberts and Colin Hunter in the Porsche powered Wrapsa Raceco.

Botswana businessmen Mohammed Noor and reigning Class S co-drivers champion Mohammed Moultsen will again be in action in the Superveg Raceco Porsche in which they won the class on several occasions in 2003 but will have to contend with reigning Class S drivers champion Nic Goslar and co-driver Warren Bowie in the Men’s Clinic International / Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco Porsche.

Class B for 2.0 litre powered space frame vehicles will benefit from the introduction of two new models in 2004. East Rand based constructor Hendrik Fourie from Zarco has sold six vehicles to date while Willie Prinsloo from Ultimo Cars has built and sold eight racing versions of his revolutionary motorcycle engined vehicles to local and international customers.

Zarco Lite models will be campaigned by Glenn Classen and Matthew Ludick (Corporate Off Road Entertainment Zarco Lite), Warren Classen and Kim Dixon (Corporate Off Road Entertainment Zarco Lite), John Thomson and Clinton McNamara, brothers Hendrik and Louis Fourie and newcomers Rudy and Pierre van Graan while three Ultimo Dominators will be entered. Willie Prinsloo and George Barkhuizen will each race 1100cm3 Honda Blackbird powered Ultimo Dominators and David White will race a 1000cm3 Honda VTR Firestorm powered version.

Reigning Special Vehicle champion Giel Nel (Luk Africa/ATS Truggy) will be under pressure from these newcomers as well as some of the established crews to repeat his 2003 championship-winning feat but sheer consistency and immaculate vehicle preparation should carry the day for him.

Former Class B champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain will rely on the John Rowe built JRE with Warren Morton and Andrew Davis in action in the Bushpig and Will Battershill and Reg Sutton behind the wheel of a brand new John Rowe built challenger powered by a Nissan motor.

Veterans Henry Kirstein and Renier Jooste (Atlas Copco BAT) can always be relied upon to put up a good performance and if lady luck is on their side they will be a difficult team to beat. Ernst Corbett and Warwick Goosen will race a Century Property Developments BAT in Class B, which brings the BAT line-up in Classes A and B up to eight vehicles.

Hamish and Alistair Stubbs (Corporate Off Road Entertainment Viper) have got to grips with their new car and have the talent and the perseverance to pull off the odd class win or two during the 2004 season.

Father and son Rob and Gareth Wark will share driving duties in the single seater Superpave Mighty Mag, which was plagued by power steering problems throughout last season but hopefully the problems have now been resolved.

While horsepower may be the name of the game in the Special Vehicle category it is more than likely a case of the crews with the most brainpower and staying power emerging as the winners when the season gets underway with the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape on March 19 and 20.

Original article from Car