Series newsletter 2009-07-30

VOS/PITCHFORD TAKE CHARGE OF PRODUCTION VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP Victory on the recent Sun City 400 has put the Donaldson Nissan Navara pair of Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford, in a virtually unassailable position at the top of the Production Vehicle...

VOS/PITCHFORD TAKE CHARGE OF PRODUCTION VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP

Victory on the recent Sun City 400 has put the Donaldson Nissan Navara pair of Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford, in a virtually unassailable position at the top of the Production Vehicle overall and Class SP championships in the Absa Off Road Championship.

The Sun City 400 win was victory number four in five starts this season for Vos and Pitchford and gave them a whopping 65 point lead at the top of the overall championship. With three events left on the calendar this season, the Nissan pair are all but home and dry in both the overall and premier Class SP stakes.

The Sun City race again lived up to its reputation as one of the blue chip events on the Absa calendar. The event drew a record entry of 110 vehicles in national and regional championship categories, and again earned high praise from competitors from an organisational point of view.

The win by Vos and Pitchford also gave the Donaldson Nissan team a clean sweep in all five events run so far this year. The other victory went to veteran former SA champion Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400.

Behind Vos and Pitchford, however, there is a terrific battle developing. Only seven points separate three crews and there is going to be a dogfight over the last three events of the championship.

As matters stand two other Donaldson Nissan crews, Ivar Tollefsen and Quin Evans, and Grobler/Mohr lead Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst (RFS Toyota Hilux) who crashed out of the Sun City 400 for their first non finish of the year. Also in the equation in the driver stakes is Gary Bertholdt (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux), who is only five points behind Visser.

Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen finished second on the Sun City 400 for their best result of the season. Vermeulen, however, missed the Toyota 1000 Desert Race when Bertholdt was partnered by Danie Stassen.

There are also some good battles developing further down the SP Class. Only five points separate Christiaan du Plooy/Henk Jansen van Vuuren (RFS Toyota Hilux), Terence Marsh/Pieter Groenewald (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) and Anthony Taylor/Robin Houghton (Castrol Toyota Hilux) in sixth, seventh and eighth places respectively.

Taylor/Houghton led both the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 and the Sun City 400 before being forced into retirement. Hein Lategan/Chris Birkin, in the second Castrol Toyota Hilux, drop to 10th after two non finishes and sandwiched between the two works entries are Pikkie Labuscagne and Rikus Erasmus who lead Class E in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux.

The first of the Ford runners are privateers Kobus van Tonder and Riaan Guelpa in the Uni Freight Ford Ranger. The Ford Racing works team, however, will have been encouraged by a solid third place at Sun City for Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in the new twin turbo diesel Ford Racing Ranger which is still under development.

Anomalies in the off road points scoring system sees a slightly different picture in the premier SP Class. Here Vos and Pitchford also have a comfortable lead over Tollefsen and Evans, but Visser/Badenhorst move ahead of Grobler/Mohr by just two points.

Cliff Weichelt, despite a second non finish in a row on the Sun City 400 in the N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D, stays on top of the Class D driver championship. Son Louis made his driver debut at Sun City but at the moment is also still on top of the Class D co-driver championship.

A return to form in the Pilanesberg has consolidated second place in Class D for Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit in the Northam Toyota D4D. They now have a 14 point lead over Heine Strumpher and Hendrik van der Linde (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) who were among the Sun City 400 casualties.

A Class E deadlock was broken at Sun City when Pikkie Labuscagne and Rikus Erasmus finished third with 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux team-mates Deon Venter and Ian palmer falling by the wayside. The two teams were level pegging going into the Sun City race, but Labuscagne/Erasmus now have a 13 point lead.

The non finish has also put Venter and Palmer under pressure from reigning champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in the RFS Toyota Hilux. Fourth place at Sun City moved Visser/le Roux to within two points of Venter and Palmer.

A good performance by Nissan at Sun City where Coetzee Labuscagne/Johan Gerber (Raysonics Nissan Hardbody) and Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howie (Ferodo Nissan Hardbody) won Class D and Class E respectively, saw them close to within 18 points of Toyota in the prestige South African Manufacturers Championship.

HUTCHISON/BERGMANN HAVE TIGHT GRIP ON SPECIAL VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP

A fourth win in five events on the recent Sun City 400 leaves Motorite pair Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann with a hand apiece on the Special Vehicle and Class A championships in the Absa Off Road Championship.

Hutchison and Bergmann now have a 52 point lead over the father and son pair of Nick and Ryan Harper in the Atlas Copco BAT. Both crews have a 100 percent finish record so far this season and will have to drop one result at the end of the season.

But while Hutchison and Bergmann are in a comfort zone, the Harpers are only four points clear of former champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau in the Team Total Porter. Variawa and Rousseau halted a three race winning streak by Hutchison and Bergmann when they won the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana.

Behind the Total crew there is also a good scrap between Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson, in the Regent Racing BAT, and Limpopo crew Naeem Moosajee and Mohammed Moultson. Only five points separate the two crews who also have 100 percent finish records this season.

In the overall championship the current Class B and Class P leaders also make it into the top 10. Class P leaders Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) are eighth and Class B leaders Derick du Toit and Ian Pienaar (Orange Tree BAT) ninth.

Because of anomalies in the off road scoring system the situation in Class A is a little different. Here Hutchison/Bergmann and the Harpers still top the standings, but Whitehouse and Carlson and Moosajee/Moultson move ahead of Variawa and Rousseau.

Two wins in a row on the Desert Race and the Sun City 400 have taken Cape Town crew du Toit and Pienaar into a comfortable 30 point lead in Class B. Consistency has lifted brothers Keith and Andrew Makenete, in a Zarco, into second place ahead of Bez and Deon Bezuidenhout in the Adenco BAT.

Since winning the first event of the season, the Adenco 400, the Bezuidenhout's have run into a string of non finishes that have not done their championship hopes any good.

Two non finishes in a row have also hit Class P leaders Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout in another Adenco BAT. They still lead the class but are now only nine points clear of brothers David and Gary White in the Ruwacon BAT.

The next round of the Absa Off Road Championship, will be the Highveld 400 at Carnival City on August 28 & 29.

-credit: saorc

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