The Toyota 1000 Desert Race held in Botswana recently could best be described as a race of attrition, which has resulted in a major reshuffle in the Absa Off Road Championship point’s position in all the Production and Special Vehicle classes.
Only eleven of the 38 Production Vehicle entries and seven of the 42 Special Vehicle crews managed to make it to the finish of what has been described as the toughest in the history of the event by the likes of four times winner Hannes Grobler, three times winner Buks Carolin, three times winner Neil Woolridge and seven times winner Richard Leeke.
The Production Vehicle category sees no change at the top of the overall rankings with Grobler and Leeke, who scored their third successive win in the Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody (Class T), leading with 122-points.
Giniel de Villiers non-participation due to a mountain bike injury and co-driver Francois Jordaan’s non-finish in the Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody driven by Glyn Hall has allowed former champions Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer, who finished second overall in the Team Ford Racing Ranger, to move into second place, 25-points behind Grobler and Leeke.
Former Class E champions and current Class E leaders Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn in the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i have moved up to third overall after their third successive class win and are only five points behind the Ford pair. The Vryburg businessmen finished fifth overall close on 16-minutes ahead of their closest rivals Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo in the Castrol Toyota Hilux KZ-TE who are now 13th in the overall championship and fourth in Class E.
Reigning Class E champions Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin finished fourth overall in the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i and are fourth overall in the Production Vehicle championship and the Class D leaders, despite not picking up a single class win this season, by a mere eight points from Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford (Arnold Chatz Cars Nissan Hardbody) who scored their second successive Class D win.
Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan have some catching up to do, 53-points in fact, if they hope to beat team-mates Grobler and Leeke to the post for the championship title but face a major threat from Cox and Pitchford who are only three points adrift in sixth place overall and who have gained six places as a result of their two Class D wins.
Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler (Master Craft / Playstation Pajero) took advantage of the additional 18kW they gained by replacing a blocked fuel filter and finished seventh overall on the Toyota 1000 to move them two places up the overall championship log and third in Class D.
Team Ford Racing’s development team of Baphumze Rubuluza and Khulile Vakalisa are eighth after having finished every race in their rookie year. They gained two places on the overall championship table after finishing ninth overall on the Toyota 1000, which also moved them into second position in Class E.
Husband and wife, Neels and Zelda van der Walt, have dropped three positions in the overall rankings after not finishing the event in their Class E Nissan Hardbody and are now third in Class E, six points behind the Team Ford Racing development pair.
Production Vehicle Championship:
1. Hannes Grobler / Richard Leeke (Nissan - Class T) 122 points
2. Neil Woolridge / Ken Skjoldhammer (Ford - Class T) 97 points
3. Hugo de Bruyn / Jaap de Bruyn (Toyota - Class E) 92 points
4. Mark Cronje / Chris Birkin (Toyota - Class D) 74 points
5. Giniel de Villiers / Francois Jordaan (Nissan - Class T)69 points
6. Alfie Cox / Ralph Pitchford (Nissan - Class D) 66 points
7. Henri Zermatten / Bodo Schwegler (Mitsubishi - Class D) 58 points
8. Baphumze Rubuluza / Khulile Vakalisa (Ford - Class E) 55 points
9. Neels vd Walt / Zelda vd Walt (Nissan - Class E) 49 points
10. Duncan Vos / Hennie ter Stege (Nissan - Class T) 42 points
There is a see-saw battle raging between Special Vehicle driver’s championship leader Atang Makgekgenene in the Total Jimco and Mark Corbett in the Century Property Developments BAT with only ten points separating the two drivers.
Makgekgenene and the late Mike Stangl won the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape and he and new co-driver Buks Carolin won the Toyota 1000 Desert Race while Corbett and co-driver Gavin Kelsey finished second in the Western Cape and won the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 in KwaZulu Natal. Kelsey sat out the Botswana event due to a broken collarbone and Corbett and stand-in co-driver Juan Mohr failed to finish the Toyota 1000.
Kelsey still leads the co-drivers championship by ten points from Mike Brown who shared the Praesidium BAT with third placed driver Clint Gibson. The KwaZulu Natal pair finished second overall on the Toyota 1000 and have yet to win a race overall.
Veteran Nick Harper and Andrew Chalupsky in the BAT Racing Audi finished third overall in Botswana to earn another 35-points to add to the 35 they scored on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 and move them five places up the championship log and to fourth in the driver’s championship and third in the co-drivers championship respectively.
Class B championship leaders Adri Roets and Deon de Kock (Global DAD WPP) have an 11-point lead in the Class B championship but have dropped from second to share fourth place with Harper and Chalupsky in the overall championship after a non-finish on the Toyota 1000.
Former Class B champions Marcus Taylor and Marc De Chalain in the JRE only trail Roets and de Kock by 11-points and are well poised to take the lead on the forthcoming Sun City 400.
There has been a change at the head of the Class S championship with Botswana based Mohammed Noble and Richard Hope in the Abe’s Furniture Raceco ten points ahead of reigning Class S driver’s champion Nic Goslar and Warren Bowie in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco.
Special Vehicle Championship - Drivers
1. Atang Makgekgenene (Jimco - Class A) 90 points
2. Mark Corbett (BAT - Class A) 80 points
3. Clint Gibson (BAT - Class A) 70 points
4. Nick Harper (BAT - Class A) 53 points
4. Adri Roets (WPP - Class B) 53 points
Special Vehicle Championship – Co-drivers:
1. Gavin Kelsey (BAT - Class A) 80 points
2. Mike Brown (BAT - Class A) 70 points
3. Andrew Chalupsky (BAT - Class A) 53 points
3. Deon de Kock (WPP - Class B) 53 points
5. Buks Carolin (Jimco - Class A) 45 points
The Sun City 400, round four of the Absa Off Road Championship, on July 23 and 24, will be make or break time for many top rate teams who have yet to get their championship campaigns underway, among them John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco), reigning Special Vehicle driver’s champion Giel Nel who, unusually, has not finished the past two events in his Luk/Ate Truggy, reigning Class D champions Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo (GBS Racing Nissan Hardbody) who have yet to finish an event this year, Shameer Variawa and Nadeem Dudhia (Oven Fresh Biscuits Porter) and Andre Botha and Beans Heydenrych in the Class F Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chevy.
Original article from Car