Tarlton: Series Prologue summary

DONALDSON PROLOGUE PROVIDES RFS MAGALIES 400 STING IN THE TAIL A sting in the tail at the end of the season is the best way to describe today's Donaldson Prologue to determine start positions for the Production Car category at the RFS Magalies...

DONALDSON PROLOGUE PROVIDES RFS MAGALIES 400 STING IN THE TAIL

A sting in the tail at the end of the season is the best way to describe today's Donaldson Prologue to determine start positions for the Production Car category at the RFS Magalies 400, the final round of the Absa Off Road Championship, at Tarlton International Raceway tomorrow.

Heavy rain during the week turned sections of the route into quagmires and there were one or two surprises. A clean run gave outgoing drivers champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie, in the Team Castrol Toyota Hilux, a one minute and 44 second advantage over young Pretoria crew Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren in the RFS Toyota Hilux.

Du Plooy and van Vuuren were just five seconds ahead of Free State crew Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling in the Ruwacon Racing Ford Ranger. Newly crowned Production Vehicle overall champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (RFS Toyota Hilux) and veteran RFS BMW crew Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege.

Although Visser and Badenhorst have clinched the overall championship, there is a chance they could be pipped at the post in the SP Class championship by Grobler and ter Stege. The RFS pair, surprise winners of the Toyota Kalahari 1000 Desert Race, set the same time as George Barkhuizen/David van Wyck (AIM Toyota Hilux) and are six seconds behind Visser/Badenhorst.

Another Free State crew, Pieter Ruthven and Rudi Britz (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) were a solid seventh with Malcolm Koch and Johan Burger rounding out the top eight. Koch and Burger were having their first outing in an SP Class car in the ex Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout Toyota Hilux.

Among the high profile non finishers were Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer (Team Ford Ranger TDCi) and Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr in the Barden Tyre Services Nissan Navara. The Ford was reduced to three wheels when it hit a gate, while the Nissan went out with a broken shock absorber - but both cars will start tomorrow's race.

Championship leaders Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (RFS/4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) set the quickest Class D time. With the championship in sight their main aim is to finish the race, and they came in ahead of Cliff Weichelt and Johan Smalberger in the N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser.

Weichelt, now resident in Australia, is having his first outing of the season. Third fastest were Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen in a Land Rover.

Former champion Manfred Schroder and Ward Huxtable set the pace in Class E in the Team Ford Ranger. The experienced Schroder is standing in for injured teenager Lance Woolridge, whose title hopes were given a boost when closest challengers Pikkie Labuschange and Rikus Erasmus (RFS/4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) dropped out with gearbox problems.

A second RFS/4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux in the hands of Hein Moolman and JD Wolfaardt was second and trailed the Ford by nearly two minutes. Third were another Ford Ranger crew, Gerald le Roux and Willem Pretorius, in the Ruwacon Racing entry.

Tomorrow's race starts at 08h30 with the start/finish and designated service crew all at Tarlton International Raceway. Public access to Tarlton and spectator points along the route is free of charge.

SURPRISES APLENTY ON SPECIAL VEHICLE PROLOGUE

The Paul Simon/Art Garfunkel song Slip Sliding Away would be an apt refrain for today's Donaldson Prologue to decide Special Vehicle category start positions for tomorrow's RFS Magalies 400 at Tarlton International Raceway.

The event is the final race of the season in the Absa Off Road Championship, and will also decide the overall championship. Heavy midweek rain turned sections of the route into a quagmire and the prologue produced some of the strangest results of the season.

The two crews fighting for the championship will start 37th and 39th on the road after being among early starters who ran into problems at a river crossing, and on slippery sections of the route. Championship leaders Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter) will start 27th and two places behind them will be championship rivals Kallie and Quintin Sullwald in the Elegant Fuel BAT.

Variawa and Rousseau were further hampered by a bizarre incident when a guinea fowl flew into the car and was trapped under Variawa's legs. The pair were travelling at speed when Rousseau managed to evict the bird but, at the same time, threw his route guide out the car.

The pair finished the prologue on the GPS navigation system and route markers but did not blame the incident for their lowly finish position. Along with other frontrunners in Special Vehicles they were caught out by a river crossing and slippery steep gradients.

The fastest time went to Class P crew Archie Rutherford and Mike Lawrenson, in the Regent Racing Jimco, who were over a minute ahead of premier Class A pair Keith du Toit and Ashley Thorn in the White Star Racing BAT. In another surprise Class B crew Coetzee Labuscagne and daughter Sandra (Raysonics Zarco) completed the top three.

"It was a crazy afternoon," said Variawa. "It was a comedy of errors and Siegfried and I had a good laugh afterwards.

"It has certainly thrown the cat among the pigeons where the championship is concerned and whatever tactics were formulated before the prologue are literally out the window."

The first of the more fancied crews home were reigning drivers champion Evan Hutchison and Darryl Curtis in the Motorite Rev1 4x4. They were followed by another Class P crew in Marius and Jolinda Fourie in the BHP BAT, and newcomer Guy Henley and Warwick Goosen in the Century Racing BAT running in Class A.

KwaZulu-Natal pair Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell (Gibson Racing SVR) and Mark Corbett and Rudi Balzer (Century Racing CR2) completed the top eight. Among the non finishers were flyers Colin Matthews and Alan Smith (Century Racing CR3), Nardus and Louis Alberts (Wrapsa BAT), Jimmy Zahos and Stefan Coetzee (Cobalt Racing Porter) and Free Stater David White having his first outing in a Class A car in the Ruwacon BAT.

The Labuscagne's led Class B by a huge margin ahead of recently crowned drivers champion Bes Bezuidenhout and son Etienne . The Adenco BAT crew trailed the Labuscagne's by around 17 minutes.

In Class P it was Rutherford/Lawrenson who led from the Fourie's and Corbett/Balzer. The lower class cars are going to be under pressure at the start and any rain overnight will make matters even more interesting.

The race starts at 08h30 at Tarlton International Raceway with the designated service point also at the complex. Public entrance to Tarlton and spectator viewing points along the route is free of charge.

-source: saorc

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Series Other rally
Drivers Ian Palmer , David White , Mark Corbett , Darryl Curtis , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst