Eastern Cape: Series race report

SECOND WIN FOR VOS/PITCHFORD AND NISSAN Jeffreys Bay, Saturday -- Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford made it two in a row when they stormed to victory on the Eastern Cape 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended here...

SECOND WIN FOR VOS/PITCHFORD AND NISSAN

Jeffreys Bay, Saturday -- Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford made it two in a row when they stormed to victory on the Eastern Cape 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended here today.

Vos and Pitchford, in a factory Donaldson Nissan Navara, overcame a dodgy start to the race to blitz the rest of the Production Vehicle field to take overall and SP Class honours for the second race in a row. The pair also won the opening race of the year, the Adenco 400 in the Western Cape, to take an early trip on the overall and premier SP Class Championships.

Behind the Nissan there was a dream result for Thomas Rundle, having his first outing in the SP Class in a factory Ford Racing Ranger, who finished second -- albeit 11 minutes behind Vos and Pitchford. Rundle, partnered by the experienced Hennie ter Stege, graduated from Class E and could not have wished for a better start to his SP Class career.

The final podium place went to Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and Briton Quin Evans in a second Donaldson Nissan Navara. Tollefsen and Evans finished fourth on this year's Dakar Rally in a Nissan Navara built at Nissan Motorsport's workshops in Midrand.

Former Special Vehicle stars Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen, making their SP Class debut in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux, also had a good debut to come home in fourth place. Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, after finishing third in the first race of season, rounded out the top five in the RFS Toyota Hilux.

Vos, the reigning South African drivers champion, and Pitchford again showed their class by coming back to win from what looked like an impossible position. The pair started in pole position, but early on in the first of two loops that made up the route a brake pipe burst, and the pair dropped back to 25th position.

By the end of the first loop Vos and Pitchford had worked their way back to third place. They then went into the lead when team-mates Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr, who broke a gearbox, and Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) ran into gearbox problems on loop.

"It was a tough race and I was also car sick towards the end," said Vos. "But it was a good result for us."

A tough route took its toll with only 25 of the original 57 starters making it to the finish. Apart from Grobler/Mohr and the de Bruyn's, there were other high profile casualties in the SP Class.

Castrol Toyota works crew Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton were early casualties after a miserable weekend, with Terence Marsh/Pieter Groenewald (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) suffering a similar fate. Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer also fell by the wayside with an electrical problem scuppering the new turbo diesel Ford Racing Ranger.

The Class D honours went to the father and son combination of Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D. They took their second win in a row ahead of Dewald van Breda and Johan du Toit in the Northam Toyota D4D with only 19 seconds separating the two crews.

Heinie Strumpher and Jan van der Linde (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) were third, but for Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber (Raysonics Nissan Hardbody) a disappointing start to the season continued. For the second time engine maladies reduced them to spectators.

Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux) gave Toyota their second class win by taking the Class E honours. It was also their second win in a row with team-mates Pikkie Labuschagne and Rickus Erasmus, in another Toyota Hilux, taking second place ahead of Baphumze Rubuluza and Khuliele Vakaliza taking a hard earned third in the factory Ford Racing Ranger.

HUTCHISON/BERGMANN SCORE SECOND VICTORY

Jeffreys Bay, Saturday -- A dream start to the season continued for Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann, in the new Motorite Revo1 4x4, when they won the Eastern Cape 400, which ended here today.

It gave the pair their second win in a row in this year's Absa Off Road Championship with the car making its debut on the Adenco 400 in the Western Cape. After a miserable 2008 season two wins in two races represents a major turnaround in fortunes for the former South African champions.

"It was a tough race for us," said Hutchison, "but what is there to say against two wins in two races. It has been a dream start for us and hopefully the season will continue this way.

"We lost time at the end of the first loop, but the forest section on the second loop was good to us."

Former champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau, in the Total Porter, overcame a dodgy first loop to take a solid second place. There was also a solid performance from the steady Mike Whitehouse and brother-in-law Matthew Carlson (Regent Racing BAT) who were delighted with the final podium place.

Hutchison and Bergmann lost time at the end of the first of two loops that made up the route when they had to change a rear hub. They were then forced to push hard with four-wheel drive giving them an advantage in the tight Longmore Forest section.

Variawa and Rousseau went off the road on the first loop and were stuck in a ditch. They could not extract the car and were rescued by Production Vehicle winners Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford who pulled them back onto the road.

With a tough route taking its toll with only 25 of the 57 starters classified as finishers the top five was rounded out by Class P competitors. Former Class B champions Jan and Hendrik Kraaij, sharing the driving duties in the Keymax BAT, came in nearly 10 minutes ahead of the inexperienced Johan van Staaden and James Rossouw (KEC BAT) with both crews coming up with impressive performances.

Reigning Class P champions Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout, in the Adenco BAT, ran into clutch problems but salvaged precious points with a hard earned third place. The Bezuidenhout's won the Adenco 400 in the Western Cape and have taken an early lead in a class that this year is going to be hugely competitive.

A feather in the cap of the two Class P crews was the fact that they came in ahead of Class A crews in Nick and Ryan Harper (Atlas Copco BAT) and Kallie and Quintin Sullwald in the Sullwald Racing BAT. The Sullwald's are the reigning South African champions and battled through a weekend fraught with problems.

There were no Class B finishers with Adenco 400 winners Bes and Deon Bezuidenhout, in the Adenco BAT, among the casualties. Also in the wars were derrick du Toit and Ian Pienaar (Orange BAT) and John Telford and Jaco Swart in the Calcamite Zarco Lite.

The premier Class A category also produced some high profile casualties. Among them were Colin Matthews and Alan Smith (Century Racing BAT) who started in pole position, Will Battershill and Reg Sutton (BAT) and veterans Nardus Alberts and Geoff Minnitt in the Wrapsa BAT.

-credit: saorc

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Series Other rally
Drivers Ian Palmer , Ralph Pitchford , Quin Evans , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst