Free State: Series event summary

VISSER/BADENHORST WIN INAUGURAL HUMAN AUTO 400 Bloemfontein, Saturday - Privateers Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst today eked out the narrowest of wins on the inaugural Human Auto 400, the penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship,...

VISSER/BADENHORST WIN INAUGURAL HUMAN AUTO 400

Bloemfontein, Saturday - Privateers Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst today eked out the narrowest of wins on the inaugural Human Auto 400, the penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, to all but wrap up the Production Vehicle category title in this year's national series.

According to provisional scoring Visser and Badenhorst, in the RFS Toyota Hilux, need just one point to make sure of the championship. Today's win was the third of the season for Visser/Badenhorst and 15th place on the RFS Magalies 400 next month, the final event of the year, will be enough to write their names into the record books.

A violent wind and thunderstorm wreaked havoc at the finish shortly before the end of the race. It provided the backdrop for a dramatic end to a day full of drama and shifting fortunes, with only 27 seconds separating the first three cars across the line.

In one of the closest finishes in the history of the Absa championship Visser and Badenhorst finished just one second clear of the Team Ford Ranger TDCi of former South African champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer. Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren were only another 26 seconds adrift in a second RFS Toyota Hilux.

A drag race developed between the three cars over the last two kilometres. It was exciting stuff and after some banging and barging in atrocious conditions both the Ford Ranger and the du Plooy/van Vuuren cars finished with suspension damage.

"It was a tough day at the office and in the end it was too close for comfort," said Visser afterwards. "The last part of the race was very tricky but we managed to avoid making mistakes.

"From a championship point of view it was a good result, but we won't get carried away just yet."

Visser and Badenhorst started fifth on the road and retirements and problems for other crews gradually moved them up the pecking order. Donaldson Prologue winners Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton (Team Castrol Toyota Hilux) picked up a string of punctures, Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr (Barden Tyre Services Nissan Navara) broke a gearbox, Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege (RFS BMW X3) were also puncture victims and Duncan Vos/Rob Howie (Team Castrol Toyota Hilux) were blown out of the championship race with suspension damage.

Woolridge/Skjoldhammer and du Plooy/van Vuuren, seventh and 10th respectively after the Donaldson Prologue to determine grid positions, also moved up the pecking order ahead of Grobler/ter Stege who were fourth. Terence Marsh and stand-in navigator Richard Leeke were a solid fifth in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara, and edged out local Ruwacon Racing crews Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling and Pieter Ruthven/Rudi Britz.

At one stage Ruthven and Britz, for the first time in their careers, led the event and sparked hopes of a fairytale hometown victory.

Taylor and Houghton rounded out the top eight and factory crews have now won only two of the seven races this season. Ninth went to the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux of Gary Bertholdt, who finished the race with a broken hand, and Andre Vermeulen with veterans Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux completing the top 10 in another RFS Toyota Hilux.

For the second race in a row Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) were the only finishers in Class D. After building up an eight-minute advantage early leaders Louis Weichelt and Johann Smalberger (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux) fell by the wayside, and Venter and Palmer now lead the championship.

The Class E championship was also thrown wide open when Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus (4x4 Mega World Toyota) scored a come from behind win to move within nine points of teenager Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable in the Team Ford Ranger. Woolridge and Huxtable crashed out of the race on the Donaldson Prologue, and a back injury might keep the KwaZulu-Natal youngster from competing in the final race.

Labuschagne and Erasmus picked up their third win of the season - and gave Toyota a clean sweep of class victories - with five minutes to spare over Gerald le Roux and Willem Pretorius in the Ruwacon Ford Ranger. The final podium place went to brothers Diederik and Danie Hattingh (Transcor Toyota Hilux) who were another 12 minutes off the pace.

SPECIAL VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP GOES TO THE WIRE IN ABSA SERIES

Bloemfontein, Saturday - Former champions Kallie and Quintin Sullwald today set up a nail biting finish to the Special Vehicle category championship when they won the Human Auto 400, the penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended here today.

A violent windstorm and equally violent thunderstorm caused chaos at the finish area and in the pits. It set the seal on a dramatic race with shifting sands setting up a result that will see the championship go all the way to the wire at next month's RFS Magalies 400.

The Sullwald's (Elegant Fuel BAT), national champions in 2007, finished around three minutes ahead of championship leaders Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau (Team Total Porter) to narrow the gap between the two teams to six points. It opens up all sorts of permutations at the final event, with the championship up for grabs.

The Sullwald's started fourth on the road and Variawa/Rousseau eighth after the Donaldson Prologue on Friday. A gearbox problem put prologue winners Bevan Bertholdt and Danie Stassen (lab88 BAT) and second placed Colin Matthews and Alan Smith (Century Racing BAT), who were carrying a 15-minute penalty, out of action on the first of two loops that made up the race.

Evan Hutchison/Darryl Curtis (Motorite Revo1 4x4) were also casualties, and the second half of the race developed into a family scrap between Kallie and Quintin Sullwald and Herman and Wichard Sullwald in the Sullwald Racing SVR. The battle between brothers and cousins ended when Herman and Wichard hit a culvert, which reduced the SVR to three wheels.

The carnage saw Variawa and Rousseau and Class P championship leaders Johan van Staden and James Rossouw, in the Atlas Copco BAT, work their way into podium finishes. It was another sterling performance from van Staden and Rossouw who earlier this season made history by becoming the first Class P crew to win a national event overall.

Another workmanlike drive took Nardus and Louis Alberts (Wrapsa BAT) into fourth overall and third in Class A behind the Sullwald's and Variawa/Rousseau. Behind them there was a superb performance from the husband and wife team of Marius and Jolinda Fourie, in a BAT, with the Northern Regions championship graduates cracking a top five finish and second in Class P.

Newcomers Neil Meyer and Leon Muller (Zarco Magnum) continued their recent good form with a solid seventh place. They were sandwiched between two other Class P crews in Archie Rutherford/Mike Lawrenson (Regent Racing Jimco) and Mark Corbett/Rudi Balzer in the Century Racing CR2. The Century Racing team overstayed their welcome in the pits at the end of the first loop, and after the race Corbett sportingly pointed out a scoring error that dropped them from second to fourth in Class P.

The battle of the veteran drivers in Class B went to Bes Bezuidenhout and daughter-in-law Lindie in the Adenco BAT. The Cape Town-based pair outlasted Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race winners Coetzee Labuscagne and daughter Sandra in the Raysonics Zarco, with around eight minutes separating the two crews.

The two Class B cars rounded out the top 10 with the result virtually wrapping up the championship for the Bezuidenhout's.

-source: saorc

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Series Other rally
Drivers Ian Palmer , Mark Corbett , Darryl Curtis , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst