Sugarbelt 400: Series prologue report

TOYOTA PAIR SET BLISTERING PACE ON NISSAN SUGARBELT 400 PROLOGUE Pietermaritzburg -- Friday -- The factory Castrol Toyota Hilux pair of Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton set a blistering pace today to win the prologue for tomorrow's Nissan ...

TOYOTA PAIR SET BLISTERING PACE ON NISSAN SUGARBELT 400 PROLOGUE

Pietermaritzburg -- Friday -- The factory Castrol Toyota Hilux pair of Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton set a blistering pace today to win the prologue for tomorrow's Nissan Sugarbelt 400. Tomorrow's race is round three of the Absa Off Road championship with the prologue determining start positions for tomorrow's race. Provisional results saw Taylor and Houghton strike an early blow for Toyota by blitzing the rest of the opposition.

The big talking point was not that Taylor/Houghton won the prologue, but the fact that there were over 90 seconds between the Toyota crew and second placed Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr in the factory Donaldson Nissan Navara. Third fastest were Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (RFS Toyota Hilux) and local favourites Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, in the diesel twin turbo Ford Racing Ranger TDCI, who were credited with the same time.

Visser/Badenhorst and Woolridge/Skjoldhammer were nine seconds behind the Donaldson Nissan Navara. Next up were Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and Briton Quin Evans, in a third works Donaldson Nissan Navara, and Hein Lategan and Chris Birkin in the second factory Castrol Toyota Hilux.

"We had a good run," said Taylor. "First on the road is a bonus for us and it was a good start to the weekend.

"Now we need to take full advantage of the situation."

The father and son combination of Cliff and Louis Weichelt continued their good start to the season in the N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D. They won the first two events of the season and set the fastest time in Class D. Next up were former Blue Bull scrum half Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody. Third and fourth were Johan and Werner Horn and Johan Ferreira and Nico Kotze with both crews out in Toyota land cruiser entries.

Down in Class E kart and circuit racing start Leeroy Poulter came up with the best result of his fledgling off road career. Despite a gearbox problem Poulter and Rob Howie set the fastest time in the factory Nissan Hardbody.

Poulter/Howie came in ahead of reigning champion Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (RFS Toyota Hilux) who had a clean run. Third fastest were Deon Venter and Ian Palmer, in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux, with the championship leaders losing time via a puncture.

Major casualties included Thomas Rundle/Hennie ter Stege, in the second factory diesel Ford Racing Ranger TDCI, Terence Marsh and Pieter Groenewald (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) and Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux. Rundle/ter Stege went off the road and were stuck in a sluit, Marsh and Groenewald broke a prop shaft and Bertholdt/Vermeulen broke a tie rod end.

Also in the wars were championship leaders Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford who won the first two events of the season in a third factory Donaldson Nissan Navara. A puncture and other problems saw them lose around eight minutes on Taylor/Houghton and, starting well down the field, the pair will have a mountain to climb.

The start/finish and designated service point for tomorrow's race are all at the Beaumont Eston Farmers Club. The race starts at 08h00 with the first cars expected at the finish at around 3pm.

CORBETT/BALZER SPRING NISSAN SUGARBELT 400 PROLOGUE SURPRISE

Pietermaritzburg, Friday -- The Century Property Development Racing pair of Mark Corbett and Rudi Balzer sprang a surprise when they raced to victory on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 prologue today.

Provisional results for the prologue, to determine start positions for tomorrow's third round of the Absa Off Road Championship, saw Corbett and Balzer bring the CR1 4x4 home 14 seconds ahead of Century Property Development Racing BAT team-mates Colin Matthews and Marc de Chalain. Since making its debut last season the CR1 has been plagued by reliability problems and has not yet finished a race.

"Hopefully the law of averages is now on our side," said Corbett. "It was a good result for us but winning the race is what counts."

Third fastest were former South African champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann in another 4x4 entry. In stark contrast to the CR1, however, the Motorite Revo1 4x4 in the hands of Hutchison and Bergmann has won twice in two starts.

"A hat-trick of wins would be nice, but this is traditionally a tough race," said Hutchison. "We could not have asked for a better start to the season, but the main aim tomorrow will be to get the car home in one piece."

Herman and Wichard Sullwald, in the Sullwald Racing Zarco, and Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson (Regent Racing BAT) completed the top five. The steady Whitehouse and Carlson currently lie second in the overall and Class A championship.

Just under two minutes separated the top five with Jimmy Zahos and Stefan Coetzee (Mountain Dew Porter) and Jan and Hendrik Kraaij (Keymax BAT) next up. The Kraaij's were the first of the Class P entries and were 29 seconds ahead of local crew Don Thompson and Don Blakey in a Zarco.

Thompson and Blakey were only six seconds ahead of reigning Class P champions, brothers Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout, in the Adenco BAT. Only 35 seconds separated the first three cars in Class P with a good battle on the cards in the race.

Slotting in behind the two Class P crews was former SA champion Atang Makgekgenene who completed the prologue on his own in an ageing ex Gary Bertholdt Raceco. For the race Makgekgenene will be joined by Lesotho co-driver Victor Raseabane.

Also out on his own is local driver Brett Gurney in a JRE who set the fastest time in Class B. He was followed by another local crew in Marcus Taylor and Derek Keith, also in a JRE, and championship leaders Bes and Deon Bezuidenhout in the Adenco BAT.

A miserable start to the season continued for reigning South African champions Kallie and Quintin Sullwald in the Sullwald Racing BAT. An early encounter with a gate and a fence saw them classified as non finishers.

A drive shaft problem also sidelined Naeem Moosajee and Mohamed Moultson in the TyreRack Jimco. Both crews, however, will start from the back of the field.

The start/finish and designated service point for tomorrow's race are all at the Beaumont Eston Farmers Club. The race starts at 08h00 with the first cars expected at the finish at around 3pm.

-credit: saoffroadracing.co.za

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