Sun City 400: Series event summary

FOURTH VICTORY FOR VOS/PITCHFORD ON SUN CITY 400 Sun City, Saturday -- The Donaldson Nissan Navara pair of Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford scored their fourth win of the season when they stormed to victory in the Production Vehicle category on...

FOURTH VICTORY FOR VOS/PITCHFORD ON SUN CITY 400

Sun City, Saturday -- The Donaldson Nissan Navara pair of Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford scored their fourth win of the season when they stormed to victory in the Production Vehicle category on the Sun City 400, round five of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended here today.

After another disappointing prologue which saw them start in seventh place, Vos and Pitchford again demonstrated their ability to turn disappointing Friday's into winning Saturday's. Aided and abetted by a high attrition rate the pair were in the lead by the end of the first of two 180 kilometre loops that made up the route, and victory gives them a vicelike grip on this year's overall and premier SP Class championships. "It was fast and dusty but the only problems we picked up were two punctures," said a weary Vos. "Straying off the track was to court disaster, and this was a typical Sun City 400."

A great result saw privateers Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen take second place in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux. It was their first podium finish after 'defecting' to the Production Vehicle category from the Special Vehicle ranks.

There was also a much needed podium finish for former South African champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in the factory twin turbo diesel Ford Ranger. Ford is the first South African manufacturer to switch to diesel, and third will have done much to ease the pressure on the team in what is a performance driven sport.

Terence Marsh and Pieter Groenewald (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) produced their best result of the season to come home fourth, with Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren (RFS Toyota Hilux) following up their third place on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race with a solid fifth. There were also plucky performances from George and Sharon Barkhuizen (AIM Toyota Hilux), Graeme Leith/Mike Lawrenson (Transcor Ford Ranger) and SP Class debutantes Louis Weichelt and Maret Bezuidenhout who made it to the finish in a battered Discovery Drilling Ford Ranger.

For the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux team the race was something of a disaster. After setting the early pace by winning the prologue to grab pole position, Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton were early casualties when they hit a rock and damaged the steering.

They were followed into retirement before the designated service point by team-mates Hein Lategan and Chris Birkin, who were leading the race at the time, with a broken control arm. Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) were also forced into early retirement and another Toyota crew, Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (RFS Toyota Hilux), crashed heavily when they hit a rock.

There were also disappointing outings for former SA champion Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr and Ivar Tollefsen/Quin Evans in the other Donaldson Nissan Navaras. They were eighth and 11th respectively in the SP Class and Grobler's woes included a wrong slot that cost seven minutes, while Tollefsen soldiered on without power steering after hitting a rock.

Former Blue Bulls scrum half Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber (Raysonics Nissan Hardbody) ended a string of non finishes by taking their first Class D win of the season. They edged out Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit (Northam Toyota Hilux D4D) after race leaders Cliff Weichelt and Johann Smalberger (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D) broke down 20 kilometres from the finish.

The win by Labuscagne/Gerber ended a string of four successive Class D wins by Toyota crews. A string of Toyota wins in Class E was also broken when circuit racing and kart star Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, in the Ferodo Nissan Hardbody, romped to victory by nearly 20 minutes.

Poulter, a former South African Production Car champion, is in his first season of off road racing and this was his maiden victory. Second were Free State crew Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) in their best performance of the season.

A solid performance took Pikkie Labuschagne/Rikus Erasmus (4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux) into third and gave them the championship lead ahead of team-mates Deon Venter and Ian Palmer. The Palmer/Venter car fell by the wayside and fourth place saw reigning champions Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (RFS Toyota Hilux) cut their lead in the championship.

FIRST SUN CITY 400 VICTORY FOR HUTCHISON/BERGMANN

Sun City, Saturday -- Former South African champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann scored their first Sun City 400 victory here today to tighten an already firm grip on the Special Vehicle category title chase in the Absa Off Road Championship.

For Hutchison and Bergmann, in the Motorite Revo1 4x4, it was their fourth win in five events this season although there was an element of good fortune in their victory. The pair took the lead about 50 kilometres from the finish when former SA champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau, in the Total Motorsport Porter, picked up a puncture.

There was also an element of irony about the situation with Variawa and Rousseau winning the recent Toyota 1000 Desert Race when Hutchison and Bergmann picked up a puncture 100 kilometres from the finish. Variawa and Rousseau were looking for a repeat of last year when back to back wins on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race and the Sun City 400 sparked a late championship challenge.

Hutchison and Bergmann, after a dodgy prologue saw them start in 10th place in the Special Vehicle category, had worked their way into second place at the designated service point. They still had leeway to make up on Variawa and Rousseau when the fickle finger of fate moved in.

"It took us a little more time to change the wheel than would normally be the case," said Rousseau. "The car was at an awkward angle and we could not get the jack into place. "It was frustrating to see Evan and Achim go past but that is racing and we had our slice of luck in Botswana."

The final podium position went to the father and son team of Kallie and Quintin Sullwald in the Sullwald racing BAT. For the reigning South African champions it was their best result of what has been a disappointing season.

The top five was completed by another father and son combination, Nick and Ryan Harper, in the Atlas Copco BAT, and Limpopo crew Naeem Moosajee and Mohammed Moultson in the Tyrerack Jimco. Another father and son pair in Herman and Wichard Sullwald (Sullwald Racing Zarco) were sixth, with fine performances from veteran Ernest Corbett and son-in-law Warwick Goosen (Century Racing CR2) and Jan Kraaij and Tiddo Voogt (Keymax BAT) taking them into the top eight.

Corbett, who is in his 60s, and Goosen also won Class P in the futuristic CR2 ahead of Kraaij and Voogt. The Century Racing CR2 is being developed for a shot at next year's Dakar Rally and was giving only its second outing.

Third in Class P went to brothers David and Gary White (Ruwacon BAT) who won the recent Toyota 1000 Desert Race. The big losers were championship leaders Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) who blew a succession of motors between dyno testing on Thursday and the start of the event on Friday.

The Class B honours went to Desert Race winners Derick du Toit and Ian Pienaar, from Cape Town, in the Orange Tree BAT. The Cape crew came in ahead of Simon Beckett and Tim Curtis, in the Century Racing BAT, to tighten their hold on the Class B championship.

Third were the Makenete brothers, Keith and Andrew, who came up with another brave performance in a Zarco. Another Cape crew, Bez and Deon Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT), were early casualties and after winning the opening event of the year, the Bezuidenhout's have run into a string of non finishes, which have hurt their championship hopes.

-credit: saorc

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