History shows that the Toyota 1000 Desert Race is the biggest leveller when it comes to the battle for overall and class championship titles in the Absa Off Road Championship.
Cocksure championship leaders are easily toppled from their pedestals while tenacious hopefuls find themselves rocketed up the leader board after completing one of the toughest events on the calendar.
This year was no exception with the Special Vehicle category accounting for most changes.
Nashua Mobile Racing pair Terence Marsh and Michael Whitehouse’s reign at the top of the Special Vehicle Championship log was rather short lived after failing to finish in Botswana, which allowed the reigning Special Vehicle Champions and Toyota 1000 winners for a second successive time, Atang Makgekgenene and Buks Carolin (Total Jimco), to move up from eighth to the top of the log. Marsh and Whitehouse are now languishing in second spot, five points behind the leaders.
Nissan Sugarbelt 400 winners Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau (Advansoft iBurst BAT) figured they had the Toyota 1000 win in the bag at the start of the final day but a broken front control arm forced them into retirement and they now trail the leaders by 15-points.
The most spectacular gain was made by reigning Class B champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain (JRE) who finished fourth overall in Botswana. The pair has moved from 14th to fourth on the championship leader board and lead Evan Hutchison and Trevor Ormerod (Motorite BAT) by five points in the Class B championship.
Three crews share fifth place in the overall championship. Shameer Variawa and VZ van Zyl (Total Porter) finished second overall on the Toyota 1000 and earned 19-points for the efforts to match John Moore and Graham Maclachlan (Connix Chenowth) and Will Battershill and Reg Sutton (Jimco).
The ever-consistent Giel Nel and Peter Newbery (Bosal Luk ATE Zarco) have quietly crept five places up the log and are eighth overall and only four points behind Taylor and de Chalain. Nel has the proven ability to earn points on a regular basis and walk away with the title as he did in 2003.
Evan Hutchison and Trevor Ormerod’s reign as Class B leaders came to an untimely end. A throttle butterfly bolt came loose and caused terminal damage in the Nissan engine. Not starting the Toyota 1000 cost them dearly and they have dropped from fifth to ninth overall. John Thomson and Clinton McNamara (Mormond Zarco) share ninth place with the Motorite Racing crew.
Absa Special Vehicle Championship – Overall points
1. Makgekgenene/Carolin (Jimco) 40; 2. Marsh/Whitehouse (BAT) 35; 3. Bertholdt/Rousseau (BAT) 25; 4. Taylor/de Chalain (JRE) 21; 5. Moore/Maclachlan (Chenowth) 19, Battershill/Sutton (Jimco) 19, Variawa/van Zyl (Porter) 19; 8. Nel/Newbery (Zarco) 18; 9. Hutchison/Ormerod (BAT) 17, Thomson/McNamara (Zarco) 17.
Based on current form the odds of anyone toppling Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan (Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody) from their Production Vehicle Championship pedestal are rather slim. The Nissan Dealer 400 winners have amassed 56-points and are 21-points ahead of their closest challengers, Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton (Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i).
The Castrol Toyota pair finished third overall on the Toyota 1000 and have moved from fifth to second in the championship, albeit only one point ahead of Manfred Schroder and Alec Harris (Team Ford Racing Ranger) and Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler (Master Craft Ryobi Mitsubishi) who finished second overall in Botswana.
Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo (Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i) are fifth overall and the new Class E leaders after Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i) failed to finish in Botswana. Nissan Sugarbelt 400 winners Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer (Team Ford Racing Ranger) have not entered the last two rounds of the Absa Off Road Championship and have slipped further and further down the leader board to sixth place.
Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford’s maiden overall victory on the Toyota 1000 has moved them nowhere to joint sixth with Woolridge and Skjoldhammer and they trail Nissan teammates Grobler and Jordaan by 31-points.
The de Bruyn’s have dropped from fourth to eighth in the overall rankings and second in Class E and are only three points ahead of brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat in the Bosal Brospeed Land Rover. The Moffat’s are one of five crews who have managed to finish every event this season.
Polokwane based brothers Jurie and Andre du Plessis (BB Auto Nissan Hardbody) round out the top ten.
Absa Production Vehicle Championship – Overall points
1. Grobler/Jordaan (Nissan) 56; 2. G. Cronje/Houghton (Toyota) 35; 3. Schroder/Harris (Ford) 34, Zermatten/Schwegler (Mitsubishi) 34; 5. Pearce/Vosloo (Toyota) 26; 6. Woolridge/Skjoldhammer (Ford) 25, Cox/Pitchford (Nissan) 25; 8. de Bruyn/de Bruyn (Toyota) 21; 9. Moffat/Moffat (Land Rover) 18; 10. du Plessis/du Plessis (Nissan)
Original article from Car