With the overall title race finely balanced the Vryburg 400 round six of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship on September 6 and 7, could be a make or break affair for Special Vehicle contenders.
With three races remaining in the 2013 Donaldson series and with only 12 points separating three crews at the top of the standings, every point is a precious one at this stage of the season. Two good events in a row – including points and a half for winning the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana – have earned former South African champions Hermann and Wichard Sullwald (Elegant Fuel Stryker) a precarious 9.5 points lead over reigning champions Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen in the Motorite BAT Viper.
The trio at the top of the overall and Class A championship standings is completed by KwaZulu-Natal pair Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell in the Dirt Sport Components Porter. They are just 2.5 points behind Hutchison and Stassen and this season have turned potential into solid results.
Class P flyer Colin Matthews, now partnered by Rodney Burke in the Century Racing CR3, is fourth in the driver championship and is another 9.5 points off the pace. Next up in the driver and co-driver stakes are Philip de Vries and Johan Viljoen (Conqueror Porter), who have quietly slipped into the top five where they hold slender leads over Nick and Ryan Harper (Motorite BAT Venom) and Quintin and Kallie Sullwald in the Elegant Fuel BAT Venom.
Good results on cross country racing’s return to North West Province are equally important for those chasing the top three. A poor result will virtually blow them out of contention with Quintin and Kallie Sullwald 34.5 points behind the championship leaders.
All the top seven or eight crews in the championship will fancy their chances with Matthews and Burke coming off a stunning win on the Sun City 400 in the Pilanesberg. But, to use a cross country racing expression, there are a couple of ‘lurkers’ who could upset apple carts.
Mark Corbett and Julian Hardy (Century Racing CR4) came up with their best result of the season when they finished third behind Matthews/Burke and Hermann and Wichard Sullwald at Sun City. They will throw their hats into the ring along with the likes of Marius and Jolinda Fourie (PHB BAT) who will be on familiar ground, veteran Nardus Alberts and son Louis in the Wrapsa BAT and a couple of crews who are on the fringes of the championship top 10.
A crew to keep an eye on, too, are Jimmy Zahos and Stefan Coetzee in the Cobalt Racing Stryker. The locally developed and built car showed plenty of potential on debut at Sun City and, given reliability, Zahos and Coetzee are capable of mixing it at the front of the field.
Matthews and Burke will be heavily backed in some quarters to repeat their Sun City 400 win and again dominate Class P. Swaziland based driver John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten (Zarco) won’t match Matthews and Burke for sheer pace, but steady performances have taken them to the top of the Class P championship standings.
Matthews, however, is 27.5 points behind Thomson and Alan Smith, who sat alongside Matthews up until the Sun City race, is still second among the co-drivers. Coetzee and Sandra Labuscagne (Raysonics Zarco), who need to bounce back from two non finishes in a row, still lie third in the driver and co-driver title races.
Veterans Rob Wark and Ashley Thorn (K9 Racing Aceco) return to the scene of previous triumphs with Wark a previous winner of the Toyota Desert Race in a singleseater. Keith Makenete will want to build on an encouraging result at Sun by finishing in the points.
The Class P ranks are also bolstered by veteran Ernest Corbett, who will share the Century Racing CR2 with Guy Henley, with Martin Hermida doing the co-driving and newcomer Sean Reitz in the Regent Racing Jimco. Reitz will have the experienced George Smalberger sitting alongside him.
Race headquarters and the designated service park will be located at the Vryburg Motor Club with free public entry into these areas and spectator points along the route. Qualifying on Friday will start at 12:00 and the main race at 08:30 on Saturday.