There has been plenty of activity in the annual game of musical chairs as teams prepare for the opening round of the Donaldson Cross Country Motor Racing Championship. The season opens with the RFS Endurance Race in Vryburg in the North West province on April 1 and 2 and newcomers to the series, returning champions, a growing international presence and a new Production Vehicle class have all kept the pre-season pot boiling. The weekend also provides a spectacular start to the season with the RFS Endurance to run in conjunction with round two of the Northern Regions Cross Country Championship, and round one of the South African Cross Country Motorcycle and Quad Championship.
Kimberley based brothers Otto and Ronnie Graven, well known in South African drift racing circles, will be high profile newcomers and join the Class S brigade in the Production Vehicle category. Former SA drift champion Otto will be out in the ex Pieter Ruthven Toyota Hilux with Ronnie campaigning the ex Marius and Jolinda Fourie Toyota Hilux. For their part the Cristiana based Fouries will return to action in the Special Vehicle category. After limited appearances last season, the husband and wife combination return to the Class A fold in the PHB BAT Spec 4.
They will be joined by former South African champions Quintin and Kallie Sullwald who sat out last season. The father/son team will link up with reigning South African champions Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen at Motorite Racing. The Sullwalds, businessmen from Phalaborwa, hold a unique record in the Donaldson Cross Country Championship.
They have won national titles with father Kallie doing the driving and Quintin the navigating, and vice versa. The Special Vehicle category is given a further boost with Australian Dave McShane committing to a full season with the newly formed Fox Racing team. McShane, a former winner of the Australasian Safari, will be joined in the car by Leander Pienaar, who finished third in the drivers’ championship in the now defunct Side x Side championship in 2014.
McShane is based in Western Australia and tested South African waters with an appearance on the Atlas Copco Gold 450, the final event of last year’s Donaldson series. The Australian adds to a growing international presence in the Donaldson series with Brazilian brothers, Cristian and Marcos Baumgart, set to compete in Vryburg in the FIA Class in the Production Vehicle category. The new FIA Class will run alongside the current CLASS T and Class S vehicles, and allows Donaldson Cross Country teams to run cars to FIA Group T1 specifications.
It is a move that will allow teams to develop FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup and Dakar Rally cars over a full season, and encourages overseas teams to compete in South Africa. SANORA chief executive officer Siegfried Rousseau says: ‘The current favourable exchange rate is an incentive for international teams to compete in South Africa. With a blockbuster weekend in Vryburg to open proceedings, all the indications point towards a season full of potential.’ Race headquarters, the start finish and the designated service park for the RFS Endurance Race will all be based at the Vryburg Motor Club on the outskirts of the town.
Public entrance to these areas and designated spectator points along the car and motorcycle/quad routes is free of charge.
Photo credit: Keino & Belinda Snaps Photography