Competitors in the Special Vehicle category intend taking the fight to the Production Vehicle brigade when the third round of the Absa Off Road Championship, the 25th Toyota 1000 Desert Race, which takes place in Botswana from June 3-5.

The entry list features the who’s who of off road racing with Special Vehicle entries outstripping the Production Vehicle entries. As far as the big guns go Class A alone has 20 entries versus only two Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody pick ups in Class F.

In the Production Vehicle category the odds are stacked in favour of Nissan’s Hannes Grobler, who has won the Toyota 1000 for the past three years, and co-driver Francois Jordaan by virtue of good preparation and an intimate knowledge of the terrain. Teammates Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford will no doubt benefit from their many years of competing and winning on two wheels in Botswana and could emerge surprise overall winners.

Class D is where the real battle will be fought out between Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Land Rover.

The lone Team Ford Racing Ranger of Class D championship leaders Manfred Schroder and Alec Harris will come under immediate attack from the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i’s driven by Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin, Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton and Paolo Piazza-Musso and Ockie Fourie and the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody pick ups crewed by Arnold du Plessis and Johan Knox and brothers Jurie and Andre du Plessis.

2004 Milestone Award winners Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler are always models of consistency in the Mastercraft / Ryobi Mitsubishi Pajero and can be relied upon to finish on the podium. The trusty Mitsubishi completed its 16th successive race on the recent Nissan Dealer 400.

The Bosal / N1 4x4 team will only field two vehicles following the total destruction of the Toyota Hilux V6 driven by father and son Cliff and Louis Weichelt on the Nissan Dealer 400. Brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat will be in action in the Class D Land Rover Defender in which they have finished both the events run to date and George Barkhuizen and Rod Hering in the Class E Toyota Hilux 2.7i.

Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i) will be the crew to beat. The pair won the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 and then Hugo, driving solo after father Jaap was laid low with food poisoning on the eve of the Nissan Dealer 400, went on to finish second in Class E. Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux 2.7i) won in the Western Cape and, along with Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo (Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i), can be expected to pile the pressure on the Vryburg businessmen.

Father and son Dirk and Dirk Jr. van Reenen (Savannah Ford Ranger) and the Team Ford Racing development team of Baphumze Rubuluza and Kulile Vakalisa (Ford Ranger) are locked in their own private battle as well as in one with the large Toyota contingent.

Thomas Rundle and Stavros Yiannakis will fly the Nissan flag in their Class E Barden Tyre Services Hardbody.

The Special Vehicle attack will come from a number of crews who have won the Toyota 1000 before.

The crowd favourites will undoubtedly be 2004 winners Atang Makgekgenene and Buks Carolin (Total Jimco) but they can expect to come under huge pressure from 2003 winners John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco), 2000 winners Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr (Century Property Developments BAT), 1994 winner Robert Wark and son Gareth in the Superpave Chenowth in which they finished fifth overall on the recent Nissan Dealer 400 and veteran Richard Schilling, who won the 1990 Toyota 1000, and co-driver Chris Davies in the Class S Plastotech Aceco.

Following close behind will be a gaggle of teams looking for their maiden overall victory on this notoriously demanding event. Shameer Variawa and VZ van Zyl (Total Porter) have the talent but the vehicle has been somewhat unreliable while Special Vehicle Championship leaders Terence Marsh and Michael Whitehouse have got to grips with their new Nashua Mobile BAT Spec-1 and can be expected to attack from the flag.

John Moore and Graham Maclachlan (Connix Internet Chenowth) finished second overall in the Special Vehicle category on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 and are quite capable of winning as are the surprise performers on the Nissan Dealer 400, Will Battershill and Reg Sutton, who entered the Class A fray in the ex-Marsh Jimco and promptly finished second overall.

Wily old fox Giel Nel and Peter Newbery cannot be discounted. The former Special Vehicle Drivers Champion has now got the Subaru powered LUK / Ate Zarco Lite sorted out and, with his reputation for bringing his vehicle across the line in one piece, could well surprise some of the more fancied crews.

There is no love lost on the track between brothers Gary and Bevan Bertholdt and they will again be embroiled in their own battle. Gary and Siegfried Rousseau (iBurst/Advansoft BAT) won the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 but crashed out of the next event while Bevan and Nick Selamolela survived a roll over in KwaZulu-Natal to finish fourth, but with the front suspension of the iBurst BAT Spec-1 askew and then crashed out of the next event.

There are a number of crews that could emerge as winners in the ultra-competitive Class B and everyone will have their sights set on championship leaders Evan Hutchison and Trevor Ormerod in the Motorite Racing BAT, brothers Rudi and Pierre van Graan (Technochair Zarco Lite) and David White (Truggy) who have all finished both events run to date. Nissan Dealer 400 Class B winners Ernest Corbett and Warwick Goosen (Century Property Developments BAT), brothers Hendrik and Louis Fourie (Zarco Lite) and Swaziland based John Thomson and Clinton McNamara (Mormond Zarco Lite) and reigning champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain (JRE) have some ground to make up and the battle between the crews will be something to behold.

The 25th Toyota 1000 Desert Race gets underway with a 40km Prologue at 13h00 on Friday, 3 June followed by a 480km section from Game City in Gaborone to the designated service point at Mantshwabisi and back to Game City, which starts at 07h30 on Saturday. Survivors of day one will restart at Game City at 07:30 on Sunday and tackle the route in the opposite direction before finishing at Game City at approximately 14h00.

Original article from Car