The absence of one of the top Special Vehicle category contenders in the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, the third round of the Absa Off Road Championship, which takes place in Botswana from June 11-13 makes it difficult to predict a winner.

Reigning Special Vehicle Co-drivers Champion Brandon Harcus has withdrawn from the championship and will be relocating to San Diego to head up BAT Racing USA and kick-start his American off-road racing career. His withdrawal will leave a void in the Special Vehicle championship

Special Vehicle championship leaders Mark Corbett and Gavin Kelsey finished second on the Nissan Dealer 400 in Darling and went on to win the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 in Eston in the Century Property Developments BAT to get their season off to a solid start. Corbett won the Toyota 1000 in a Jimco in 2000 and, based on present form, is the favourite to win.

However, co-driver Gavin Kelsey sustained multiple fractures to his collarbone while practising on his motocross bike and will be out of action for at least six weeks. Corbett has yet to decide on a substitute co-driver.

Nissan Dealer 400 winner Atang Makgekgenene will share the Total Jimco with veteran Buks Carolin who won the Toyota 1000 as a co-driver in 1995 and is hoping to become the first Motswana to win the Toyota 1000 Desert Race.

KwaZulu Natal based Clint Gibson and Mike Brown swapped the lead with Corbett and Kelsey in KwaZulu Natal and proved that they have the pace and the race craft to pull off a maiden win in the Praesidium Financial Services BAT.

Nashua Mobile Racing’s development of the supercharged Mitsubishi V6 Jimco appears to have paid off with Terence Marsh and Michael Whitehouse very much in contention on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 until a branch dislodged an oil pipe resulting in a loss off transmission fluid. A suspected engine management problem delayed them even further and they were happy to finish sixth overall and fourth in Class A.

Nic Harper and Andrew Chalupsky returned to competition after a long sabbatical and came up trumps by finishing fourth overall on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 in the Audi V8 powered BAT. Over the years they have been consistent performers, which should augur well for them on what is a notoriously tough event.

The BAT Racing brigade will be bolstered by a further three entries from Bevan Bertholdt and James Kennerley, Philip Vosloo and Evan Hutchinson and Henri Kirstein and Renier Jooste who have fitted a Nissan V6 engine to the Atlas Copco BAT they campaigned in Class B.

Shameer Variawa and Nadeem Dudhia’s debut in the Oven Fresh Biscuits Porter PR1 came to an early end on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 after they got tangled up with Brandon Harcus and Achim Bergmann. The power steering pump fitted to the back of the gearbox was damaged and they were forced into retirement. Variawa is a former Special Vehicle champion and well equipped in terms of ability and machinery to win the event.

Rustenburg based husband and wife Jimmy and Shinon Zahos bought Rashid Noble’s Aceco but failed to finish the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 while Frikkie Botha and Blackie Swart have shown that they have the speed but not the reliability in the 2002 championship winning Procoat Jimco.

John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco) had a dismal season last year. After winning the Toyota 1000 they only managed to score points in the season finale and this year failed to finish in the first two rounds of the championship. They will no doubt be looking to redeem themselves with back-to-back wins in Botswana.

Class S is for unlimited space framed vehicles fitted with trailing arm front suspensions as opposed to the A-arm configuration found on Class A vehicles and there are many of these older vehicles that are extremely competitive and that stand as much of a chance of winning overall as the more modern Class A vehicles.

The possibility exists that veterans Richard Schilling and Rob Wark who won the race in 1990 and 1994 respectively could pull off a shock win in the Plastotech Raceco and much the same can be said for Rustenburg 200 winners Nardus Alberts and Collin Hunter in the Wrapsa Raceco and 63-year old Harry Roscoe and his son, Donovan, who will be driving Buks Carolin’s Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco in Botswana.

Archie Rutherford previously navigated for Greg Daus but decided to swap roles and entered as the driver of the Devco Africa Raceco on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 but unfortunately he was sidelined by power steering problems.

Gaborone based Zeyn Noble and Richard Hope will be in action in the Chevy LS1 powered Abe’s Furniture Raceco and their knowledge of local conditions could give them a slight edge over the visiting crews.

However, the crew to watch is the Kopanong Hotel Superteam’s Nic Goslar and Warren Bowie who are also active off-road motorcycle competitors. Goslar is the reigning Class S Driver’s Champion and is a wily old fox that maintains a steady pace while his rivals’ race themselves into retirement and then picks up the spoils at the finish.

Class B for 2 litre powered space framed vehicles boasts the largest number of entries on all events and there are a handful of top contenders who are quite capable of finishing high up the overall results.

Class B championship leaders Adri Roets and Deon de Kock proved on the Nissan Dealer 400 that an underpowered vehicle could finish high up in the overall placings by bringing their Global DAD WPP home third overall. They weren’t able to repeat the feat on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 where it was left to another Class B contender, Gary Campbell, to occupy the last place on the podium.

Former Class B champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain have shown in the past that they have the measure of the more powerful Class A vehicles and along with the likes of Zarco crews Glenn Classen and Matthew Ludick, Warren Classen and Kim Dixon, Hendrik and Louis Fourie and Rudi and Pierre van Graan could well produce some shock results.

Mark Corbett’s father, Ernest and son-in-law Warwick Goosen have put up some impressive performances in the Century Property Developments BAT and lead the class, and even Mark Corbett, at various stages of the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 and the odds of them picking up their first class win in Botswana are good.

Special Vehicle Driver’s Champion Giel Nel could only manage to finish ninth overall in the Luk / Ate Truggy in the Western Cape and then retired in KwaZulu Natal and finds himself languishing at the bottom of the championship log.

Original article from Car