Botswana: Series prologue report

DEAD HEAT IN PRODUCTION VEHICLE PROLOGUE Gaborone, Friday -- A Toyota and a Nissan crew dead heated to share the honours on the Production Vehicle prologue at the Toyota 1000 Desert Race today. Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, in the RFS ...

DEAD HEAT IN PRODUCTION VEHICLE PROLOGUE

Gaborone, Friday -- A Toyota and a Nissan crew dead heated to share the honours on the Production Vehicle prologue at the Toyota 1000 Desert Race today.

Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, in the RFS Toyota Hilux, and Donaldson Nissan Navara crew Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr set the same time on the tough 70 kilometre prologue to determine start positions for tomorrow's race. The Production Vehicle brigade took a beating from the Special Vehicle cars and Visser/Badenhorst and Grobler/Mohr were 12th fastest overall.

"That was the toughest Desert Race prologue I can remember," said Mohr afterwards. Mohr is the reigning South African co-driver's champion and has won this event in a Special Vehicle.

A second Donaldson Nissan crew, Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and Briton Quin Evans, were third fastest. The pair finished fourth on this year's Dakar Rally and reported a clean run with no major problems.

Fourth and fifth went to another pair of Toyota entries in Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) and Gary Bertholdt/Danie Stassen in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux. It was a brace performance from Hugo de Bruyn who is competing with a broken toe after a mishap while off loading the car in the pits yesterday.

The two Castrol Toyota Hilux factory cars ran into problems and Hein Lategan/Chris Birkin were 11th fastest with Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton, a four time winner of the Desert Race, way down in 23rd place. A puncture hampered Lategan/Birkin while Taylor/Houghton lost around 20 minutes when they were stuck on a pile of rocks after taking a wrong turn.

Reigning driver's champion Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford, in the third Donaldson Nissan Navara, were also in the wars. They lost time when they had a puncture and battled to fit a spare, and will start 13th.

Cliff and Louis Weichelt (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D), with three wins in a row this season, set the pace in Class D but had an adventurous day. The made their start time by just 60 seconds after breaking a turbo on a test run.

The pair then broke a sideshaft soon after completing the prologue. The Weichelt's were over a minute faster than Dewald van Breda/Johann du Toit (Northam Toyota Hilux D4D) with Werner and Johan Horn third in class in the Malelane Toyota Land Cruiser.

Race and track star Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie (Ferodo Nissan Hardbody) pulverised the opposition in Class E. They were quicker than the Weichelt's in the Class D car, and around three and a half minutes ahead of Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus who were second in Class D in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux.

Labuschagne and Erasmus won the recent Nissan Sugarbelt 400 and were around two minutes ahead of team-mate Deon Venter and Ian Palmer who have won twice this season. Fourth were reigning champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in the RFS Toyota Hilux.

The race proper will start at Game City on Saturday at 08h00 with the finish back at the Gaborone complex on Sunday afternoon.

MATTHEWS/SMITH TAKE SPECIAL VEHICLE PROLOGUE WIN

Gaborone, Friday - The Century Racing BAT pair of Colin Matthews and Alan Smith today won the Special Vehicle category prologue at the Toyota 1000 Desert Race here by the narrowest of margins.

The prologue determines start positions for the race proper with Matthews and Smith edging out surprise package team Jimmy Zahos and Stefan Coetzee, in the Mountain Dew Porter, by just three seconds. Zahos is a former quad bike racer in his first season of Special vehicle competition.

The top three were rounded out by Nick and Ryan Harper, in the Atlas Copco BAT, who were a further one minute and 17 seconds off the pace. The Harpers are previous winners of the event with Mathews/Smith and Zahos/Coetzee looking for maiden national championship wins.

Special Vehicle category cars completely dominated the tough 70 kilometre prologue taking the first 11 places. Former South African champion Hannes Grobler, a multiple Desert Race winner, and Juan Mohr (Donaldson Nissan Navara) and Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst (RFS Toyota Hilux) shared the same time at the top of the Production Vehicle leaderboard.

"We had a clean run with no problems," said Zahos. "We still have a long way to go but this result has helped our confidence."

The top five were rounded out by Mark Corbett and Rudi Balzer in the Century Racing CR1 4x4, and Natal crew Don Thompson and James Watson who turned in a blistering performance to lead the Class P contingent in a Zarco Lite. Corbett is a former winner of the Desert Race with Watson standing in for Don Blakey who normally sits alongside Thompson.

There were also strong prologue performances for former winners Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter) and Kallie and Quinton Sullwald (Sullwald Racing BAT, who were sixth and seventh. The Sullwald's won in 2007 and Variawa/Rousseau won last year.

Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann, who have won the first three races of the season and leading overall and Class A championships by a long way, had a difficult day and were 12th fastest among the Special Vehicle brigade. The odometer stopped working soon after the start and the pair face an uphill battle during the race.

Cape Town crew Derick du Toit and Ian Pienaar, in the Orange Tree BAT, set the pace in Class B. They were around four minutes ahead of John Telford and Stewart van Graan in the Calcamite BAT.

Thompson and Watson were 18 seconds ahead of nearest challengers David and Gary White, in the Ruwacon BAT, at the top of the Class P timesheets. Next up were Johan van Staden and James Rossouw, in the KEC BAT, who are also in their first season of national off road racing.

Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT), the Class P leaders with two wins to their credit so far this season, were also in the wars. A gearbox problem cost them wads of time and the pair will start around eight minutes behind Thompson and Watson.

The race starts at 8am tomorrow at the Game City complex in Gaborone. The finish is back at Game City on Sunday afternoon.

-credit: saoffroadracing.co.za

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Ian Palmer , Ralph Pitchford , Mark Corbett , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst , Leeroy Poulter