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It is time to start the engines for the SA Rally-Raid opener in Mpumalanga

An enjoyable first loop, the Belfast Loop, will be on the menu for Friday. It will be approximately 80 kilometres in distance with some high speed sections in and out of the lush Belfast forest.

It is time for the nerves to kick in as the organisers of the SA Rally-Raid Championship have finalised the arrangements for the Mpumalanga 400, the season opener that takes place on 25 and 26 March in the Dullstroom area and with this first round classified as a Super Event, there will be even more action on both race days in the scenic trout-fishing mecca. And with the adapted C-19 Regulations, spectators will be welcomed back at the Start/Finish and Designated Service Park (DSP) of the Mpumalanga 400, situated at the Village Green Cricket Oval in Dullstroom.  Published C-19 regulations will, however, still apply. New classes, sponsors, vehicles and teams, including competitors who have successfully returned from the Dakar Rally will be in action on what promises to be a demanding but enjoyable race route in a spectacular area, are all contributing factors to this event setting the tone for the rest of an exciting season to follow.

Lance Trethewey and Adriaan Roets.

The racing action for the Production and Special Vehicle Categories will start early on Friday, 25 March when a short 20 kilometre Qualifying Race will kick off the Mpumalanga 400 Super Event at 10:15. The starting order for the Qualifying Race will be based on the national seeding system with teams starting at one-minute intervals. The route will present competitors with a pleasant mix of forest routes and tracks and fingers will be crossed for good weather conditions as an introduction to the 2022 SA Rally-Raid Championship. The results of the Qualifying Race will determine the starting order for loop one of the Main Race that will commence at 13:00 on Friday. The starting order for the first loop will differ somewhat from the previous championship with the top 10 drivers classified in the Qualifying Race being able to choose their start positions, for loop one, by means of a draw with the tenth classified driver having the first choice, then ninth descending to the fastest qualifier. An enjoyable first loop, the Belfast Loop, will be on the menu for Friday. It will be approximately 80 kilometres in distance with some high speed sections in and out of the lush Belfast forest. According to locals, but pending the unpredictable weather conditions of the area, the loop should be relatively dry. With the first 100 kilometres on the clock, competitors will take on loops two and three on Saturday, 26 March with the leading vehicle leaving the Village Green Cricket Oval in Dullstroom at 08:00 to tackle the short spectator stage on the outskirts of Dullstroom before heading into the scenic Tonteldoos section. Teams will start loop two in accordance to the combined classifications of the Qualifying Race and loop one with a 130-kilometre loop two awaiting them. Most competitors will have experienced the scenic views of the Mpumalanga 400 in previous years and the route will again consist of open tracks in the most picturesque surroundings that include mountains, riverbeds and challenging technical sections.

Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy.

After completion of loop two, teams will return to the DSP for a compulsory service break before challenging the same race loop again. With the DSP now open to the public, enthusiasts can be part of the thrill and excitement of the race by rubbing shoulders with the teams and viewing the race vehicles up close while food and refreshments will be on sale by the SA Epilepsy Home (SANEL) and other local providers throughout the weekend. The finish of the 2022 Mpumalanga 400 will be at the Village Green Oval for teams who successfully completed the 360 kilometre event. With a full field in both the Production and Special Vehicle Categories expected at the season opener, spectators and enthusiasts will be in for a treat. It is all about going for gold and aiming for the championships, teams score points towards their separate class championships and the overall standings in either the Production or Special Vehicle Categories. After the previous four successful outings of the Mpumalanga 400 in the Dullstroom area, the event has established itself as one of the biggest sporting events in the region and contributes handsomely towards the economy in terms of accommodation, food and beverage, fuel sales and short term employment, which all boost the area and business in general.

2021 Overall Winners Lance Woolridge and Elvene Vonk.

The success of this event has been reliant on the excellent support from Malalane Toyota and the whole-hearted co-operation from the local authorities and businesses as well as the land owners who make their properties available to the event, and the SA Rally-Raid Championship is grateful for the collaboration between the various role-players. During the race, the action can be followed on the RallySafe App that is available, at no charge, on the Google Play Store or the iStore. Information will also be available on the Telegram App. Photos: Nadia Jordaan

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