Words & Photo: SA National Off Road Car Racing Association
A blast from the past and some interesting driver/co-driver combinations will add a little extra interest to the Atlas Copco Gold 400, the final event on the Donaldson Cross Country Championship calendar, in Westonaria on November 22 and 23.
The race will also decided the outcome of the Special Vehicle championship with a log jam at the top of the points ladder. The Production Vehicle category has already been settled in favour of Team Castrol Toyota Hilux pair Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy, but the runner-up spot still has to be decided with second placed Ford Ranger crew Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst looking for their eighth podium finish in a row.
The blast from the past comes courtesy of former champion John Weir-Smith who returns to action after a lengthy absence. Weir-Smith will be out in Porter with Richard Foyn doing the co-driving.
At his peak Weir-Smith was a colourful character who took no prisoners. It might take him a while to shake off the ring rust, but he could open a few eyes.
Also back in harness in Class A in the Special Vehicle category will be Mark Corbett and Martin Hermida (Century Racing CR 4), and Jimmy Zahos who will have a second outing this season in the Cobalt Racing Stryker. Zahos will be joined in the car by Alan Smith who started the season co-driving for Class P title contender Colin Matthews in the Century Racing CR3.
Another prodigal son will return to action in the form of Richard Fuller who has bought the RFS BMW X3 formerly campaigned by Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren. Fuller is one of a handful of drivers to have won an event overall in a Class P car, and will be making his debut in the Production Vehicle category.
Fuller will be accompanied by rally specialist Andre Vermeulen who is also no stranger to cross country racing. Before concentrating on rallying over the last couple of seasons, the vastly experienced Vermeulen spent a season or two alongside Gary Bertholdt in an Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux.
There are also changes in the UniFreight Ford Ranger team where they believe in keeping matters in the family. Team principal Kobus van Tonder will team up with daughter Lizelle, while son Jacques will share a second Ford Ranger with brother in law Freddie Kriel.
The factory Ford Racing team will also use the Westonaria event as a shake down for next year’s Dakar Rally in South America. With Visser/Badenhorst involved in the fight for the runner-up spot in the Production Vehicle category, Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable will put the new Ford Ranger through its paces.
The event will also incorporate the final round of the Northern Regions Cross Country Championship, and will be a final test outing for the new Side by Side class to be introduced into the Donaldson championship next year. An interesting entry here is motorcycle ace Darryl Curtis who will share a Polaris RZR900 with Riaan van Vuuren.
Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service park will all be located at the Kloof Country Club in Glenharvie S 26 23 09.65 E 27 37 06.96
Public access to these areas and spectator points along the route is free of charge.Specator Guides can be down loaded at www.sacrosscountryracing.co.za as from 18 November.
The 60 kilometres qualifying race to determined grid positions will start at noon on Friday, November 22 and the race at 08:30 on Saturday, November 23. The race will be run over two 170 kilometre loops with a compulsory 15 minute service halt after the first lap.
Follow the Donaldson Cross Country Championship action on: