Two months’ of testing the off road driving skills of nearly 500 entrants in the elimination rounds of the 2012 Amarok Spirit of Africa Trophy competition have come to an end in the Kondowe private nature reserve in Limpopo. The top 20 teams of two will contest the finals over four days in southernNamibiafrom August 8 to 11.
The finalists emerged the victors from 24 groups of 20 teams who travelled to Kondowe, 65 kilometres from Phalaborwa and close to the western boundary of the Greater Kruger National Park, to compete in the two-day challenge from May 3 to July 2.
The overall winners of the 2012 Amarok Spirit of Africa Trophy will receive a cash prize of R50 000. The runners-up will receive R30 000 and third place is worth R20 000.
The top-scoring finalists were the husband and wife team of Piet and Madeleine Kotze of Olifantshoek, winners of the trophy in 2007 and 2009. Reigning champion Christiaan Otto of Bultfontein, winner in 2010 and 2011, finished fourth with wife Chane.
The finalists are: Piet and Madeleine Kotze of Olifantshoek (1 668 points), Jaacie and Natasha Visagie of Pretoria (1 613 points), Callie Otto and Neels Labuschagne of Bultfontein (1 592 points), Christaan and Chane Otto of Bultfontein (1 588 points), Jacques Viljoen and Wikus du Plessis of Kempton Park (1 564 point), CJ de Klerk and Fanie Spies of Randburg (1 552 points), Juan Grant and Douw Roode of Pretoria (1 536 points), Alwyn Jordaan and Melanie Barnard of Windhoek (1 521 points), Andre and Yvonne de Villiers of Pretoria (1 503 points), Renier and Renza Boshoff of Modimolle (1 462 points), Juan and Carla Engelbrecht of Kimberley (1 450 points), Carel Otto and Eddie du Plooy of Bultfontein (1 442 points), Lopie Jonck and Toppie Myburgh of Pretoria (1 431 points), Tian and Sanet Theunissen of Musina (1 430 points), Larry Landman and Tjaart van der Walt of Ellisras (1 416 points), Bennie Kotze and Bennie Maritz of Olifantshoek (1 409 points), Salmon and Anton Victor of Upington (1 399 points), De Wet Loubser and Louwrens Vermaak of White River (1 387 points), Leon and Lienkie Labuschagne of Tzaneen (1 385 points) and Nico van Staden and Soon Bezuidenhout of Pretoria (1 372 points).
“It’s been a long and dusty process, but we’re happy to have completed the elimination rounds without any major incidents,” said Spirit of Africa Trophy founder and convenor Sarel van der Merwe. The legendary former national rally and circuit racing champion, who also made a name for himself in international sports car racing and won the 1984 Daytona 24 Hour in the United States of America, declared himself satisfied with the results of the first half of the eighth Spirit of Africa Trophy.
“Kondowe, which means ‘place of the porcupine’, has proved to be a great venue and we’ll be returning here for next year’s elimination rounds,” said SuperVan. “The sandy tracks and dry river beds among the mopani forests of this beautiful community-owned nature reserve have provided the ideal test for the competitors.
“I set out a more technical challenge than in previous years and the contestants, many of whom have been with us before, welcomed this. The standard of driving was very high and we were pleased to welcome a lot of new, younger competitors.
“This was the third year we have used the Volkswagen Amarok and the first time we had the single cab 2.0 litre TDI version. It has proved to be a more than capable vehicle under very testing conditions and its overall performance impressed everybody. We experienced no major mechanical problems at all. Thanks to Volkswagen, the 20 finalists can buy their bakkies after the finals. I expect quite a few will do just that.
Van der Merwe also paid tribute to the Goodyear Wrangler AT/SA tyres fitted to the 23 Amarok bakkies and supplied by co-sponsor Goodyear. “We couldn’t have a better tyre for the testing conditions we’ve encountered during Spirit of Africa.
“This tyre, which features SilentArmor Technology, has been specially developed for South African conditions and delivered a reliable and impressive performance throughout the two months without any failures.”
He also thanked co-sponsor Safari Centre for kitting out the tented camp site that was specially erected in the Limpopo bushveld and, with some permanent structures that were specially built by Kondowe, will become a feature of the nature reserve which is owned by the Selwane community and operated by Kondowe.
“Safari Centre provided more than 40 one-man, sleeping bags, mattresses and safari chairs for the contestants, as well as three Jurgens Luxury Explorers for me and my team. If you have to live in the bush for two or three months, this is the way to do it.
“It took us a week to set up camp after eight tons of equipment arrived by truck. This included generators, 1.5 kilometres of electrical cabling, 150 light bulb fittings, MTN and Vodacom signal booster masts, a kilometre of promotional bunting and flags.
“Now we have a short, but welcome break, before our core team of six (including wife Danielle and brother-in law Charles Blignault) heads toNamibiafor the finals. These will take place on the farm ‘Aussenkehr’ on the northern bank of theOrange River, 25 kilometres from the Vioolsdrif border post.”