Series newsletter 2009-04-27

VOS/PITCHFORD SET EARLY PACE IN PRODUCTION VEHICLE CATEGORY Reigning South African champion Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford have snatched the early advantage in the overall and SP Class championships in this year's Absa Off Road...

VOS/PITCHFORD SET EARLY PACE IN PRODUCTION VEHICLE CATEGORY

Reigning South African champion Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford have snatched the early advantage in the overall and SP Class championships in this year's Absa Off Road Championship.

Two wins in two outings -- the Adenco 400 in the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape 400 -- have given the Donaldson Nissan Navara factory crew a flying start to the year. With a huge early advantage the chasing pack are going to find it difficult to haul in Vos and Pitchford.

A second Donaldson Nissan Navara crew lead those doing the chasing. Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and Briton Quin Evans, fourth on the Dakar Rally this year, have a one point advantage over Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst who have made a solid start to the season in the RFS Toyota Hilux.

A third Donaldson Nissan crew, veteran Hannes Grobler and reigning co-drivers champion Juan Mohr, share fourth place with Thomas Rundle and Hennie ter Stege who made an impressive debut in the factory Ford Racing Ranger on the Eastern Cape 400. Fifth are Class E leaders Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux) who have also started the season with two wins.

In the SP Class scoring Vos and Pitchford lead Tollefsen/Evans and Visser/Badenhorst with Grobler/Mohr and Rundle / ter Stege joined in fourth place by Castrol Toyota Hilux crew Hein Lategan and Chris Birkin.

The father and son combination of Cliff and Louis Weichelt (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D) also have two wins in two outings to their name, and that has taken them to the top of the Class D standings. Their closest challengers at this stage are last year's top rookies Dewald van Breda and Johan du Toit in the Northam Toyota Hilux D4D.

Johan Fouche and Wentzel Pretorius (Mitsubishi Colt) and newcomer Heinie Strumpher and Jan Hendrik van der Linde (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) share third place. Strumpher and van der Linde scored their first national points on the Eastern Cape 400.

Venter and Palmer have a commanding lead in Class E with two crews -- Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Racing Ford Ranger) and Pikkie Labuschange/Rikus Erasmus (4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux) -- tied for second place. Two crews, reigning champions Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (RFS Toyota Hilux) and Baphumze Rubuluza/ Khuliele Vakaliza (Ford Racing Ranger), are also tied for third place.

The next event on the calendar is the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 in KwaZulu-Natal on May 15 and 16.

TURNAROUND IN FORTUNES FOR HUTCHISON/BERGMANN

After two events former South African champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann have gathered in more Special Vehicle category points than they managed in the whole of last season's Absa Off Road Championship.

Two wins in a row at the start of the season represent a major turnaround in fortunes for Hutchison and Bergmann. Even more noteworthy is the fact that they have picked up wins on the Adenco 400 and Eastern Cape 400 in the new Revo1 4x4.

New race cars are notoriously fickle but the Revo1 4 X 4 has already carried Hutchison and Bergmann to double the number of wins they managed last season. It is early days in the overall and Class A championships, but Hutchison and Bergmann are off to a flyer and will be difficult to catch over the rest of the season.

Two steady races have lifted Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson (Regent Racing BAT) into second place in the overall championship. They are closely followed by Nick and Ryan Harper (Atlas Copco BAT) and Naeem Moosajee/Mathew Moultson (Tyre Rack Jimco) who are tied in third place.

Class P leaders Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) and Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter) and are tied for fourth. Former Class B champions Jan and Hendrik Kraaij (Keymax BAT) round out the top five.

The vagaries of off road scoring with different structures for overall and class points see a slightly different picture in Class A. Here the Harpers, Moosajee/Moultson and Whitehouse/Carlson are all tied for second place behind Hutchison and Bergmann.

There were no Class B finishers on the recent Eastern Cape 400 and the Century Racing pair of Simon Beckett and Steve Harris gave the race a miss. That means the top three remain the same as after the Adenco 400 with Bes and Deon Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) leading Beckett/Harris and Derick du Toit and Ian Pienaar in the Orange Tree BAT.

Class P has the makings of turning into a hugely competitive category. Adenco 400 winners Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) have a win and a third to their credit and that is enough to give them an early season lead over the Kraaij's who made a return to racing in the Eastern Cape and picked up a win.

Third are newcomers Johan van Staden and James Rossouw in the KEC BAT. They picked up an impressive second place on the Eastern Cape 400 and look to be a team to watch in the future.

The next event is the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 in KwaZulu-Natal on May 15 and 16.

-credit: saorc

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Series Other rally
Drivers Ian Palmer , Ralph Pitchford , Quin Evans , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst