The Special Vehicle Category of the 2023 SA Rally-Raid Championship has mostly been a tight-knit affair during the season and with only the seventh and final round of the series to go, just the overall and Class A titles have been finalised. The remaining titles has turned into close fought challenges and ding-dong battles where the outcome has not been conclusive.
After claiming their fourth victory of the season, defending Overall Special Vehicle and Class A champions, Tim Howes and Gary Campbell (BAT Spec 4) have confirmed their third set of titles having also won in 2020 and 2022. With the pair earning a total of 161 points in the overall standings, the team has opened a safe gap of 53 points to second-placed driver, Geoff Minnitt (108 points) and navigator, Rodney Burke (96 points) in their Hydro Power Equipment Can-Am Maverick who are also the leading Class G team on the overall standings. The difference in points is the result of Minnitt competing in the Production Vehicle Category at the season opener with Burke only joining him as navigator from the third round.
The team have been in a season-long scrap with youngster Ian Mostert and his father Werner in the navigator seat of their Moto-Netix Racing Can-Am Maverick. The team has 94 points to put them third in the overall standings and still in with a chance to finish the season in second place overall. They are, however, only four points ahead of Class G team-mates, Glen Theron/Craig Calvin and this could develop into a tricky situation at the Waterberg 400 in November.
John Thomson/Maurice Zermatten (Class A Zarco Challenger) are fifth overall (70 points) having missed two races.
In the class championships, competitors earn an additional five points for starting an event. This adds to an interesting script that starts with the Class A title being safely secured by Howes/Campbell who have accumulated 144 points. Thomson/Zermatten (90 points) has secured their runner-up spot as Lood du Preez (Farmer’s Meat Abattoirs) will not be adding to his 64 points as he has moved with navigator, Junior Vardy (42 points) to the Production Vehicle Category.
Vardy can still be overtaken by Andrew Makenete (BAT Makmobile) who navigates for his brother, Keith as the team have 40 points to their credit. Trace Price Moor (35 points) rounds off the top five in the Class A Drivers’ Championship while Rikus Hattingh, who navigated for Du Preez and LC de Jager –is seventh overall with 22 points – and fifth in the navigators’ standings.
All eyes will, however, be on the happenings in Class G. Despite Minnitt and Burke not competing in all events, Minnitt leads the Drivers’ Championship and has 154 points followed by Ian Moster (145 points) while Theron has 142 points. This means all three drivers stand a chance on the title and will feel the pressure at the final round. Van Rensburg is fourth (97 points) and Francois de Wit, who missed the Free State event, fifth (59 points)
In the Class G Navigators’ Championship, former Class G champion, Werner Mostert (145 points) has his foot in the door for another national championship title as he leads the standings by three points ahead of his team-mate, Calvin (142 points). Burke is not too far behind in third place (126 points) and with only 19 points covering the leading three navigators, the teams will be under pressure to earn as many points as possible.
Van Rensburg’s navigator, Johan Scheepers (97 points) is fourth followed by Neil de Wit (54 points) who rounds off the top five.
In Class P Quintin Lessing (Century CRT), who has made use of two navigators, is leading (37 points) together with Brendon Smith (27 points) who joined him at the Botswana Desert race. Kalil Hussain/André Geldenhuys, who entered the TGRSA 1000 are second (29 points) with Grant Watkins/Mark Irvine (Zarco) third (20 points).
Competitors will have a final chance to bag valuable points when they participate in the Waterberg 400 on 10 and 11 November in Limpopo.
Published by: SA National Cross Country Series – Charmaine Fortune
Photography by: Plan C Productions
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