Tight title battles in SA Rally-Raid Special Vehicle category produced new champions

The Special Vehicle Category of the SA Rally-Raid Championship produced its fair share of nail-biting title battles and with the dust settled after the Waterberg 400, the seventh and final round of the 2023 series that took place in the Thabazimbi area of the Limpopo Province, and the calculations finalised, the overall and class championship standings had quite an interesting look to it.

The defending Overall Special Vehicle Category and Class A champions, Tim Howes/Gary Campbell (BAT Spec 4) secured their title before the final event, but a fifth victory would have looked good for their records. The team could unfortunately not complete the race – the first race this season they could not finish – and rounded their season off with a total of 161 points.

In the overall standings, they were followed by three Class G teams with the newly crowned Drivers’ Champions, Geoff Minnitt, and navigator, Rodney Burke (Hydro Power Equipment Can-Am Maverick) earning 138 and 126 points respectively. Minnitt competed in the Production Vehicle Category at the season opener while Burke only joined him from the third round. Behind the team, a ding-dong battle between the two Moto-Netix Racing Can-Am Maverick teams ended with Glen Theron/Craig Galvin rounding off the overall podium (108 points), a mere two points ahead of their team-mates, Ian and his dad, Werner Mostert.

With the changes in teams and different driver/navigator combinations, it so happened that the Mostert family retained one SA national title with Werner, who has won the Class G Drivers’ Championship last year with Ian the winning navigator, claiming the Class G Navigators’ Championship title this year. Werner and his brother, Leon, were the first Class G champions when the class received national championship status in 2019.

Rounding off the top five in the Overall Special Vehicle Championship, were John Thomson/Maurice Zermatten (Zarco Challenger) who accumulated 70 points despite missing the opening and final events of the year. They finished as the Class A runners-up in the overall standings.

In the various class championships, competitors are allocated an additional five points for starting a race resulting in the points’ standing looking somewhat different, especially where changing driver/navigator combinations were involved.

Looking at the Class A championship, Howes/Campbell ended the season with 149 points followed by Thomson/Zermatten with 90. Lood du Preez, who made use of various navigators before joining the Production Vehicle Category halfway through the season, is third in the Drivers’ Championship (64 points) followed by Keith Makenete (BAT Makmobile) with 57 points and Trace Price Moor, who only participated once (35 points).

In the Class A Navigators’ Championship, Keith’s brother, Andrew, finished on the podium in third place (57 points) followed by Junior Vardy who scored 42 points next to Du Preez with Rikus Hattingh earning 39 points next to Du Preez and LC de Jager.

The Class G title battle kept everyone on the edge of their seats throughout the season. Three different teams claimed victories while the two Moto-Netix Racing teams were the only two teams to have started and completed all seven events. Minnitt (182 points) is the 2023 Drivers’ Champion after four victories and two more podium positions. Behind him, Ian and his team-mate, Glen Theron, scored the same number of points (162) with the scholar finishing second in the standings after claiming two victories and Theron rounding out the podium.

Ewald van Rensburg, winner of the second round together with his navigator, Johan Scheepers, is fourth (102 points) and Francois de Wit, fifth (82 points).

In the Class G Navigators’ Championship, Werner emerged as the champion having had more victories than his team-mate (Calvin) despite both competitors finishing the season with 162 points. Burke rounds off the podium (154 points) with Scheepers fourth (102 points) and Neil de Wit fifth (77 points).

The Class P title goes to Quintin Lessing (Century CRT) with 52 points and one of the three navigators who joined him during the season, Brendon Smith (32 points). Kalil Hussain/André Geldenhuys (29 points) are second with Grant Watkins/Mark Irvine (20 points) third. Noel Acton (15 points) and Patrick Dodon (5 points) are fourth and fifth respectively between the navigators, both having had outings with Lessing.

The Special Vehicle Category once again produced spectacular racing and forms an integral part of the SA Rally-Raid Championship.