Factory teams lock horns in off-road finale


 For the second year in a row there will be a tense finish to the overall Production Vehicle and premier SP Class championships at the final event of the Absa Off-Road Championship on November 23 and 24 on the West Rand.
The final event will see the factory-team Castrol Toyota and Ford Racing teams butt heads in what will be a fascinating showdown. Two wins in a row by Ford Racing Ranger crew Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst have breathed new life into championship battles that looked to be going the way of Castrol Toyota Hilux pair Duncan Vos and Rob Howie.
The Castrol Toyota pair will, however, be the bookies’ favourites to clinch both the overall and SP Class titles via an 18.5 point advantage – with a two point swing in favour of Visser/Badenhorst if drop points are taken into account. The two championship leaders and the second Ford Racing pair of Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable are the only Production Vehicle crews with 100 percent finish records this season.
In the overall championship a second Team Castrol Toyota crew, Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin, are in a solid third place ahead of Christiaan du Plooy/Henk Janse van Vuuren and veterans Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege in the two RFS BMW X3 entries. Grobler and Ter Stege will retire at the end of the season and, championship issues apart, the final event will be an emotional occasion for the pair.
In the SP Class title race, the top three positions remain unchanged.
In contrast to the Special Vehicle category, where there have been six different winners in seven races, only three crews have scored wins in the Production Vehicle championship. Vos/Howie and Visser/Badenhorst have three wins apiece with Du Plooy/Janse van Vuuren scoring a maiden victory on the Sun City 400.
The other two championships on offer in the Production Vehicle category were settled on the recent Human Auto 400 in Thaba Nchu. Second place was enough for Cliff Weichelt and Johann Smalberger (N1 4×4 Toyota Land Cruiser) to wrap up the Class D title race.
A sixth win in seven outings for Dirk Putter/Koos Claasens (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) saw them put the finishing touches to taking the Class E honours.