Competitors will be thrown in at the deep end with a challenging new route for the RFS Endurance, the opening round of this year’s Donaldson Cross Country Championship, in Harrismith on March 27 and 28.

Eric Hutchinson
Eric Hutchinson

The series has a fresh look about it this year with the calendar reduced from eight to six events with sprint, endurance and marathon race formats. The RFS Endurance is one of two such events, with the remainder of the calendar made up of three sprint races and a marathon race.

The season opener which, incorporates a round of the prestigious Dakar Challenge, will be run over a total distance of 698 kilometres made up of a 196 kilometre qualifying race to determine grid positions, and two laps of 251 kilometres with a compulsory 20 minute halt at the end of the first loop. All but 50 kilometres of this year’s route will be new to competitors with the RFS event based in Harrismith for only the second time.

“The new format for this year’s race posed a few challenges for us but we have had tremendous co-operation from Harrismith based cross country stalwart Kobus van Tonder, local authorities, landowners and famers,” said route director Adri Roets. “The majority of the route is in a beautiful and hilly region of the Free State.

“It’s very scenic with plenty of long grass at this time of the year, and I think competitors are going to relish a route that is technical and challenging.”

Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service park will all be located at the La La Nathi resort on the outskirts of Harrismith. The qualifying race will take crews from the start towards Waltons, using sections of last year’s route, before crossing a mountain ridge on the way back towards Harrismith.

The route then follows the old Qwa Qwa road towards the Sterkfontein Dam. Crews skirt the dam on the Qwa Qwa road towards Bethlehem, before heading back to La La Nathi.

The opening sections of the race loops are a carbon copy of the qualifying route before veering around the Sterkfontein Dam in a clockwise direction towards Qwa Qwa. Crews then join sections of the qualifying route on the way back to the start/finish.

As is the norm on Donaldson Cross Country Championship events the route is spectator friendly. There are numerous viewing points, on good quality roads, within easy access of race headquarters.

Public access to race headquarters and viewing points along the route is free of charge, and spectator guides will be available at the start/finish with food and refreshments provided by local schools. The qualifying race on March 27 will start at 10:30 and the race at 07:30 the following day.