Eastern Cape: Series prologue report

VOS LEADS THE WAY FOR NISSAN ON EASTERN CAPE 400 Jeffreys Bay, Saturday -- Reigning drivers champion Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford, in the factory Donaldson Nissan Navara, have snatched pole position in the Production Vehicle category for the...

VOS LEADS THE WAY FOR NISSAN ON EASTERN CAPE 400

Jeffreys Bay, Saturday -- Reigning drivers champion Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford, in the factory Donaldson Nissan Navara, have snatched pole position in the Production Vehicle category for the Eastern Cape 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, here tomorrow.

Vos and Pitchford, who won the opening round of the season, came home 28 seconds ahead of the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux crew of Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn to dominate the premier SP Class. The testing 60 kilometre prologue determined start times for tomorrow's race with Vos and Pitchford strengthening their status as favourites for a second win in a row.

Third, another 12 seconds in arrears, were the Castrol Toyota Hilux crew of Hein Lategan and Chris Birkin. It was an impressive turnaround after Lategan and Birkin, who won this event last year with Mark Cronje, rolled the vehicle on a test run earlier in the day.

"It was a tough and interesting prologue, and the race will be just as tough," said Pitchford. "It is going to be hard work but Duncan is in top form and the vehicle is good so we have high hopes."

Former champion Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr, in a second Donaldson Nissan Navara, and Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (RFS Toyota Hilux) completed the top five. Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen, having their first outing in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux, were sixth in an impressive debut after switching from the Special Vehicle category.

Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and Briton Quin Evans, were seventh in a third factory Donaldson Nissan Navara with the husband and wife pair of George and Sharon Barkhuizen eighth in the AIM Toyota Hilux. Tollefsen and Evans finished fourth on this year's Dakar Rally in a Nissan Navara built in South Africa.

The major casualties in the Production Vehicle category were Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton in the second factory Castrol Toyota Hilux, and Terence Marsh/Pieter Groenewald in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara. Suspension problems saw Taylor/Houghton miss their start time and, after a good run, a 15 minute penalty dropped them way down the field.

Marsh and Groenewald were only eight kilometres into the route when they hit a rock with heavy damage including a broken prop shaft. They were hoping to repair the damage and start the race proper from the back of the field.

Also in the wars were Peter Ruthven and De Wall Boshoff in the Ruwacon Racing Ford Ranger. They lost oil pressure 24 kilometres into the route and decided not to risk serious damage to the engine.

The Raysonics Nissan Hardbody pair of Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber set the fastest time in Class D. They came in ahead of the Northam Toyota Hilux D4D of Dewald van Breda and Johan du Toit.

Third were the father and son pair of Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D. The Weichelt's won the opening event of the season in the Western Cape.

The Ruwacon Ford Ranger combination of Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling struck an early psychological blow in Class E. They led home Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux) and KwaZulu-Natal crew Baphumze Rubuluza and Khuliele Vakaliza in a factory Ford Racing Ranger.

Tomorrow's race starts at 08h30 at the Mentorskraal Country Estate on the outskirts of Jeffreys Bay. The designated service park is also situated at Mentorskraal with competitors completing two loops of a route that also includes the Longmore Forest.

MATTHEWS/SMITH WIN EASTERN CAPE 400 PROLOGUE

Jeffreys Bay, Friday -- The Century Racing BAT pair of Colin Matthews and Alan Smith today won the Special Vehicle category prologue at the Eastern Cape 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, by just three seconds. Provisional results saw Matthews and Smith edge out former South African champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann (Motorite Revo1 4x4), with the prologue setting the scene for what is likely to turn into a highly interesting race. The prologue determined start positions for the race proper tomorrow with reigning champions Kallie and Quintin Sullwald third in the Sullwald Racing BAT.

The Sullwald's were 53 seconds adrift of Hutchison/Bergmann over the testing 60 kilometre route. The surprise package in the top five were fourth placed Will Battershill and Reg Sutton, in a BAT, who relegated former champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter) to fifth place.

Hutchison and Bergmann won the opening event of the season in a car which made its debut on the Adenco 400 in the Western Cape. Today's prologue showed that was no flash in the pan with the car an impressive piece of machinery designed and built by Bergmann.

"The car is good and the route was great but we have a tough day ahead of us," said Hutchison. "Two in a row would be nice but the times are close and our main aim will be to get the car to the finish."

KwaZulu-Natal crew Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell were sixth in the Gibson Plant Hire BAT with veteran Nardus Alberts and Geoff Minnitt seventh in the Wrapsa BAT. The top eight was rounded out by Lesotho crew John Moore and Leander Pienaar in the Groovebar Chev.

Adenco 400 winners Bes and Deon Bezuidenhout, in the Adenco BAT, dominated Class B. They had a clean run to open up a sizeable gap over John Telford/Jaco Swart (Calcamite Zarco Lite) and Grant Watkins in the Gecko singleseater.

KwaZulu-Natal crew Dom Thomson and Don Blakey (Zarco) set the pace in Class P but have former Class B champions Jan and Hendrik Kraaij (Keymax BAT) breathing down their necks. Only four seconds separates the two crews and a good scrap is in the offing.

Third were brothers David and Gary White (Ruwacon Racing BAT) with another set of brothers, Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout, coming in fourth in the Adenco BAT. The Bezuidenhout's won the Adenco 400 at the start of the season.

Tomorrow's race starts at 08h30 at the Mentorskraal Country Estate on the outskirts of Jeffreys Bay. The designated service park is also situated at Mentorskraal with competitors completing two loops of a route that also includes the Longmore Forest.

-credit: saorc

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