Expect fireworks at Sun City 400Comment on this story
The two factory Toyota Hilux entries will be heavy favourites to win the Production vehicle category at the Sun City 400, Round 5 of the SA Off-Road Championship, in the Pilanesberg on 27/28 July.
Former South African champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie, and Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin scored an emphatic 1-2 triumph for the Toyota squad in the Kalahari 1000 Desert Race in Botswana, and a repeat of that form will blow away the opposition.
Vos and Howie will be looking for their fourth consecutive win and will also be aiming at extending an already comfortable 33 point lead over Taylor and Birkin in the Production Vehicle championship.
Ford Racing's earlier 1-2 for Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, and Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable is now a distant memory. Both crews have had their ups and downs with some gutsy performances salvaging valuable points and moving Visser and Badenhorst up to third in the standings.
Meanwhile the BMW squad will be hoping Pretoria youngsters Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren can build on their podium finish in Botswana and kick start the rest of their season. Veteran BMW pair Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege, however, need to bounce back after a disappointing Botswana visit.
DAKAR NISSAN DEBUT
The most interesting entry, and one which could cause Toyota team boss Glyn Hall and his troops to miss a little sleep, comes from the Regent Racing stable. Terence Marsh and George Smalberger will be out for the first time in a Nissan Navara built to 2013 Dakar Rally regulations and powered by a five-litre Infiniti V8.
Teething problems aside, the new car could lift the ever steady Marsh and Smalberger up a notch and put them in a position to apply a little pressure on the factory Toyotas.
Mike Whitehouse and Matthew Carlson will be out in the older V6 Nissan Navara, with Archie Rutherford in a second Navara, navigated by former Proteas fast bowler 'Vinnige Fanie' de Villiers.
There's the makings of a good scrap in Class D where the main opposition for championship leaders Cliff Weichelt and Johann Smalberger will come from Weichelt's son Louis and Maret Bezuidenhout in a second Toyota Land Cruiser. The younger Weichelt had the advantage in Botswana - and there are no team orders.
Reigning champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen (Land Rover) will look to extend a remarkable finish record with Dana Vos and Johan Vlok capable of an upset in their Toyota Hilux.
Championship leaders Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens (Toyota Hilux) will be heavy favourites to win Class E. They will be aiming at their fourth win in five races and are now well clear of KwaZulu-Natal crew Rowan Lamb and Lyle Parker (Ford Ranger) in the standings.
Close championship battles will add extra spice to this category, with only four points separating Desert Race winners Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen, in their BAT Venom, from BAT pair Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson at the top of the championship table.
Behind the leaders only 1.5 points separate Hermann and Wichard Sullwald (Porter), Laurence and Gerhard du Plessis (Zarco) and Class P leaders Colin Matthews and Alan Smith in their CR3.
While Van Staden and Lawrenson grind away at the opposition, the Sullwalds have had an up and down season and the du Plessis brothers look more than capable of picking up a win. After their 2011 woes Matthews and Smith have been a revelation this season and a second overall win this season would come as no surprise.
Quintin Sullwald appears to settling into his role as a driver and if he and father Kallie maintain their Desert Race form they will join the list of potential winners, along with Mark Corbett and Julien Hardy (CR4), Nick and Ryan Harper (Revo) and husband-and-wife crew Marius and Jolinda Fourie (Porter).
Matthews and Smith will be expected to again dominate Class P but there is some stern opposition. Richard Fuller (BAT) is a previous overall winner of the Sun City event and after their Botswana win he and Dennis Murphy will be full of confidence.
The consistent John Telford Jaco Swart (BAT) are back in action after missing the Botswana race, and Swaziland crew John Thomson and Clinton McNamara (Zarco) also bring quality to the party. Keith and Andrew Makenete are reunited in a Zarco and will resume a personal rivalry with Coetzee and Sandra Labuscagne (Zarco).
There will be a two-way battle in Class B where veteran Wolf-Peter Pfumfei in a WPP will be up against Grant Watkins and Charl van Jaarsveld in a Zarco.
Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service park will all be in the parking area at the main entrance to the Sun City complex. Public access to these areas and spectator points along the route is free.
The prologue to determine the starting order for the main race will start at 12.30pm on Friday 27 July 27 and the race proper at 8.30am on Saturday.