Gaborone: Series event summary

TWO IN A ROW FOR VOS ON TOYOTA 1 000 DESERT RACE GABORONE, Sunday - South African champion Duncan Vos made it two in a row when he and Louis Weichelt, in a Sasol Nissan Navara, won an enthralling Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race which...

TWO IN A ROW FOR VOS ON TOYOTA 1 000 DESERT RACE

GABORONE, Sunday - South African champion Duncan Vos made it two in a row when he and Louis Weichelt, in a Sasol Nissan Navara, won an enthralling Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race which ended here yesterday.

Vos's win on the fourth round of this year's Absa Off Road Championship was also his second in a row with a stand-in co-driver and gave Nissan their seventh consecutive victory in Botswana. Last year Vos won with veteran Richard Leeke who was standing in for Ralph Pitchford who again missed this year's race because of overseas commitments.

Provisional results saw Vos and young Weichelt coming in three minutes ahead of Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin in the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux. An intriguing battle raged between the two crews after a storming day two performance by Cronje and Birkin took them from 12th place into a 17 second lead ahead of the Nissan.

Cronje and Birkin finally threw in the towel 60 kilometres from the finish and decided to settle for second place. The Castrol Toyota lost rear brakes and then picked up a puncture which decided Cronje and Birkin to concentrate on finishing well up in the points.

On the final run to the finish the Toyota was being chased down by former winners Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in the factory Ford Racing Ranger. Cronje and Birkin managed to hold on by around two minutes with the Ford crew hampered by rear suspension damage.

"That was as tough as it gets," said Vos. "There was huge pressure throughout the race and this was a route where you could not afford the slightest mistake.

"Louis did a great job and the technical crew also deserve a pat on the back for keeping the vehicle in one piece."

Fourth place went to veteran Hannes Grobler, a multiple Desert Race winner, and Juan Mohr, in a second Sasol Nissan Navara who came in around 12 minutes behind the Ford. They made up wads of time to come in five minutes ahead of circuit racer Anthony Taylor, having only his second outing in the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux, and Robin Houghton.

Among the notable retirements were Alfie Cox and Hennie ter Stege (Motorite Ford) with electrical problems, Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst (Castrol Toyota Hilux) and prologue winners Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux. The second factory Ford Ranger in the hands of Marc Ferguson and Craig West was also a casualty along with the third Sasol Nissan Navara of Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and Briton Quin Evans.

What looked like developing into a tight Class D battle finally ended with Henri and Maurice Zermatten, in the Ryobi Nissan Hardbody, taking their second Desert Race win in a row. They came in more than 15 minutes ahead of championship leaders Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber, in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody, who gradually fell off the pace.

Third place went to young Chris du Plooy junior and Henk van Vuuren in the RFS Toyota Hilux. They hung in against two highly experienced crews and kept up their Class D championship challenge.

The Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux pair of Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux scored their third win of the season to take Class E honours. They came in ahead of the Ford Racing Ranger pair of Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro who were hit with a 25 minute penalty for missing drivers briefing and an indiscretion on the convoy to the start.

That dropped Peckham/Santoro down to third in class behind Toyota Kalahari Botswana Desert Race 1000 rookies Dewald van Breda and Johan du Toit who did a sterling job in the Potch Plastics Toyota Hilux .

15 YEAR WAIT ENDS FOR VARIAWA ON TOYOTA 1 000 DESERT RACE

Gaborone, Saturday -- After 14 years of trying former South African champion Shameer Variawa finally got it right and won the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race which ended here today.

Provisional results saw Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau, in the Total Motorsport Porter, come in just under three minutes ahead of 2006 winner Nick Harper and Andrew Chalupsky, in the Atlas Copco BAT, to take the overall and Class A honours. For Variawa the win had special significance in that he became a father for the second time on the eve of what was round four of the Absa Off Road Championship.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," Variawa said. "We had a great race, the technical crew did a great job and life is great."

Current championship leaders and last year's winners, Karl-Heinz and Quintin Sullwald, took the final podium place in the new Sullwald Racing BAT. They were slowed by overheating problems on the final day -- it was the new car's first outing -- but they cemented their position at the top of the overall and Class A championships.

Overheating problems also plagued fourth placed Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson in the Regent Racing BAT. They trailed the Sullwald's by three minutes but had six minutes in hand over Colin Mathews and Alan Smith, in the Century Racing BAT.

Mathews and Smith were hit in the closing stages by a slow puncture that they eventually had to stop and fix. A 10 minute penalty for not attending drivers briefing also did nothing for their cause.

Variawa and Rousseau started the final day five minutes behind overnight leaders Nardus Alberts and Geoff Minnitt in the Wrapsa BAT. Alberts and Minnitt were forced to retire with suspension damage early in the day, and that let Variawa/Rousseau into a lead they never relinquished.

Notable Class A retirements included reigning SA champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann (Motorite BAT) and Nissan Sugarbelt 400 winners Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen in the Atlas Copco BAT. The Motorite crew broke a sideshaft and the Atlas Copco crew were forced out with suspension damage in the Friday prologue to determine grid positions.

Also among those who made an early exit were local favourite Gary Gillingham and Andrew van Zyl and Herman Sullwald and Paul Helberg. Both Gillingham/van Zyl and the Sullwald car went out on day one.

There was a family triumph in Class B and Class P. Cape crew Bez Bezuidenhout and Johann de Bruyn, in the Adenco BAT, outlasted the rest of the opposition to score their second win of the year in Class B -- despite a 10 minute drivers briefing penalty.

Despite the penalty the Adenco crew were more than an hour ahead of Louw de Bruin and Rudi Britz in the Ruwacon BAT. Bezuidenhout's sons, Johan and Etienne, made it a family double when they took Class P.

It was also their second win of the season and they took control when Bloemfontein brothers David and Gary White, in the Ruwacon BAT, fell by the wayside. Championship leaders Don Thompson and Don Blakey, in a Zarco Lite, had a tough time of it with various maladies and finished nearly an hour behind the Bezuidenhout's.

-credit: absa

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Series Other rally
Drivers Alfie Cox , Ralph Pitchford , Quin Evans , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst