Lydenburg: Series prologue summary

TAYLOR/HOUGHTON STRIKE EARLY BLOW FOR TOYOTA Lydenburg, Friday -- The factory crew of Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton today struck an early blow for the Castrol Toyota Hilux team when they dominated the Production Vehicle prologue for the...

TAYLOR/HOUGHTON STRIKE EARLY BLOW FOR TOYOTA

Lydenburg, Friday -- The factory crew of Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton today struck an early blow for the Castrol Toyota Hilux team when they dominated the Production Vehicle prologue for the Toyota Dealer 400 here tomorrow.

The event is the penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship with the prologue determining start times for tomorrow's race. Taylor and Houghton pulverised the rest of the field, but behind them in provisional results there was a highly interesting situation.

Taylor and Houghton finished 46 seconds ahead of the Donaldson Nissan Navara factory crew of Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr. Only three seconds, however, separated Grobler/Mohr and Nissan team-mates Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford and Ivar Tollefsen and Quin Evans.

Grobler, who ends a 37 year association with Nissan at the end of the season, and Mohr were just one second ahead newly crowned South African champions Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford. The champions, in turn, were two seconds ahead of Tollefsen and Evans.

Fourth and fifth were Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn, in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux, and off road legend Alfie Cox and Jurgen Schroder in the SP Signs Nissan Navara. Cox and his German co-driver are giving the SA built car a final shakedown before the 2010 Dakar Rally in Argentina.

"It was a good start for us but the trick is now to turn a good prologue into a win," said Taylor. "We have been in winning situations this season but haven't taken advantage of the situation. "Hopefully we can get it right this time."

Three Toyota crews, including Highveld 400 winners Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux), were next up. Bertholdt and Vermeulen led home Hein Lategan and Chris Birkin, in the second Castrol Toyota Hilux, and Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the RFS Toyota Hilux.

The two factory diesel Ford Ranger entries completed the top 10. Thomas Rundle and Stavros Yiannakis led home former SA champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer.

There was a close contest at the top of Class D where Toyota 1000 Desert Race winners Johan and Werner Horn (Malelane Toyota Cruiser), led home championship leaders Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit in the Northam Toyota Hilux D4D. Only five seconds separated the two crews with Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber (Raysonics Nissan Hardbody) a long way behind in third place.

Class E went to circuit racer Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie (Ferodo Nissan Hardbody) by a country mile. The Nissan factory pair were more than six minutes ahead of Deon Venter and Ian Palmer in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux. Third were Free State crew Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greling in the Ruwacon Ford Ranger.

The race starts at 08h00 tomorrow at Lydenburg Toyota in Lydenburg. The finish and the designated service point are situated at the Toyota spectator point on the R540 between Lydenburg and Dullstroom.

SA CHAMPIONS WIN SPECIAL VEHICLE PROLOGUE ON TOYOTA DEALER 400

Lydenburg, Friday -- Newly crowned South African champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann today dominated the Special Vehicle prologue for the Toyota Dealer 400, penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, here tomorrow.

According to provisional results Hutchison and Bergmann, in the Motorite Revo1 4x4, were nearly 80 seconds faster than veterans Nardus Alberts and Geoff Minnitt in the Wrapsa BAT. With the Century Racing entries of Mark Corbett/Rudi Balzer and Colin Matthews/Alan Smith falling by the wayside and problems for other Class A teams, the top five was completed by three Class P teams.

Class P championship leaders David and Gary White (Ruwacon BAT) led home reigning champions Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) and Johan van Staden and James Rossouw (KEC BAT) with only 16 seconds separating the three crews. The White brothers were only 14 seconds behind Alberts and Minnitt and Class A cars behind the Class P contingent could struggle to work their way up the field.

Three teams involved in a fight for second in the championship -- Shameer Variawa/Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter), Nick and Ryan Harper (Atlas Copco BAT) and Mike Whitehouse and Matthew Carlson in the Regent Racing BAT -- all finished behind the Class P runners. An interesting struggle between the trio looks to be on the cards.

Hutchison wasn't happy about drawing number one on the road and having to act as a pathfinder. In the end, however, he had to be happy with developments.

"It worked out okay," said Hutchison. "With the championship in the bag there is no pressure, but we did not come here to be beaten.

"We badly want to win but won't take any unnecessary risks."

There was a minor surprise when Simon Beckett and Tim Curtis (Century Racing BAT) set the fastest time in Class B. They came home more than a minute ahead of Cape driver Derrick du Toit and Steve Harris, who normally co-drives for Beckett -- in the Orange Tree BAT.

Du Toit has a comfortable lead in the Class B championship with business commitments keeping his normal co-driver, Ian Pienaar, from competing this weekend. Third in class were the Makenete brothers, Keith and Andrew, in a Zarco, who are second in the championship.

With the overall championship done and dusted, the major focus tomorrow will centre on the battle between the top Class P teams where the Bezuidenhout's, after a string of non finishes, will be looking to reign in the White brothers. For the Bezuidenhout's it is virtually a last throw of the dice.

The race will start at 08h00 tomorrow at Lydenburg Toyota in Lydenburg. The finish and the designated service point are at the Toyota spectator area on the R540 between Lydenburg and Dullstroom.

-credit: saoffroadracing.co.za

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