The Sun City 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, which takes place in the Pilanesberg area on July 23 and 24 has attracted 77 entries.
The sparks are set to fly in all the Production Vehicle classes but none more so than in Class T for Unlimited Super Trucks where the lone Team Ford Racing Ranger of Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer will take on a trio of Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody pick-ups. The Ford pair has only won two events in 12 starts and believes that changes made to the SBM-built Ford now puts them on an even footing with the all-conquering Nissans.
Reigning Production Vehicle champions Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke won the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 and the recent Toyota 1000 Desert Race and now have a 25 point lead in the championship, which they intend increasing on the Sun City 400. However they can expect to come under pressure from teammates Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan and Duncan Vos and Hennie ter Stege. De Villiers is now fully recovered from an elbow injury that kept him out of the Toyota 1000 and determined to add a victory in the Pilanesberg to his win on the season opening Nissan Dealer 400 while Vos and ter Stege want nothing more than a maiden overall victory in the Absa Off Road Championship.
Three privateer crews, Mike Tomsett and Brian Haviland (AK Stone Guards Mitsubishi), the Toyota Hilux of Tommy van Vuuren and Liezel Otten and Dan Esterhuyse and Ben Kruger (Ford Ranger) bring the total number of entries in Class T up to seven.
Class D has attracted 19 entries of which a number are capable of pulling off a class win.
The winner is likely to come from a group of five highly competitive crews including Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford who picked up the class win on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 and the Toyota 1000, reigning Class E champions and current Class D championship leaders Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin in one of two factory entered Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i models, Class D winners on the Nissan Dealer 400 Paolo Piazza-Musso and Rod Hering in the second factory Toyota, Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham in the Team Ford Racing Ranger and reigning Class D champions Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo in the GBS Racing Nissan Hardbody.
However, there are some dark horses who could play a spoiling role and they include Johan Gerber and Coetzee Labuschagne and JP Augustin and Johan Doubell the two remaining GBS Racing Nissans, father and son Cliff and Louis Weichelt and brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat who are entered in a Bosal / N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux and Land Rover respectively, Nampo 400 winners Hannes Steyn and Ockie Fourie in the CMH Isuzu, Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler (Master Craft / Playstation Mitsubishi) and newcomers to the Production Vehicle category Gary Bertholdt, who is the reigning Class A drivers champion, and Siegfried Rousseau.
Based on current form, former Class E champions Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i), who have won the class on each of the three events run to date, are the hot favourites for a fourth successive victory on the Sun City 400.
However there are at least eight crews who are capable of winning of which five are also campaigning Toyota Hiluxes. Castrol Toyota’s Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo and Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton who finished second and third respectively on the Toyota 1000, Lichtenburg 200 winners Hein Grobler and Cecil Fincham (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux), Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux) who lead the class at one stage on the Toyota 1000 and husband and wife Marius and Tracey van Vuuren (Bosal / N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux) have the experience and the pace to give the de Bruyn’s a run for their money.
Team Ford Racing development team, Baphumze Rubuluza and Khulile Vakalisa, has performed well in its debut year and picked up two podium finishes while Dirk van Reenen and Ian Palmer in the Dent Doctor Ford Ranger have yet to finish this season. Van Reenen is a hard charger and more likely to achieve success if he eased his pace a little.
The ever-consistent husband and wife crew, Neels and Zelda van der Walt, are well placed in the championship and quite capable of clinching the class win in the Nissan Hardbody.
Andre Botha and Beans Heydenrych (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chevy) are the lone entry in Class F.
The Special Vehicle category is somewhat depleted after the punishing Toyota 1000, which saw only seven cars reach the finish.
Class A for Unlimited space frame vehicles with A-arm front suspensions has 13 entries featuring some sophisticated locally built and imported machinery and a group of determined drivers who are out to show their rivals a clean pair of heels.
Championship leader and Nissan Dealer 400 and Toyota 1000 winner Atang Makgekgenene will team up with Buks Carolin for the remainder of the season and, based on current form, they must start out as the favourites to win overall in the Total Jimco.
However, they can expect to have a fight on their hands from the likes of Nissan Sugarbelt 400 winners Mark Corbett and Gavin Kelsey, who has now recovered from a shoulder injury, in the Century Property Developments BAT, KwaZulu Natal based Clint Gibson and Mike Brown (Praesidium BAT), Terence Marsh and Mike Whitehouse in the Nashua Mobile Racing Jimco, John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt who were the fastest qualifiers on the Toyota 1000 but have yet to finish a race in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco this season and Shameer Variawa and Nadeem Dudhia in the blindingly fast Oven Fresh Biscuits Porter.
Also entering the equation is the two-car Atlas Copco team of Henry Kirstein and Renier Jooste in a BAT and husband and wife Ge’ and Caroline Jooste in the Sandmaster in which they won this year’s Vryburg 200.
There are new kids on the block in Class S for Unlimited space frame vehicles with trailing arm front suspensions. Botswana based Mohammed Noble and Richard Hope (Abe’s Furniture Raceco) were the only finishers in the class on the Toyota 1000 and grabbed the championship lead from reigning champion Nic Gosler and Warren Bowie in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco.
Despite not finishing a race this season Richard Schilling and Ashley Thorn (Plastotech Raceco) are quite capable of pulling off a win on the Sun City 400.
Richard Carolin, who finished third in the Class T championship in the Jeep last season, makes a welcome return to competition in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco in which brothers Herman and Karl Sullwald won the 1994 Special Vehicle championship.
There have been three different winners in Class B this year namely Adri Roets and Deon de Kock (Global DAD WPP), Gary Campbell (Mighty Mag) and brothers Hamish and Alistair Stubbs (Fence Erect Viper) and it is likely that a fourth crew will be added to the list of winners.
Former Class B champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain (JRE) who led the class for much of the Toyota 1000 before retiring, Ernest Corbett and son-in-law Warwick Goosen (Century Property Developments BAT), Glenn Classen and Carl van der Merwe (Radflo Zarco Lite) and Will Battershill and Reg Sutton (JRE) have all finished in the points this season and will be vying for the coveted class win.
So too will reigning Special Vehicle drivers champion Giel Nel who has had a miserable season. The Luk/Ate Truggy has been plagued by minor problems and Nel has only scored 17-points in the championship. However, Nel is not too fazed because past records show that his championship campaign usually gets off to a slow start and gains momentum from mid-season onwards.
Three of the motorcycle engined Ultimo’s have been entered by George Barkhuizen, David White and Willie Prinsloo
The Sun City 400 race headquarters, pits, start and the finish will be located at the Sun City Sports and Social Club where there is a full service restaurant and bar, fast food outlets and ablution facilities.
The 40-kilometre Prologue to determine starting positions for the main event starts at 13h00 on Friday, July 23 and the main event, which will consist of three laps of a 140-kilometre loop starts at 08h00 on Saturday, July 24.
Original article from Car