Multiple Special Vehicle class champion, Eswatini (Swaziland) based John Thomson had his initial taste of Off Road racing in the mid-90s in a Class 10 vehicle, however, due to business obligations his passion and ambition had to be put on hold until 2004 when his SA Cross Country Series (SACCS) racing escapade started with two dependable friends as his navigator.
John, the soft spoken squire and CEO of Mormond Electrical Contractors, a multi-national organisation based in Swaziland and one of the largest electrical contracting companies in the country was started by John’s father Harry John in 1974.
Today the company has in excess of 200 employees servicing a multitude of clients ranging from household maintenance, building and electrical installations in the construction industry to high voltage overhead line work.
“Cross Country racing is my passion and a hobby which allows me to escape from the pressures of everyday business, to replenish the human reservoir and enjoy the beauty and splendour of the great outdoors,” John said.
“Between 2004 and 2006 good friend Clint McNamara, the MD of Mormond Electrical and I campaigned the South African designed and built Zarco Lite in the Class B SACCS Special Vehicle championship. We had a tremendous amount of fun and learnt a great deal about the sport, ourselves and one another,” said John.
In 2010 after a short hiatus the dauntless duo returned to the sport in a new and more powerful Zarco Magnum, however, at the end of 2012 McNamara hung up his helmet to spend more time with his young family. “Selecting a racing partner is a critical part of racing, as you need to respect and trust the individual who occupies the seat next to you implicitly,” John said.
The new incumbent, the highly experienced Maurice Zermatten took over the reins as co-pilot with John in 2013.
Zermatten hails from a family steeped in motorsport history and started his racing career alongside dad Han in a ToraTora special vehicle in 1981. Between 1984 and 2008 Maurice accompanied brother Henri in the Production Vehicle category where they primarily campaigned a Pajero and a Nissan in Class D.
From the outset it was evident the Thomson/Zermatten combination, in their Zarco Magnum, possessed all the qualities to make a lasting impression amidst some serious competition in the Special Vehicle category.
During their tenure in the Class P championship they clinched the title on four occasions and consistently finished in the top ten in the Overall Special Vehicle Championship behind the more powerful Class A cars.
“The competition was robust, and we constantly had to remind ourselves that winning was all about teamwork, reliability and finishing,” Zermatten said.
“In year one we clinched the 2013 Class P title with one round to spare ahead of the late Colin Matthews and the father and daughter combination of Coetzee and Sandra Labuscagne. 2014 was another good year, although the margins were very tight, our three event wins versus two a piece by James Watson and Mathews cemented the deal. 2015 and 2016 again saw us at the helm, and we were overjoyed with our success when we again sealed both championships with an event in hand,” Thomson said.
Having dominated Class P in previous seasons, the esteemed pair moved up a notch into Class A, taking with them a reputation for consistency and reliability which had been their hallmark.
Despite their best endeavours and the associated maladies of a new car Thomson/Zermatten regarded their fifth in class and eight overall in the 2017 Special Vehicle category, as an under achievement by their own standards, in their first season in Class A.
The only satisfaction and compensation for a dismal 2018 was winning day three of the Toyota 1000 Desert Race against all odds. Thomson/Zermatten did not finish the qualifying race on the Friday, and Saturday, day two of the event, was plagued with alternator and gearbox problems. “The TDR 1000 has always been a very special event for me and achieving our only finish and a win for the season on this iconic event was a huge booster,” Thomson said.
2019 was a far more rewarding year for the pair when they finished third in the Class A championship and second and third respectively in the overall Special Vehicle championship. “Unfortunately, business commitments meant that I had to miss Leg One of the TDR on Friday and Saturday dropping me to third in the overall standings,” Zermatten lamented.
“Cross Country racing has been a fairy tale experience for me, and I have loved every minute,” Thomson said.
“With the 2020 season on hold due to the unprecedented Coronavirus we are both keeping up our health and fitness regime and believe, when racing does resume, we will be ready to tackle it head-on,” said a confident Thomson.
Published by: Charmaine Fortune
MSA Publishes media releases from a host of different sources on our website as a service to the sport. It is not practically possible to vet/approve every release that is published. Some news items and articles are written by correspondents and do not necessarily represent MSA’s views.