Eastern Cape 500 Prologue summary

CRONJE/SCHRODER SHARE AMATHOLE 500 PROLOGUE WIN Fish River Sun - Castrol Toyota factory pair Mark Cronje/Chris Birkin and Ford privateers Manfred Schroder/Ward Huxtable shared the Production Vehicle spoils today on the prologue for tomorrow's ...

CRONJE/SCHRODER SHARE AMATHOLE 500 PROLOGUE WIN

Fish River Sun - Castrol Toyota factory pair Mark Cronje/Chris Birkin and Ford privateers Manfred Schroder/Ward Huxtable shared the Production Vehicle spoils today on the prologue for tomorrow's Amathole 500.

The event is round five of the Absa Off Road Championship and will run in conjunction with the African Heritage Cross Country international event. The African Heritage Cross Country is round two of the FIA Cross Country World Cup.

Cronje/Birkin, in a factory Castrol Toyota Hilux, and Schroder/Huxtable Barloworld/Absolute Ford Ranger posted identical times and will lead away the field. The four-wheel drive Super Production Class entries reveled in the ultra fast conditions on the 100 kilometre prologue, and took nine of the top 10 places.

Gary Bertholdt and Geoff Minnitt, in the Atlas Copco Porter, and SA champions Alfie Cox/Hennie ter Stege (Motorite BAT) were the only Special Vehicle crew to crack the top 10. Tomorrow's 500 kilometre race is expected to be just as fast, and will suit drivers, like Cronje, who have circuit racing/rally experience.

Third fastest were another factory Toyota crew, Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton, who were 28 seconds behind Cronje/Birkin and Schroder/Huxtable. The Toyota pair edged out reigning champions Hannes Grobler/Francois Jordaan and Duncan Vos/Ralph Pitchford in factory Nissan Navara entries.

Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst (Castrol Toyota Hilux), Neil Woolridge/Kenny Skjoldhammer (Ford Racing Ranger) and Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) completed the top 10. Grobler and Vos also have extensive circuit racing experience with Grobler also a South African rally champion, and a fast race could provide for plenty of drama.

Nissan crews dominated Class D and filled the first three places. Arnold du Plessis and Johan Knox (BB Auto Nissan Hardbody) came in ahead of Henri and Maurice Zermatten in the Ryobi Nissan Hardbody. Not far behind them were brothers Jurie and Andre du Plessis in a second BB Auto Nissan Hardbody.

Championship leaders Harold and Tiaan Coen, in a Land Rover, had a tough time of it. They trailed in over half an hour behind du Plessis/Knox and have a mountain to climb in the race.

It also wasn't the best of days for Class E championship leaders Jack Peckham /Lucio Santoro in the factory Ford Racing Ranger. They were fifth in class but only have a two minute deficit to cancel out.

George and Sharon Barkhuizen (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) were the fastest of the Class E runners. Trailing in behind them were Brian Martin/Ockie Fourie (Castrol Toyota Hilux), Thomas Rundle and Brian Roberts (Barden Tyre Services Nissan Hardbody) and Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in the Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux.

BERTHOLDT/MINNITT SET THE PACE IN AMATHOLE500 PROLOGUE

Atlas Copco Porter pair Gary Bertholdt and Geoff Minnitt set the Special Vehicle pace today on the prologue for tomorrow's Amathole 500.

The event is round five of the Absa Off Road Championship and will be run in conjunction with the African Heritage Cross Country race. The African Heritage is round two of the FIA Cross Country World Cup and is the only event in South Africa this year counting towards a world series.

Bertholdt and Minnitt, who has replaced Henry Kirstein the Atlas Copco team after a nine month break from racing, and SA champion Alfie Cox/Hennie ter Stege (Motorite BAT) were the only Special Vehicle crew in the top 10 of the prologue. An ultra fast route played into the hands of the four-wheel drive brigade with the race likely to develop a similar pattern.

Cox and ter Stege in a Motorite BAT were a minute behind Bertholdt/Minnitt and 18 seconds ahead of the impressive Nardus Alberts/Collin Hunter (Wrapsa BAT). Former champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau were a further three seconds behind in the Total Motorsport Porter.

Closely bunched and not far behind the front runners were Evan Hutchison/Achim Bergman (Motorite BAT), Colin Matthews/Alan Smith (Century Property Development BAT), Toyota Desert Race winner Kallie Sullwald and Morne Moller (Sullwald Transport Zarco) and championship leaders Nick and Ryan Harper in another Atlas Copco entry.

There was no surprise in Class B where Hendrik and Jan Kraaij (Regent Racing BAT) were five minutes ahead of Marcus Taylor and Derek Keith in the JRE. The Kraaij's have a 100 percent win record this season and have a tight grip on the championship.

Johan Bezuidenhout/Etienne Bezuidenhout were third in the Adenco BAT with John Thomson/Clinton McNamara fourth in the Zarco.

Veteran former SA champion Richard Schilling and Chris Davies, in the Plastotech Aceco, dominated Class S. They came in ahead of Glen Gibson/Mark Whitehurst in the Absolute Aceco with Nic Goslar and Richard Carolin rounding out the top three in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco.

-credit: msa

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Mark White , Alfie Cox , Ralph Pitchford , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst