Series newsletter 2009-06-28

VOS/PITCHFORD TIGHTEN HOLD ON PRODUCTION VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP A third victory this season on the recent Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana, saw reigning South African driver's champion Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford strengthen their hold on the...

VOS/PITCHFORD TIGHTEN HOLD ON PRODUCTION VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP

A third victory this season on the recent Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana, saw reigning South African driver's champion Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford strengthen their hold on the Production Vehicle title race in this year's Absa Off Road Championship.

After a dodgy start to the weekend in the prologue to determine start position for the race proper, the Donaldson Nissan Navara factory crew completely dominated proceedings. Vos and Pitchford had around 40 minutes in hand over second placed Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton in the works Castrol Toyota Hilux.

Seventh overall and sixth in the premier SP Class saw Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and his British co-driver Quin Evans, in a second Donaldson Nissan Navara, hold onto second place in the championship. The overseas crew are now seven points clear of the consistent Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (RFS Toyota Hilux) who are the first of the Toyota crews.

A solid fifth place lifted Visser and Badenhorst ahead of former champion Hannes Grobler and Johan Mohr, in the third factory Donaldson Nissan, who were day one casualties after hitting a rock. Second place lifted Taylor and Houghton (Castrol Toyota Hilux) into fifth in the championship -- but behind them there is a logjam with just four points separating the next seven drivers.

The picture in the SP Class is a little different, courtesy of the difference in points between overall and class finish positions. The top four remain the same but Hein Lategan and Chris Birkin, non finishers in the second Castrol Toyota Hilux, still edge out team-mates Taylor and Houghton.

The top three in Class D remain the same with Cliff and Louis Weichelt (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D), Heini Strumpher/Hendrik van der Linde (Micaren Excel Toyota Hilux) and Dewald van Breda/Johann du Toit (Northam Toyota Hilux D4D) all non finishers in Botswana. The class win went to Mpumalanga crew Johan and Werner Horn in the Malelane Toyota Land Cruiser and they move into fourth place.

There is a tie at the top of the Class E leaderboard between 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux crews Deon Venter/Ian Palmer and rookies Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus. Venter/Palmer won the first two events and Labuschagne/Erasmus have won the last two.

Labuschagne/Erasmus finished a creditable sixth overall in Botswana where they outlasted reigning champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in the RFS Toyota Hilux. The experienced Visser/le Roux combination is now 14 points behind the two Megaworld teams.

Toyota produced eight of the 11 finishers -- out of 28 starters -- in the Production Vehicle category and that lifted them ahead of Nissan in the prestige South African Manufacturer's Championship. After outscoring their arch rivals by 86 points to 41 Toyota now have 260 points and Nissan 232.

The next event on the Absa Off Road Championship calendar is the Sun City 400 on July 24 and 25.

HUTCHISON/BERGMANN IN CHARGE OF SPECIAL VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP

Three wins and a second have seen former champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann take a tight hold on the Special Vehicle category championship in the Absa Off Road Championship.

At the halfway mark in the season Hutchison and Bergmann, in the Motorite Revo1 4x4, have a comfortable 39 point cushion over the consistent father and son pairing of Nick and Ryan Harper in the Atlas Copco BAT. Hutchison and Bergmann had to be content with second place on the recent Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana with Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau, in the Total Porter, making it two in a row after a thrilling battle on the final day.

The Toyota 1000 Desert Race win lifted Variawa/Rousseau into third place in the championship, just one point ahead of Michael Whitehouse and brother in law Mathew Carlson in the Regent Racing BAT. Whitehouse and Carlson fought their way to a solid fourth to maintain a 100 percent finish record this season.

The top five are rounded out by Limpopo crew Naeem Moosajee and Mohammad Moultson in the Tyre Rack Jimco. They were the last of the eight Special Vehicle category finishers -- out of 28 starters -- on a tougher than usual Toyota 1000 Desert Race and also preserved a 100 percent finish record.

A difference in the allocation of points for overall and class results presents a slightly different picture in the Class A championship. Here Whitehouse and Carlson slip into third place ahead of Moosajee/Moultson and Variawa/Rousseau.

For Hutchison and Bergmann it is a comfortable position. There are, however, four tough races to come and championships have in the past been lost from stronger mid season positions.

The Toyota 1000 Desert Race saw a change in the pecking order in Class B. Cape crew Derick du Toit and Ian Pienaar (Orange Tree BAT) scored their maiden national win and were the only Class B car to finish.

The win moved Du Toit and Pienaar ahead of another Cape Town crew, Bes and Deon Bezuidenhout, in the Adenco BAT. The Makenete brothers, Keith and Andrew, were also among the non finishers in a Zarco, but stay third in the championship.

Brothers David and Gary White, in the Ruwacon BAT, were the only finishers in Class P in Botswana. That moved them into second place in the championship on the same number of points as Johan van Staden and James Roussouw in the KEC BAT.

The Bezuidenhout brothers, Johan and Etienne, in the Adenco BAT, were also among those who failed to see out the full Desert Race distance. Despite that they still have a comfortable enough 17 point advantage at the top of the Class P leaderboard.

The next race on the calendar is the Sun City 400 in the Pilanesberg on July 24 and 25.

-credit: saoffroadracing.co.za

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