Botswana: Series day one summary

HUTCHISON/BERGMANN TAKE SPECIAL VEHICLE OVERNIGHT LEAD Gaborone, Saturday -- The Special Vehicle category in the Toyota 1000 Desert Race is poised for a tight finish tomorrow after a drama filled day one of what is round four of the Absa Off...


Gaborone, Saturday -- The Special Vehicle category in the Toyota 1000 Desert Race is poised for a tight finish tomorrow after a drama filled day one of what is round four of the Absa Off Road Championship. At the overnight halt less than two minutes separated the first four cars with Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann, in the Motorite Revo1 4x4, holding a tenuous 35 second lead over surprise package Jimmy Zahos and Stefan Coetzee in the Mountain Dew Porter. Hutchison and Bergmann won the first three races of the season and lead the overall and Class A championships by a comfortable margin.

Third, another 25 seconds off the pace, were last year's winners Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau in the Total Porter. Fourth were 2007 winners Kallie and Quintin Sullwald, in the Sullwald Racing BAT, who are the reigning South African champions.

The top five were rounded out by former winners Nick and Ryan Harper in the Atlas Copco BAT. The Harper's, however, had slipped to just over 12 minutes behind the leaders.

The Toyota 1000 Desert Race is the only marathon event on the Absa Off Road Championship calendar, and a tough and surprisingly wet route decimated the field. Only 11 Special Vehicle category crews made it to the overnight halt.

Hutchison and Bergmann started 14th on the road and 12th in Class A and at the designated service point (DSP) midway through the day had a lead of just over three minutes over Variawa and Rousseau.

Hutchison and Bergmann were experiencing clutch problems, Variawa/Rousseau had brake problems and Zahos/Coetzee had clutch and power steering woes.

On the second loop Zahos, a former quad bike racer, and Coetzee made up four places and were in a position to put plenty of pressure on Hutchison/Bergmann tomorrow. Much the same applies to Variawa/Rousseau and the Sullwald's who have not had the happiest of seasons so far.

High profile casualties included prologue winners Colin Matthews and Alan Smith, in the Century Racing BAT, and team-mates Mark Corbett and Rudi Balzer (Century Racing CR1) with both cars falling by the wayside before the DSP. Herman and Wichard Sullwald (Sullwald Racing Zarco) also fell by the wayside along with Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell in the new Gibson Racing SVR.

A fine performance saw brothers David and Gary White into eighth overall overnight and leading Class P. It was their best performance of the season and they had a lead of around 40 minutes over the father and son pair of Glen and Rob Gibson in the Gibson Racing BAT.

Another good performance saw Cape Town crew Derick du Toit and Ian Pienaar come first in Class B. The Cape crew were a healthy 11 minutes ahead of local hero Atang Makgekgenene, a former winner of the race, and Zimbabwean rally co-driver Philip Archenoul who was having his first outing in an off road car.

Race conditions favoured the Special Vehicle entries and eight of the top 10 at the overnight halt were from the category.

The race ends at the Game City complex in Gaborone tomorrow afternoon with the first cars expected at around 3pm.


Gaborone, Saturday -- The factory Donaldson Nissan crew of Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford today totally dominated day one of the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, round four of the Absa Off Road Championship, which started here today.

At the overnight halt with the race producing a high rate of attrition, Vos and Pitchford went from 28th on the road and 13th in the premier SP Class to a commanding lead of 33 minutes in the Production Vehicle category. With a tight route and surprisingly wet conditions only seven of the 28 Production Vehicle category crews who set out from here this morning made it to the overnight stop.

Vos, the reigning South African driver's champion, and Pitchford were just over three minutes ahead of Kobus van Tonder and Riaan Guelpa in the Uni Freight Ford Ranger, at the designated service point (DSP) midway through the day. Van Tonder and Guelpa were second loop casualties and at the overnight halt Vos and Pitchford led the RFS Toyota Hilux of Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst by 33 minutes and three seconds.

Third were Pretoria student Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren, in another RFS Toyota Hilux, who were steadiness personified on a day that wreaked havoc with more fancied runners. Fourth were Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton in the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux who almost matched Vos and Pitchford in the individual honours.

Taylor and Houghton started 23rd in the SP Class and 44th on the road and their day included losing wads of time by twice getting stuck in mud holes. Also in line for individual honours were Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus who took the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux to fifth in the Production Vehicle category with the pair the only Class E runners left in the race.

There were no Class D finishers with the casualties including championship leaders Cliff and Louis Weichelt (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D), the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody of Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber and Dewald van Breda/Johann du Toit in the Northam Toyota Hilux D4D.

The Weichelt's failed to start after being unable to repair the Toyota after prologue problems. Labuscagne/Gerber lasted only 30 kilometres and van Breda/du Toit retired after the DSP.

The last two cars in the SP Class to make it to the overnight halt were the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux of Gary Bertholdt and Danie Stassen, and the Donaldson Nissan Navara of Ivar Tollefsen and Quin Evans. Both crews trailed Vos/Pitchford by more than an hour, with Tollefsen/Evans still running courtesy of the third works Nissan Navara of Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr being stripped for spares after both cars hit the same rock.

Also among the retirements were the factory twin turbo diesel Ford Racing Rangers of former winners Neil Woolridge/Kenny Skjoldhammer and Thomas Rundle/Stavros Yiannakis and the second works Castrol Toyota Hilux of Hein Lategan and Chris Birkin.

Among the Class E retirements were championship leaders Deon Venter and Ian Palmer in a second 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux, circuit racing and kart star Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie in the factory Ferodo Nissan Hardbody, and reigning champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in the RFS Toyota Hilux.

The race ends at the Game City complex in Gaborone tomorrow with the survivors expected at the finish at around 3pm.


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