Lydenburg: Series event summary

NISSAN BACK TO WINNING WAYS ON TOYOTA DEALER 400 Lydenburg, Saturday -- The Donaldson Nissan Navara team got back to winning ways today when South African champions Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford won a thrilling SP Class battle in the Production...

NISSAN BACK TO WINNING WAYS ON TOYOTA DEALER 400

Lydenburg, Saturday -- The Donaldson Nissan Navara team got back to winning ways today when South African champions Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford won a thrilling SP Class battle in the Production Vehicle category at the Toyota Dealer 400.

Nissan were beaten for the first time in six outings last time out at the Highveld 400, but bounced back in fine style with Vos and Pitchford scoring their fifth win of the season. In the closest finish of the year the Nissan pair were only 24 seconds ahead of Castrol Toyota Hilux crew Hein Lategan and Chris Birkin.

Third were Ivar Tollefsen and Quin Evans, in a second Donaldson Nissan Navara, with Anthony Taylor/Robin Houghton (Castrol Toyota Hilux) and Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr, in a third Donaldson Nissan Navara, fourth and fifth respectively. The top eight were rounded out by the factory diesel Ford Racing Ranger of Neil Woolridge/Kenny Skjoldhammer, the SP Laser Nissan Navara of Alfie Cox/Jurgen Schroder and the RFS Toyota Hilux of Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst.

In the closest finish anyone can remember in the SP Class era, the top eight cars were covered by less than six minutes.

"That was a race," enthused Vos with the Nissan star and Pitchford already crowned this year's overall champions. "The pressure was on from the word go and we had to concentrate for every second. "Ralph and I were a little lucky in that we had a clean run with no punctures and minor niggles to hamper us."

The unlucky crew were Taylor and Houghton who won the Friday prologue to determine race start positions. They started 46 seconds ahead of the three Donaldson Nissans but quickly lost the lead when they picked up a puncture.

Then, on the last of the three laps that made up the race, Taylor and Houghton were right on the tail of Vos and Pitchford. A determined effort to get past the Nissan ended when the Toyota picked up another puncture. "It was a final fling from us on a rocky section with no dust," said Taylor. "The second puncture was the end.

"After changing the wheel we could not get the car started and that dropped us further back."

Lategan and Birkin mounted a late challenge that momentarily raised Toyota hopes. But they were to run out of race distance in what was their best performance of the season.

There was also a tight finish in Class D where Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit, in the Northam Toyota Hilux D4D, finished just 14 seconds ahead of local Mpumalanga crew Johan and Werner Horn in the Malelane Toyota Land Cruiser. The win saw van Breda and du Toit move a step closer to the Class D championship.

Third were Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber (Raysonics Nissan Hardbody) with early championship leader Cliff Weichelt, now partnered by Johann Smalberger in the N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D, salvaging valuable driver championship points with fourth place.

There were only two classified finishers in Class E with Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, in the Ferodo Nissan Hardbody, finishing one minute ahead of reigning champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in the RFS Toyota Hilux. With the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux entries of Deon Venter/Ian Palmer falling by the wayside, Visser and le Roux move into the championship lead with one event to go.

VETERANS SPRING SPECIAL VEHICLE SURPRISE ON TOYOTA DEALER 400

Lydenburg, Saturday -- Veterans Nardus Alberts and Geoff Minnitt struck a massive blow for the older generation when they won Class A in the Special Vehicle category at the Toyota Dealer 400, the penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended here today.

It was the biggest surprise of the season with Alberts and Minnitt, in the Wrapsa BAT, come home ahead of the Regent Racing BAT crewed by Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson. Whitehouse and Carlson were around five minutes behind Alberts and Minnitt with Naeem Moosajee and Feroz Doodha Moultson (Tyre Rack Jimco) maintaining their 100 percent finish record with third place.

Fourth and fifth were Nick and Ryan Harper, in the Atlas Copco BAT, with Mark Corbett and Rudi Balzer fifth in the Century Racing CR1 4x4. It was the first finish for the CR1 in 15 starts, with Corbett and Balzer having to overcome a disastrous Friday prologue to determine race start positions.

The big surprise was a first non finish for the Motorite Revo1 4x4 in the hands of newly crowned South African champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann. A high speed encounter with a rock that led to major suspension damage sidelined the new champions.

"This was totally unexpected," said Alberts who was almost forced to retire after suffering a serious back injury in an accident a year ago. "It was at the end of the second loop that we realised we had a chance of winning. "We also hit something about 20 kilometres from the end and were a little lucky to make it to the finish."

Two other fancied crews also fell by the wayside. Gearbox problems sidelined Highveld 400 winners Gerhard du Plessis and Ferdie Seegers, with a mechanical problem putting paid to Toyota 1000 Desert Race winners Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau in the Total Porter.

The Class P honours went to KwaZulu-Natal crew Don Thompson and Hjalmar van Gesselen (Zarco) who overcame a disappointing prologue to lead home the KEC BAT in the hands of Johan van Staden and James Rossouw. At the finish only 17 seconds separated the two cars.

Third were reigning champion Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout in the Adenco BAT. With David and Gary White (Ruwacon BAT) among the non finishers it was a result that saw the Bezuidenhout brothers reignite their championship hopes.

The Class B honours went to Derrick du Toit and substitute co-driver Steve Harris in the Orange Tree BAT. It was du Toit's fourth win in a row with the Makenete brothers, Keith and Andrew, trailing in around 12 minutes behind the winners.

Third were John Telford and Jaco Swart in the Calcamite Zarco Lite. With one event remaining, the RFS 400 in the Magaliesberg, du Toit can now not be beaten in the Class B championship.

-credit: saoffroadracing.co.za

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Alfie Cox , Ian Palmer , Ralph Pitchford , Quin Evans , Jurgen Schroder , Mark Corbett , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst , Leeroy Poulter