Carnival City 400: pre-event news 2007-11-30

FORD CARNIVAL CITY 400 BOOST FOR TOYOTA The Castrol Toyota works team was today given a boost ahead of tomorrow's Ford Carnival City 400, the final round of the Absa Off Road Championship, when Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin won the prologue ...

FORD CARNIVAL CITY 400 BOOST FOR TOYOTA

The Castrol Toyota works team was today given a boost ahead of tomorrow's Ford Carnival City 400, the final round of the Absa Off Road Championship, when Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin won the prologue to determine start positions for the race proper.

Cronje and Birkin, in a works Castrol Toyota Hilux, dominated the Production vehicle category to finish 28 seconds ahead of Ford pair Brandon Harcus and Juan Mohr. The Ford team was just one second ahead of newly crowned SA drivers champion Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford in a Nissan Navara.

"We owe Toyota and the technical team a victory and this is a good start," said Cronje. "Hopefully we can keep it all together in the race."

Not so lucky were team-mates Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton, last year's winners, who lost early time when they stopped to repair a puncture. When they picked up a second puncture they discovered the remaining spare when had fallen off its mountings.

"It was exasperating," said Bertholdt. "We'll just have to try and work our way through the field from the back of the grid."

Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst, in another Castrol Toyota Hilux, were fifth fastest with Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn seventh in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux. Both teams had clear runs.

Two Toyota crews are in line to win the Class D championship with class leaders Cliff and Louis Weichelt (Bosal Toyota Hilux D4D) and rookies Ramon Bezuidenhout and Stefan Lock (Toyota Hilux) finishing sixth and third on the prologue. The Weichelt's will start three minutes behind the first Class D car.

"It is a long and tough race, and our priority will be to make it to the finish," said Weichelt senior. "The most important thing is to make it to the end and we'll see how the championship pans out."

Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux) are in line to win the Class E championship and Sharon Barkhuizen (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) is still in the race to win the co-driver title. Visser is second in the drivers championship, while le Roux leads the co-drivers with Barkhuizen in third place.

It was not, however, a happy day for the Team Barberspan pair. They were seventh in Class E on the prologue and face an uphill battle.

Brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat (Bosal Toyota Hilux) were second in the prologue with George and Sharon Barkhuizen third. They were followed by Brian Martin/Ockie Fourie (Castrol Toyota Hilux) and Deon Venter and Ian Palmer in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux.

Championship leader Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro (Ford Ranger) were down in sixth place. They were followed by Jaco Swanepoel and Keith Solomon in the IDM Cement Toyota Hilux and Fabio Tafani and Allen Dearling in another Toyota Hilux.

The race starts at 09h00 at Carnival City and crews will complete two loops of approximately 180 kilometres. There will be a designated service point at Carnival City and the first cars are expected at the finish at around 14h30.

-credit: absa/mweb.co.za

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Ralph Pitchford , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst