Barberspan: Season opener final report

Toyota dominate Barberspan 500 Toyota dominated the Barberspan 500, the opening round of this year& ...

Toyota dominate Barberspan 500

Toyota dominated the Barberspan 500, the opening round of this year’s Bankfin Off-Road Championship, in North West Province over the weekend.

After failing to score a win in last year’s championship, Team Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser pair Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton got all their sums right first time out this season. The Toyota pair finished just over eight minutes ahead of another pair of former champions, Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in the Team Ford Ranger V8, to take the overall win in the Production Vehicle category and honours in Class T.

With other Class T teams falling by the wayside on an event that produced a high attrition rate, Toyota also claimed third place overall and Class D via Piet Haasbroek and Christo Bosch in a Castrol Land Cruiser. A third class victory came Toyota’s way when Kassie Coetzee and Ockie Fourie took Class E and seventh overall in the Team Castrol Toyota Condor.

On the Special Vehicle front the overall and Class A victories went to Atang Makgekenene and Andre Paul, in a SAM Racing Jimco, with John Weir-Smith and Tony George second in the O’Hagan’s Kopanong Hotel BMW Jimco. Greg Daus and Trevor Ormerod came in third overall in the Nashua Mobile VW Raceco and won Class S, with Gavan Gray and Brian Scott fourth in a Powerflo JRE and Class B winners.

On an event that drew heavy criticism for poor route marking with crews constantly getting lost, experienced Reyneke and Houghton made good use of local knowledge to score a come from behind win. Reyneke farms in the North West province and was not phased by having to start in 66th place after problems during Friday’s prologue to determined grid positions.

“ We had a good run during the race, and were helped a little by problems other crews faced with the route and mechanical problems,” Reyneke said.“ After failing to win an event last season, this is a dream start for us.”

A broken front suspension, legacy of hitting a hidden rock, put reigning champions Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan out of the running in one of the two Class T Nissan Hardbodys. Fan belt problems sidelined Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke in the second Nissan, transfer case problems took care of Cliff Barker and the Barker Performance Parts Land Rover, and an overheating engine forced Cliff Weichelt into retirement in the ex Woolridge N1 4x4 Ford Ranger.

That left Reyneke/Houghton and Woolridge/Skjoldhammer to fight it out. There was never much between the two crews with Woolridge and Skjoldhammer in a slight lead after the midway refuel and service point.

Woolridge and Skjoldhammer were content to let the Team Castrol Toyota pair take the lead on a new section of the course, and act as pathfinders. Then an overheating problem that plagued the Ford all weekend again surfaced, and this was compounded by the loss of power steering.

“ After that we were happy to nurse the car home in second place,” said Woolridge.“ It was a solid start to the season, and we are optimistic for the rest of the year.”

Local knowledge also helped Haasbroek and Bosch to what was an impressive performance. The pair also lost 20 minutes in a river crossing, and edged out Henri and Maurice Zermatten in the Playstation Mitsubishi Pajero, Duncan Vos and Mike Griffiths in the Nissan Motorsport Harbody, and Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr (Isuzu) in Class D.

Vos complained bitterly about the route with everything falling apart for the Nissan crew over the last 120 kilometres. The other Class D contenders to fall by the wayside included Shumi van Vuuren and Fanie Kotze (Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser) with gearbox problems.

Suspension problems also hit reigning Class E champions Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham in a Team Ford Ranger, and this left the door open for Kassie Coetzee and Ockie Fourie to give the Team Castrol Toyota Condor a maiden national championship win. A steady run took Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn into eighth overall and second in Class E.

The new Class F for two wheel drive unlimited Production Vehicles was won by Frik Mulder and Willie Jordaan in the American built Jo Jo Tanks Chevrolet.

Steadiness also saw Makgekenene, in only his second season as a driver and Paul, in his motorsport debut, score a maiden victory in the Special Vehicle category. The drive of the race, however, came from Weir-Smith and George who left the start stone last and then proceeded to shrug off a puncture and problems with the route guide to score a brave second.

It was also an unhappy weekend for the new BAT Racing squad. Accidents sidelined Bevan Bertholdt and Brandon Harcus, with the father and son team of Bodo and Gary Bertholdt, in a third BAT entry, dropping out with a broken sideshaft while handily placed.

Eastern Cape pair Greg Harvey and Boy Stone, in the Castrol Jimco, also had a weekend to forget. They ran into problem after problem before deciding to call it a day, with the pair expected to be out soon in a new Production Vehicle entry.

The next round of the Bankfin Off Road Championship will be the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 in KwaZulu-Natal on May 10 and 11.


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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Giniel de Villiers , Tony George , Duncan Vos
Teams AT Racing