With only two points separating the top three drivers a highly volatile situation will dominate the Special Vehicle championship at the Lichtenburg 450 on July 29 and 30.
Reigning champion Evan Hutchison (Motorite BAT Viper) and Jimmy Zahos (Cobalt Racing Stryker) are level on points at the top of the overall drivers’ championship with Sarel van Biljon (Atlas Copco BAT) just two points behind. It is a titillating situation with the trio separated by four points in the Class A title race.
Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen
Image by Waldo van der Waal
A similar state of affairs exists in the overall and Class A co-drivers championships, but here there is a ‘ringer’ in Leander Pienaar. Co-driving for Australian Dave McShane, who is not eligible to score points in either championship, a hatful of points on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race have rocketed Pienaar to the top of both the overall and Class A championships.
In the overall championship 12 points separate Pienaar and Danie Stassen, Zaheer Bodhanya and Philip Herselman who supply navigating duties for Hutchison, Zahos and van Biljon respectively. The gap in the Class A championship is 13 points and in the context of the championships the Lichtenburg event has suddenly taken on added importance.
McShane and Pienaar, in the Fox Racing BAT, are obviously the ‘form’ team with confidence at a high level. After disappointing results on the first two events of the season, the big question is whether or not McShane and Pienaar can keep the momentum going.
Zahos and Bodhanya are the only ones of the trio that includes Hutchison/Stassen and van Biljon/Herselman to have scored points in every race this season. This new found consistency will be the key for Zahos/Bodhanya in Lichtenburg and over the rest of the campaign.
Hutchison and Stassen have been at the sharp end of championships before, and the current situation in both the overall and Class A championships will not be anything new. The pair already have two wins to their credit this season, and are far too street wise to be left out of the reckoning at any race.
Reliability will also be a key factor for van Biljon and Herselman in this race and the rest of the season. They will be ruing the fact that but for a broken side shaft 15 kilometres from a win on the Vredefort Super Sprint, they would have a clear lead in the championship.
When it comes to challengers to the championship frontrunners the spotlight immediately falls on Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr in the Century Racing CR5. They missed the first two races of the season, but a first heat win on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race amply illustrates how dangerous the pair can be when they bring their A Game to races.
Top of the agenda for Stefan van Pletzen/Jaco Pieterse (Aceco), Marius and Jolinda Fourie (PHB BAT) and Andre Fourie/Hendrik Pienaar (PHB BAT) will be to put disappointing Desert Races behind them. There is also a return to action for Coetzee and Sandra Labuscagne.
The pair missed the Desert Race through Ms Labuscagne’s Italian Baja campaign where she and New Zealand’s Emma Gilmour were the highest placed female finishers. The Coetzee’s will also sport new livery with the Porter now sponsored by 4×4 Mega World.
John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten
Image by Waldo van der Waal
It took reigning champions John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten (Zarco) four races to score their first win of the season, but a win and a second in Botswana have seen the pair open up a commanding lead in the Class P championship. They are fourth in the overall championship, and will again start among the favourites for class honours.
Nic Goslar/Andrew Massey (SA Clinics Zarco) spoilt a great start to the season by not seeing out the full race distance in heat two on the Desert Race, and will want to put that result behind them. Behind Goslar/Massey in the championship just 10 points separate the next five crews.
John Telford/Victor Ntsekhe (Hellcat), Grant Watkins/Paul Mare (Zarco), Willem du Toit/Bertus Goussard (CR-T), Hendrik Uys/Gavin Bennett (CR-T) and Werner Kennedy/Thinus Venter (Aceco) are all involved in what should be a dog fight. Add the likes of Guy Henley/Martin Hermida (CR-T) to the list and it adds up to fierce action.
The 100 kilometre qualifying race will start at 11:30 on Friday, 29 and the race at 08:30 on Saturday. The race will be run over two 190 kilometre loops with a 20 minute compulsory service break after the first loop.
The event will also incorporate round five of the Northern Regions Cross Country championship.