The Donaldson Cross Country Championship returns to the Eston area, on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg, for the first time in three years with the running of the Toyota Dealer Sugarbelt 400 on May 17 and 18.
The event was run in the Dundee area in 2011 and moved to Richmond last year. The race is round three of the Donaldson Cross Country championship and has special significance for Pietermaritzburg, the Team Castrol Toyota and Ford Racing teams. Pietermaritzburg, one of the oldest Victorian cities in the world, this year celebrates its 175th birthday and is home base for the championship topping Ford Racing team.
The event also provides Toyota to sponsor an event a driver and nine-iron away from its Prospecton manufacturing plant. The event is again organised by the Natal Off Road Motor Club (NORMC) which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary.
Ford Racing won the first two races of the season via local crew Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable and former South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst and the Team Castrol Toyota squad will be desperate for a win.
The Toyota Dealer Sugarbelt 400, based at the Beaumont Eston Farmers Club, has always been regarded as one of the more difficult races on the cross country calendar, and this year will be no different. The race will also follow a familiar format with competitors completing two loops of a figure of eight route with a west loop and an east loop.
The west loop is approximately 75 kilometres in distance and the east loop 90 kilometres. After the first two loops there will be a compulsory 15 minute halt at the designated service park (DSP) at the Beaumont Eston Farmers club.
The Friday prologue to determine grid positions will be run over approximately 60 kilometres of the west loop. Regional and Cricket Class competitors will complete the prologue but only one loop of the race.
The first section of both the west and east loops is common for about eight kilometres before splitting up. The west loop consists of fairly tight sugar cane sections before opening up and then taking crews into trees and more cane before the DSP.
The east loop is cane for most of the route with a section on the old sugar cane narrow gauge railway line thrown in for good measure.
As has always been the case the event is spectator friendly with nearly all the viewing points within 15 kilometres of the Beaumont Eston Framers club. There are 14 road crossings, all of them spectator points, and a further seven spectator points where the route follows public roads.
Public access to race headquarters, the DSP and spectator areas is free of charge. Spectator guides with GPS co-ordinates and time and travel information will be available from Toyota dealers and at race headquarters.
The prologue will start at 12:30 on Friday, May 17 and the race at 08:30 on Saturday, May 18.