BERTHOLDT/VERMEULEN MAKE ABSA OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY Brakpan, Saturday -- The Nissan bogey at Carnival City continued when Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen won the Production Vehicle category on the Highveld 400, round six of the Absa...
BERTHOLDT/VERMEULEN MAKE ABSA OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
Brakpan, Saturday -- The Nissan bogey at Carnival City continued when Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen won the Production Vehicle category on the Highveld 400, round six of the Absa Off Road Championship, here today.
Bertholdt and Vermeulen, in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux, snapped a run of five successive Nissan victories this year and in the process claimed a slice of off road history. The Bertholdt/Vermeulen victory was the first ever by a privateer team running in the premier SP Class.
Nissan did not have a happy record on the East Rand when the race was run as the Carnival City 400 with Toyota and Ford claiming wins in 2006 and 2007. This year the race returned to Carnival City as the Highveld 400 and the Nissan bogey again reared its head.
Bertholdt and Vermeulen came home one minute and 43 seconds ahead of former South African champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, in the factory diesel Ford Racing Ranger TDCi, who scored their second podium placing in a row. Third place went to Terence Marsh and Pieter Groenewald, in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara, who salvaged Nissan pride by scoring their first ever podium in the Production Vehicle category.
"This is a triumph for the whole team," said Bertholdt who twice won the Carnival City 400 in a Special Vehicle. "It was hard work but we kept our heads."
There was a measure of consolation for Nissan with runaway championship leaders Duncan Vos and Ralph, in a Donaldson Nissan Navara, limping home eighth overall and sixth in class. According to unofficial scoring Vos and Pitchford can now not be caught in the championship.
Vos and Pitchford hit a rock while trying to overtake Bertholdt and Vermeulen and then limped home with suspension damage. They finished behind team-mates Ivar Tollefsen and Quin Evans, who battled with overheating problems, while former champion Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr, in a third Donaldson Nissan Navara, hit a bridge and then retired with a broken side shaft.
There was also a tale of woe for the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux team with both Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton and Hein Lategan/Chris Birkin falling by the wayside on the first of two loops that made up the race. Taylor/Houghton retired with a steering problem and an electrical problem sidelined Lategan and Birkin.
There was a high attrition rate in Class D with former Blue Bulls scrum half Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber (Raysonics Nissan Hardbody) grinding out their second win on the trot. Potchefstroom crew Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit (Northam Toyota D4D) also gutsed it out to take second.
Among those to fall by the wayside were championship leader Cliff Weichelt and Johan Smalberger. They rolled the N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D with no damage to the crew.
Reigning Class E champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (RFS Toyota Hilux) took their first win of the season after a good fight with early championship leaders Deon Venter and Ian Palmer in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux. Only 35 seconds separated the two crews at the finish.
Third went to Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) who held off KZN pair Bappy Rubuluza and Khuliele Vakalisa in the Ford Racing Ranger. After dropping out of the prologue championship leaders Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus, in the second 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux, fought back to salvage valuable points with a hard earned fifth place.
SURPRISE SPECIAL VEHICLE WINNERS AT HIGHVELD 400
Brakpan, Saturday -- The form book was thrown out the window when Gerhard du Plessis and Ferdie Seegers came from nowhere to win the Highveld 400, round six of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended at Carnival City today.
Du Plessis and Seegers, in an ageing Porter, had not competed in a national event for more than two years but produced a copybook performance to stun fellow competitors and enthusiasts alike. The pair came home 18 seconds ahead of Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau, in the Total Porter, to complete a fairytale victory.
"I think we surprised ourselves and everyone else," said du Plessis. "The car is nine years old but never missed a beat and we enjoyed ourselves. "
The final podium place went to runaway championship leaders Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann in the Motorite Revo1. Hutchison and Bergmann, with four wins from five starts going into the race, had a mathematical chance of wrapping up their second overall championship.
Starting from eighth place in the Special Vehicle category was too much of a handicap and Hutchison and Bergmann finally opted to settle for a safe third. At the finish they were just over six minutes behind Variawa and Rousseau, but with two events left this season are all but assured of winning the championship.
"We had a disappointing prologue and that set us back," said Hutchison. "It wasn't the best weekend we have had."
Du Plessis/Seegers and Variawa/Rousseau spent most of the first of two loops that made up the race chasing after Mark Corbett and Rudi Balzer in the Century Racing CR1. Corbett and Balzer won the Friday prologue to determine start positions but mechanical problems again sidelined the notoriously fragile 4x4 CR1 which has yet to finish a race.
Another steady drive took Mike Whitehouse and Matthew Carlson (Regent Racing BAT) to fourth place with brothers David and Gary White completing the top five in the Ruwacon Racing BAT. The Whites were also the first Class P car home with the pair taking their second win in three races.
KwaZulu-Natal driver Don Thompson and Hjalmar van Gessellen, in a Zarco, were second in Class P and seventh overall. Thompson and van Gessellen were 10 minutes behind the Whites and, in turn, had 10 minutes in hand over third placed Archie Rutherford and Craig Doubtfire in the Regent Racing BAT.
The big losers were championship leaders Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout. An engine problem sidelined the Adenco BAT making it three races in a row without a point for the Cape crew.
Another Cape crew, Derrick du Toit and Ian Pienaar, in the Orange Tree BAT, took their third Class B victory in a row to tighten their hold on the championship. Second were brothers Keith and Andrew Makenete, in a Zarco, who were around 12 minutes in arrears.
"It was a pleasure not to get out the car," said Keith. "It was tough going but we had a clean run."
Third in Class B were Johan de Klerk and Louis Pretorius in a Zarco with early leaders Simon Beckett and Steve Harris dropping back to fourth after problems on the second loop.