The Toyota Dealer 400, the second last round of the SA Off Road Car Racing Championship…presented by Absa, will be run in the Lydenburg area on October 24 and 25 and has attracted a star entry in both the Production and Special Vehicle categories.

This will be the first time that a national championship off road event is held in Mpumalanga and teams can expect a challenging route in the Kwena basin area, which is situated some 35km from Lydenburg.

All eyes will be on the closely contested Production Vehicle category where Ford, Nissan and Toyota field factory teams in Class E and Class T.

Nissan has dominated the championship with Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke winning five of the six events to date and Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan, who will be missing from the line-up, winning one event in their Class T Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody pick-ups. De Villiers will be competing in the Team Nissan Hardbody on the UAE Desert Challenge in Dubai.

Grobler and Leeke have had a phenomenal run this season and must start out as favourites to win the Toyota Dealer 400 overall. However, teammates Duncan Vos and Mike Griffith have got to grips with the more powerful Class T Nissan after moving up from Class D at the start of the season and have shown that they have what it takes to challenge for the lead.

Former Production Vehicle champions Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer (Team Ford Racing Ranger) have had a spate of mechanical problems and have yet to win a race this season. They posed a major threat to Sun City 400 winners Grobler and Leeke when they closed to within 90 seconds before losing the power steering and then retiring when the battery failed. Woolridge is confident that the vehicle is on the pace of the Nissans and that he can win, provided he has a clean run.

The handling on Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton’s Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser has finally been sorted out and the pair showed on the recent Sun City 400 that they too have the pace to take on the all-conquering Nissans. Gearbox failure, the second of the season, robbed them of a podium finish last time out.

There will be a change in the driver line-up for the privately entered Class T Atlas Copco/Chicago Pneumatic Jeep. Scott Abraham is now based in Germany and his place alongside co-driver Richard Carolin will be taken by veteran Stratford Voogt on the Toyota Dealer 400. Voogt is widely experienced and co-drove the Jeep with the likes of Sarel van der Merwe, Paolo Piazza-Musso and Arthur Abraham some years ago.

Cliff Barker and Vic Campher (Barker Performance Products Land Rover) can be expected to put in a strong challenge for a podium finish with an overall win not entirely out of the question if some of the factory teams fall by the wayside.

The pace and reliability of the Class E teams has surprised everyone with newcomer Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin (Castrol Toyota Hilux 2700i) in serious contention for the overall championship title after finishing third overall on three occasions and winning Class E four times.

Teammates Kassie Coetzee and Ockie Fourie (Castrol Toyota Hilux KZ-TE) have delivered consistent results, which included a class win on the Oven Fresh Biscuits 500, and can be counted upon to finish in the top placings.

However, it won’t be easy for the Castrol Toyota crews because Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham (Team Ford Racing Ranger), husband and wife Neels and Zelda van der Walt (Nissan Hardbody) and brothers Jurie and Andre du Plessis (BB Auto Nissan Hardbody) have shown that they can match the pace of the Toyotas.

The more powerful Class D entries have been disappointing this season. Past records show that Class D vehicles fitted with six cylinder engines have invariably finished on the podium but this season they have had difficulty matching the pace of the two litre powered Class E vehicles.

Nevertheless, the competition in Class D is intense with the four vehicle GBS Nissan Racing team setting the pace. Former champions Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo won the class on the Sun City 400 and were ably backed up by Coetzee Labuschagne and Johan Gerber who finished third. Teammates MC Coetzee and Marius Liebenberg have the pace but not the consistency and overdid things when they rolled on the Sun City 400 while JP and Linda Augustin have been plagued by minor mechanical problems on past events.

Newcomer Arnold du Plessis and George Baker (Produkta Nissan Hardbody) have adapted well and finished second in class on the Sun City 400. Deon Schoeman and Jeremy Fall (Topcar Racing Nissan Hardbody) also pose a threat, as do Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400 Class D winners Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser.

Class D championship contenders father and son Johan and Marthinus van der Merwe (Chavani Colt Rodeo) had a good start to the season but have been slowed by mechanical problems on recent events while the Land Rovers of Marius van Vuuren and Chris Mare and brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat have been on the pace but also dogged by mechanical problems.

Former Class D champion Piet Haasbroek and Freddie Scheepers have led the class at one stage or another on each event but drive train and suspension problems on the Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser has seen them finish only three of the six events run to date.

Andre Botha and Beans Heydenrych (O’Hagan’s/ Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chevy) are the lone entry in Class F for unlimited Super Trucks and simply finishing the Toyota Dealer 400 will see them move into the championship lead ahead of Jaap Zeeman and Johannes Barwise in the DFS Ferobrake Ford.

The Toyota Dealer 400 gets underway at 13:00 on Friday, October 24 with a 36km Prologue to determine starting positions for Saturday’s main event. The Prologue starts and finishes at the Badfontein Boere Saal at Kwena Dam.

The symbolic start of the main event will be on Saturday, October 25 at 07:30 from Lydenburg Toyota on the corner of Voortrekker Street and Lange Street, Lydenburg and crews will then proceed to the Lydenburg Airport where the event proper gets underway at 08:00. Crews then head for the Kwena basin on a 120km section, which will only be used once, following which they will complete two laps of a 120km loop before finishing at the Badfontein Boere Saal.

The first vehicle is expected at the finish at approximately 13:30.

Original article from Car