Former South African champions back in action

A quality Special Vehicle category field – with just a touch of an international flavour – will line up at the RFS Endurance Race, the opening round of the Donaldson Cross Country Motor Racing Championship, on April 1 and 2.

The usual Special Vehicle suspects will be bolstered by returning South African champions Quintin and Kallie Sullwald with an experienced Australian adding the international flavour to proceedings. The Sullwalds will join reigning champions Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen in the Motorite Racing squad with both teams out in BAT models.

Former Australasian Safari winner Dave McShane adds to the international flavour in another BAT running under the umbrella of the new Fox Racing team. McShane, who tested Donaldson championship waters at the Atlas Copco Gold 450 at the end of last season, has committed to a full season in South Africa, and will be joined in the car by co-driver Leander Pienaar.

With an impressive record behind them Hutchison and Stassen will probably go into the Vryburg event as favourites. They will also more than likely be at the top of the bookmaker boards where the overall championship is concerned, but the Sullwalds, McShane/Pienaar and a couple of other teams have the ability to make life uncomfortable for Hutchison and Stassen.

The Sullwalds, in particular, will be fired up after a season on the sidelines. The Phalaborwa based father and son team may be a little ring rusty but are hugely experienced and it will not take them long to get back into the groove.

McShane, who hails from Perth in Western Australia, is also vastly experienced and will not be troubled by South African conditions. The Australasian Safari, run in the West Australian outback, throws up a variety of conditions and McShane will be at home in the sandy conditions that characterise the Vryburg event.

The typical Kalahari route will also be to the liking of Marius and Jolinda Fourie, back in the Special Vehicle fold after a foray into the Production Vehicle world, and Andre Fourie/Hendrik Pienaar with both teams out in BAT models. The same applies to Botswana pair Keith du Toit and Robbie Coetzee (White Star Racing BAT), and all three crews will be looking for a confident start to the season.

Reliability is likely to again play a role in the eventual outcome of the championship, and it is here that the likes of Jimmy Zahos/Zaheer Bodhanya (Cobalt Racing Stryker) and Sarel van Biljon/Phillip Herselman (Atlas Copco BAT) face an additional challenge. Zahos/Bodhanya scored a maiden national win last season but, along with van Biljon and Herselman, suffered reliability problems that severely hampered any title hopes they may have harboured.

Consistency has never been a problem for the father/daughter combination of Coetzee and Sandra Labuscagne (ChemSystems Porter) and more of the same can be expected from the pair this season. The feminine side of the pairing will also use the Vryburg outing as a warm-up for her appearance at the Sealine Cross Country Rally, a round of the FIA Cross Country World Cup, in Qatar later in April.

Consistency will also be a much sought after commodity by Lourens/Carien Booysen (Structa BAT), Stefan van Pletzen/Jaco Pieterse (Chenowth) and Keith Makenete and Greg Godrich in another BAT.

On the Class P front Swaziland based John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten (Zarco Magnum) will start outright favourites to win in Vryburg. The major threat to the reigning champions, Century Racing pair Colin Matthews and Rodney Burke, will sit out a couple of events while building a new car and that immediately hands the advantaged to Thomson/Zermatten.

The major opposition will come from veterans Nic Goslar/Andrew Massey (SA Clinics Zarco) and John Telford/Victor Ntsekhe in the Calcamite Tanks Hellcat. Newcomers Willem du Toit and Bertus Goussard will also be out in a CR-T.

The qualifying race will be run over a 190 kilometre route, with the race made up of two loops of 245 kilometres. The qualifying race will determine race start positions, and there will be a compulsory 20 minute service halt at the end of the first racing loop.

A full programme of racing will see the RFS Endurance run in conjunction with round two of the Northern Regions Cross Country Championship, and the opening round of the SA Cross Country Motorcycle and Quad Championship. Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service park for all categories will be located at the Vryburg Motor Club.

Refreshments will be available, and access to these areas and designated spectator points along the route is free of charge. The qualifying race on Friday, April 1 will start at 10:30 and the race at 07:30 on April 2.