INCREASED ROLE FOR DONALDSON CROSS COUNTRY CELEBRITY CHALLENGE
The popular Imperial Automotive Celebrity Challenge is set to play an increasingly important role within the Donaldson Cross Country Championship this season.
The Celebrity Challenge, which sees celebrities from the sports and entertainment worlds competing as co-drivers on national championship events, was first run midway during the 2012 season with cricket legend ‘Vinnige’ Fanie de Villiers joining former South African champion Archie Rutherford in the Imperial Automotive Nissan Navara. Since then a string of celebrities have sat alongside Rutherford and have spread the cross country message to a wider audience.
“The Celebrity Challenge has now become the single most valuable property in the Donaldson Cross Country Championship,” said South African National Off Road Association (SANORA) marketing executive Terence Marsh. “This marketing initiative has proven to be invaluable to our series as it allows us the opportunity to continually introduce our sport to new audiences and this year will be no different. This platform has become a key part of our marketing strategy into the future and as such we will continue to focus and invest within this space.
Marsh, also a former South African champion, added that because of his increased portfolios within the Donaldson series as well as his responsibilities as Team Principal of Regent Racing, he would this year take over driving duties in the Celebrity Challenge.
“I am also responsible for looking after the Nissan brand within the Donaldson championship, and this together with my other responsibilities have made it increasingly difficult for me to focus purely on my racing,” Marsh said. “With that in mind I have decided to take a step back and will take over driving duties in the Imperial Automotive Celebrity Challenge.
“After 15 years of national championship racing I have decided to focus on growing and maximising the impact of the Celebrity Challenge over the next couple of seasons.”
Marsh added, however, he still had aspirations in the future to compete in selected international events with a specific focus on the Dakar.
After a change in Production Vehicle regulations the premier SP Class will be split into two categories this season – Class S for cars with an engine capacity of 4000cc and less and Class T for vehicles with an engine capacity of 4000cc and over. With this change in mind Rutherford will now move into a more competitive role in a Regent Racing Nissan Navara entry in Class S.
“Archie did a great job with the celebrities, and enjoyed himself over the past two years,” said Marsh. “We owe him a vote of thanks, but he is obviously now looking forward to a more competitive role within the team.”
Marsh’s first celebrity co-driver will be television personality and international model Marius Roberts on the RFS 450 on February 28 and March 1. Roberts is a self-confessed petrol head and is a cousin of multiple former South African track racing champion Mike Briggs.
Other celebrities earmarked for co-driver duties alongside Marsh include rugby legend Stefan Terblanche, cricket legend Jonty Rhodes and comedian Barry Hilton who have all previously raced with Rutherford. Outside of these there are some really exciting new additions to the list which will be released later in the year.
The RFS450 will be based at the La La Nathi resort on the outskirts of Harrismith in the Free State, a new venue on the Donaldson Cross Country Championship calendar. Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service point will all be located at the resort.
The qualifying race to determined grid positions will start at 12:00 on Friday, February 28 and the race at 08:30 on Saturday, March 1.