Defending champions, former champions and possible new champions will all line up in the Special Vehicle category at the Mpumalanga 400, the opening round of the South African National Cross Country Championship (SACCS) that takes place on Friday and Saturday, 28 and 29 February in one of South Africa’s most prized fly-fishing destinations Dullstroom.
To add to the excitement in this category the popular Class G Side x Side National Championship will now form part of the Special Vehicle Championship and the battle will be on between teams in Class A, Class P and Class G for the overall title as well as the various class championship titles.
The regulars will be back for more in Class A while a few new names also appear on the entry list. After winning four races and claiming the overall and Class A championship titles, Lance Trethewey and Adriaan Roets will be back in action in their LT Earthmovers BAT Venom. They will no doubt be chased by John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten (Mormond Zarco Challenger) who would hope for a better start to their season that only really got going from the halfway mark in the Botswana. They finished as runners-up in 2019 and if they can score consistently, they might be the thorn in the side of many a challenging team.
Clint Gibson and Alaric Smith (Dirt Sport Components Stryker) did not compete in the full series last year, but this KwaZulu-Natal team are dangerous when they are on the start line. The Mpumalanga 400 will be a first experience for them, and they would like to show their mettle and go home with good points and some silverware.
After a challenging first season, the 2018 SA Special Vehicle Navigators’ Champion Sandra Labuschagne-Jonck will be back behind the wheel of the Total Agri Porter with hubby Jaco Jonck reading the notes. The couple are still on a learning curve but have stacked up hundreds of racing kilometres and are positive about the new season.
With his son, Marius Fourie and daughter-in-law Jolinda, who won the 2017 Overall Special Vehicle Championship and now competing in the Production Vehicle category, André Fourie has again teamed up with Hendrikus Pienaar in the BAT Spec 3 for a family weekend in Dullstroom while SACCS newcomer, Tim Howes and experienced navigator Gary Campbell (Zarco Magnum) will be the dark horse in the category and a team to look out for.
The KZN regional competitors, Trace Price Moor and Shaun Braithwaite (BAT) might only have one SACCS event under their belts after successfully participating in the Parys 400 in 2019, but are ready for more and will compete in Class P.
Class G has attracted a healthy field of SxS teams with six of the seven entrants making use of the Can-Am Maverick recreational vehicles. Brothers Werner and Leon Mostert (Team Elf Renault) were the first ever SA National Champions in the class and will hope to defend their title successfully this season. They will, however, have their hands full as a competitive field will all go for gold.
Having missed the first two events of the 2019 season Dewald van Breda/Johann Du Toit and Christo Rose/Dirk Swart clinched second and third respectively proving their worth. Van Breda/Du Toit, due to business commitments, will miss the first event of the season. Christo Rose and new navigator Arno Olivier will take on the Mpumalanga 400 for the first time and hope to return home with a solid start to the season. Theo Erasmus and Edward Odendaal won first time out when they made their debut at the Lichtenburg 400 last year and another victory will look good in their record books.
Markus Labuschagne who only competed in the Toyota 1000 Desert race in Botswana last year has teamed up with Gert Niemand for the Mpumalanga 400 while Dean Bradbury (Canon Rotex) also made only one appearance in the TDR 1000 in 2019, and Timmy Botes will be under starters orders at Dullstroom. Following his sabbatical 2018 SxS champion Nico du Rand is back for more SACCS action with Diederick Hattingh while it will be a first SACCS experience for Hanno Bierman/Pieter de Beer (Can-Am).
After a few outings in the Production Vehicle category, father and son Archie and Kent Rutherford will now compete in Class G with dad Archie reading the notes for young Kent who will be behind the wheel of their Can-Am.
The Class G SxS field brims with a combination of enthusiastic young talent as well as experienced competitors and lots of action can be expected from these popular racing vehicles.
“We are delighted to have the SxS as part of the Special Vehicle category and to see the growing numbers in the category for the Mpumalanga 400 is most encouraging,” said SACCS chief executive officer, Archie Rutherford, “We are confident the spectacle will deliver and look forward to an actioned packed 2020“ he said.
The Mpumalanga 400 starts on Friday, 28 February when documentation and vehicle scrutineering opens at 10:00 at the Village Green Cricket Oval in Dullstroom. Race Headquarters as well as the Start/Finish and Designated Service Point (DSP) will be at the cricket oval. The first vehicle will tackle the 64km Qualifying Race on Friday at 13:00 with the results determining the starting order for the race on Saturday.
Teams will set off at 08:00 to complete a 157km loop on Saturday before breaking for a compulsory service halt and decontrol at DSP. The race restarts at 12:00 as competitors need to complete the second 157km loop before finishing at the oval where the podium ceremony will take place.
Enthusiasts and spectators can follow the Mpumalanga 400 on the RallySafe App available free of charge for Android and iOS mobile devices.
Spectators can enjoy all the action from the Stadium Section less than a kilometre from the Village Green Cricket Oval as well as various vantage points along the route on both Friday and Saturday. Access to all these areas is free of charge.