The excitement is building for the Mpumalanga 400, the first round of the 2021 South African National Cross Country Series (SACCS) that will take place from the quaint fly-fishing destination, Dullstroom in Mpumalanga on Friday and Saturday, 26 and 27 March.
The Mpumalanga 400 will not only form the opening round of the 2021 season, but it will also be the first of the Super Events on the calendar where a somewhat different race structure will be introduced. The cherry on top of all the anticipation will be a challenging and testing route that will take competitors through some of the most scenic parts in the country.
Despite a challenging 2020 season due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, competitors in the Production and Special Vehicle Categories are eagerly looking forward to tackle the season and the Mpumalanga 400, introduced in 2018 and voted Best Event in the same year, will again present the perfect season opener. This event has become known for throwing everything at competitors while changing weather conditions during the weekend, adds to the challenges and those who walk away with points, deserve every single one earned.
With the final touches being added to the Mpumalanga 400, competitors can expect an action-packed 447 kilometre race over the two days. Day 1 (Friday) will comprise a short 10km Pirelli Qualifying Race that will determine the starting order for Loop 1 that follows on the same day after the Pirelli Qualifying Race. The results of the first day will again determine the starting order for Day 2 that will consist of two racing loops.
All the action will take place from the Dullstroom Cricket Oval in the heart of this popular little town. The Race Headquarters as well as the Start/Finish on both racing days and the Designated Service Point (DSP) will be at the Cricket Oval. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 Protocols and Regulations, no spectators will be allowed at the venue.
The 10km Pirelli Qualifying Race on Friday will start at 10:30 when competitors will experience a section of the Belfast loop. This will be followed by Loop 1, a 102 kilometre stretch of varied and challenging terrain and will start at 13:30. With approximately 112 kilometres on day one under the belt, teams will have an idea of what they can expect on Saturday, but if they thought they have seen it all before, a welcome surprise awaits them.
On Saturday, competitors will tackle loop 2 at 08:00 according to Friday’s final results. They will start out on the Belfast loop and will be back at the DSP for a compulsory 30-minute de-control after approximately 127 kilometres. Then it is back to the new and exciting Tonteldoos loop that will also form part of the third and final loop of the race.
“The Tonteldoos loop will present teams with undoubtedly some of the most beautiful roads and scenery in Africa,” explains SACCS Route Director, Evan Hutchison.
Competitors will run through the Verloren Vallei Nature Reserve which is part of the Steenkampsberg mountain range. With river crossings, forest and flat open sections, this loop has a mix of everything to add to the excitement. Loop 3 will be approximately 208 kilometres and incorporates the Tonteldoos loop before joining up with a shortened Belfast loop that will take competitors to the finish in Dullstroom. All three loops on the weekend include various de-control sections.
“We are extremely excited about the route for the Mpumalanga 400 as it will be a proper introduction to the 2021 season,” Hutchison said. “We know that Dullstroom can deliver four seasons in one day, but this year with Cyclone Eloise, the area has received an incredible amount of rain and parts of the route on the Belfast loop are very overgrown,” he stated.
Hutchison thanked Johan Horn Snr. and his Malalane Toyota team who have played a huge role in the Mpumalanga 400, not only to have the event added to the calendar, but also with the logistics since the inception of the race. The Malalane Toyota team are currently busy slashing an overgrown section of approximately 80 kilometres on the Belfast loop to be ready for the event on 26 and 27 March.
Entries for the Mpumalanga 400 are still open with late entries closing on 19 March. All indications are that the 2021 championship will attract a healthy field of entries and with the Dullstroom event opening the season, a good number of teams in both the Production Vehicle Category as well as the Special Vehicle Category, that includes the Side x Side class, are expected to participate.