There are no easy events in SA Cross Country racing and the penultimate round of the series, the Ford Dealer 400 in Thaba 'Nchu on October 11 and 12, could turn out to be one of the toughest of the season, with both the Production Vehicle and Special Vehicle championships delicately poised, just to add extra spice.
Race headquarters and the designated service point will again be at the Black Mountain Hotel on the fringe of the Lesotho Mountains, with the route running through the Moroka Game Reserve against a background of spectacular scenery.
The 2012 race, the first in the area for many years, provided route director Adri Roets and his team with a number of headaches, as they had to start virtually from scratch to map out what turned into a tight and technical course.
'A REAL CHALLENGE'
It has been a little easier this time around, as the route takes in about 70 percent of last year's course. The remaining 30 percent is new terrain and with no winter rain in the Thaba 'Nchu area the race is likely to be run in dry and dusty conditions.
Roets said: "We have again had great co-operation from local authorities and landowners; once again this route is going to provide teams with a real challenge.
"The mountain section is going to be difficult, with rocky sections and numerous wash-aways; there are also areas where the route opens out but, by and large, it's a typical Lesotho course."
The route of approximately 180km will be run twice, with a compulsory 15-minute stop at the designated service point, while Friday's prologue will be run over a 60km section of the race route and should provide plenty of action with crews, particularly those with championship aspirations, desperate to come up with good starting positions.
The Toyota and Ford factory teams are locked in battle for Production Vehicle honours with Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy (Toyota Hilux) taking into the race a 20 point advantage over Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in their Ford Racing Ranger.
The Special Vehicle category is even tighter, with KwaZulu-Natal crew Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell (Porter) only 3.5 points ahead of Hermann and Wichard Sullwald in their Stryker.
Toyota Hilux crew Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz will also use the event as a test run for the 2014 Dakar Rally, while a number of crews will be running shakedown tests for the new Side by Side category to be introduced into next year's SA Cross Country championship.
The prologue will start at noon on Friday 11 October and the race proper at 8.30am on Saturday.
Public access to race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service point at the Black Mountain Hotel, and spectator viewing points along the route will be free of charge. Spectator guides will be available at race headquarters and cross-country racing enthusiasts are encouraged to visit the pits and mingle with teams and crews.