Botswana 1000 day one summary

HUGE PRODUCTION VEHICLE BATTLE ON TOYOTA 1000 DESERT RACE Gaborone -- A huge Production Vehicle category battle raged between Toyota and Nissan throughout day one of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race today. The race is round four...

HUGE PRODUCTION VEHICLE BATTLE ON TOYOTA 1000 DESERT RACE

Gaborone -- A huge Production Vehicle category battle raged between Toyota and Nissan throughout day one of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race today.

The race is round four of the Absa Off Road Championship and is set for a tremendous final day tomorrow. Just one minute and 43 seconds separates the first four crews in the Production Vehicle category and day two of the desert classic is going to be a war of attrition.

Surprise prologue winners Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn, in the Micaren Exel Dealer Team Toyota Hilux, spent the entire day fending off challenges from last year's winners, Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan, in the factory Nissan Navara. For their part Grobler/Jordaan were under pressure from third placed Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin, in the works Castrol Toyota Hilux, and Duncan Vos/Richard Leeke in a second factory Nissan Navara.

At the end of a grueling day the de Bruyn's, after losing second gear, were only 28 seconds ahead of Grobler and Jordaan. The Nissan pair were 35 seconds clear of Cronje/Birkin and Vos/Leeke were a further 31 seconds in arrears with fifth placed Mark Corbett/Rudy Balzer (Century Property Development Nissan Navara) also a threat.

The likes of Brandon Harcus/Juan Mohr, the first of the factory Ford Racing Ranger contingent, Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst (Castrol Toyota Hilux) and Bevan Bertholdt/Robin Houghton (Castrol Toyota Hilux) will also feel they are not completely out of the picture. It was not, however, a happy day for previous winners Neil Woolridge/Kenny Skjoldhammer (Ford Racing Ranger) and Manfred Schroder/Ward Huxtable (Absolute/Barloworld Ford Ranger) who ran into a string of problems and look to be out of contention.

"It was a tough day but staying out in front made it worth the effort," said Hugo de Bruyn. "Not having second gear made it even tougher on what is a very tight route, but the dust came to our rescue.

"The pressure will be on tomorrow, and it should be an interesting battle."

Cronje/Birkin spent the day eating dust from the Grobler/Jordaan vehicle with Cronje complaining it was almost impossible to overtake.

"The tight route and the dust make overtaking very risky," said Cronje. "It is frustrating but we will give it everything we have on the final day."

A tight battle also developed in Class D where Cliff and Louis Weichelt, in the Bosal Toyota Hilux D4D, snatched the lead from Henri and Maurice Zermatten (Ryobi Nissan Hardbody) late in the day. At the finish the Weichelt's were around three minutes ahead after the Nissan ran into suspension problems 30 kilometres from the finish.

Down in Class E there was another close fight. George and Sharon Barkhuizen (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) ended the day less than a minute ahead of Deon Venter and Ian Palmer, in another Toyota Hilux, with championship leaders Jack Peckham/Lucio Santoro (Ford Racing Ranger) in third place.

SULLWALD'S TAKE CONTROL OF SPECIAL VEHICLE CATEGORY ON TOYOTA 1000 DESERT RACE

Gaborone -- Former South African champion Karl-Heinz Sullwald and son Quinton Sullwald took control today of the Special Vehicle category on day one of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race.

The Sullwald's, in the Sullwald Transport Zarco, were two minutes and 47 seconds ahead of last year's winners Nick and Ryan Harper (Atlas Copco BAT) and will start the final day of what is round four of the Absa Off Road Championship in a powerful position. In contrast to the tight position at the front of the Production Vehicle category, the Special Vehicle field was strung out with the Harpers nearly five minutes ahead of third placed Colin Matthews and Alan Smith in the Century Property Development BAT.

Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann, in the Motorite BAT, stormed through the field from 20th position to end the day in fourth place. Fifth were another former SA champion, Shameer Variawa, and Siegfried Rousseau (Total Motorsport Porter) who set the fastest time in the Friday prologue to determine start positions.

The Sullwald's reported a troublefree run, and will be hard to beat on the final leg. The elder Sullwald is vastly experienced and on a tight route and in heavy dust overtaking will not be easy.

Behind Variawa/Rousseau the likes of Clint Gibson/Mike Brown (Absolute BAT), Nardus Alberts and Collin Hunter (Wrapsa BAT) and Terence Marsh/Pieter Groenewald (Regent Racing BAT) were closely bunched. They were too far back on the leaders, however, to pose serious threats.

Among those to fall by the wayside on a tough day were reigning South African champions Alfie Cox and Hennie ter Stege in the Motorite BAT. They ran into problems after the designated service points and, in contrast to team-mates Hutchison/Bergmann, gradually dropped down the pecking order.

After picking up a couple of punctures disaster struck for Cox/ter Stege with suspension damage leaving them on three wheels. The pair limped home with all thoughts of Cox completing a Desert Race hat-trick on two wheels and in Production and Special vehicles out of the window.

As has been the case all season Hendrik and Jan Kraaij, in the Regent Racing BAT, took control of Class B. The father and son team have won three times on the trot this season, and with a lead of around 15 minutes over Bes Bezuidenhout and Johann de Bruyn (Adenco BAT) look set to make it four out of four.

The Kraiij's finished the day in 11th place overall, but were upstaged by Class S leaders Richard Schilling and stand-in co-driver Mick Oosthuizen in the Plastotech Aceco. Schilling and Oosthuizen, deputizing for the indisposed Chris Davies, came in 10th overall and were in complete control of Class S after arch rival Nic Goslar, teamed up with Richard Carolin in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco, was taken ill soon after the start of the race.

-credit: msa

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Series Other rally
Drivers Mike Brown , Alfie Cox , Ian Palmer , Mark Corbett , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst