Carnival City: Series newsletter 2009-09-03

NISSAN LOSE A BATTLE BUT WIN THE WAR The Donaldson Nissan team lost a battle but won the war at the recent Highveld 400, round six of the Absa Off Road Championship, at Carnival City. Pre-race favourites Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford, in one...

NISSAN LOSE A BATTLE BUT WIN THE WAR

The Donaldson Nissan team lost a battle but won the war at the recent Highveld 400, round six of the Absa Off Road Championship, at Carnival City.

Pre-race favourites Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford, in one of three Donaldson Nissan Navaras, limped home eighth overall and sixth in the premier SP Class. It was enough, however, to settle the Production Vehicle championship in favour of Vos, for the second year in a row, and Pitchford.

With two events left to run -- the Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga and the RFS 400 in Magaliesberg -- the focus now shifts to a tight battle for the runner-up slot. A single point separates Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen, in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux, and Ivar Tollefsen and Quin Evans in a second Donaldson Nissan Navara.

The Atlas Copco crew made history at the Highveld 400 by becoming the first SP Class privateers to win a national race. In the process they snapped a five event winning streak by the Donaldson Nissan squad.

Tollefsen and Evans finished a gutsy fourth at Carnival City to salvage precious points. The pair fought back from a disappointing prologue and also battled with a constant overheating problem during the race.

Veteran Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr, the current co-driver's champion, will also be part of the runner-up battle. They were forced to retire from the Highveld 400 but are only 16 points behind Tollefsen and Evans.

The Highveld 400 also brought about a change in the pecking order in Class D. Second place in class was enough to take Potchefstroom pair Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit (Northam Toyota Hilux D4D) to the top of the championship.

Van Breda now leads Cliff Weichelt (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D) by just two points. After starting the season on a high note with three wins in a row Weichelt has now been hurt by three successive non finishes.

Nissan scored their second successive Class D win when Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber took the honours in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody. By contrast to Weichelt the Raysonics crew suffered four non finishes in a row and have bounced back with two successive victories.

Fifth place at Carnival City keeps Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus, in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux, at the top of the Class E championship. There are, however, going to be close fights in the two remaining events.

Their first win of the season at Carnival City lifts reigning champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (RFS Toyota Hilux) into second place -- just six points behind Labuschagne and Erasmus. Early championship leaders Deon Venter and Ian Palmer, in the second 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux, were second on the Highveld 400 and are only two points behind Visser and le Roux.

The Toyota Dealer 400 is next on the agenda on October 2 and 3 in Lydenburg

SPECIAL VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP SETTLED

With the Special Vehicle category championship issue a done deal interest over the final two events of the season will shift to a close battle going on for second and third.

The recent Highveld 400 at Carnival City saw Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann, in the Motorite Revo1, clinch their second South African championship. Third place behind surprise package Gerhard du Plessis and Ferdi Seegers (Jimco) and Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter), was enough to give Hutchison and Bergmann an unassailable lead in the championship.

Behind the newly crowned champions, however, there is a good battle for second with three crews involved. Only five points separate Variawa and Rousseau and the father and son pairing of Nick and Ryan Harper in the Atlas Copco BAT.

Also in the frame are Mike Whitehouse and Matthew Carlson in the Regent Racing BAT. They are 16 points behind the Harpers but with the Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga and the RFS 400 in Magalies still on the agenda, any of the three crews could finish as runners-up.

There is, however, one factor that gives Variawa and Rousseau a slight edge. The Harpers and Whitehouse/Carlson, along with Limpopo crew Naeem Moosajee and Mohammed Moultson (Tyre Rack Jimco) all have 100 percent finish records this season and still have to drop one result.

Variawa and Rousseau, who won the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, the Harpers and Whitehouse/Carlson have all been regular top five finishers this season. It all adds up to an interesting scenario to see out the season, and all three crews will be desperate for good results on the Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga on October 2 and 3.

A third successive win on the Highveld 400 has given Cape Town crew Derrick du Toit and Ian Pienaar, in the Orange Tree BAT, a tight hold on Class B. They now have a 33 point cushion over the consistent Keith and Andrew Makenete in a Zarco.

In the only significant change in Class B a fourth place at Carnival City lifted Simon Beckett into third place in the driver's championship ahead of Bez Bezuidenhout. After winning the opening event of the season, Bezuidenhout and son Deon, in the Adenco BAT, have fallen upon lean times.

There have also been lean pickings for brothers Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) in Class P and they have lost the championship lead to another set of brothers, David and Gary White, in the Ruwacon BAT. While the Bezuidenhout's have had three non finishes in a row, the Whites have won two of the last three races and now enjoy a 12 point cushion at the top of the leaderboard.

KwaZulu-Natal driver Don Thompson picked up a solid second on the Highveld 400 and now lies third in the drivers championship. James Rossouw, teamed with Johan van Staden in the KEC BAT, is still third among the co-drivers despite three non finishes in a row.

-credit: saoffroadracing.co.za

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Ian Palmer , Ralph Pitchford , Quin Evans , Duncan Vos