Habig and Judd win Mountain Trial.

The factory Sasol VW Golf pair Jan Habig and Douglas Judd overcame a series of trials and tribulations to win the Mountain Trial, round six of the MSA South African Rally Championship, which ended in Aliwal North on Saturday. To win the Mountain...

The factory Sasol VW Golf pair Jan Habig and Douglas Judd overcame a series of trials and tribulations to win the Mountain Trial, round six of the MSA South African Rally Championship, which ended in Aliwal North on Saturday. To win the Mountain Trial Habig and Judd had to survive a fire in the car, a damaged fuel rail, a minor off-road excursion and a lost time card to eventually come home 10 seconds ahead of the Dealer Team Toyota pair of Serge Damseaux and Guy Hodgson. Second place was, however, enough to take Damseaux to the top of this year's drivers championship with just two events remaining.

Third place went to Tjaart van der Walt and Cindi Harding, in a second Sasol VW Golf, who were just 15 seconds ahead of Etienne Lourens and Robert Paisley in the Team Total Toyota Corolla. Lourens is now second in the drivers champion with Habig third, while Lourens leads the co-drivers championship from Judd and Hodgson.

Fifth overall, after another superb performance, were veteran former national rally and off-road champion Hannes Grobler and Brian Duncan in the Total Bridgestone Nissan Sentra. That gave them overall honours in the Group N category as well as Class N3, and saw the pair close the gap on Group N championship leaders Dean Sanders and Graham Hooper who were ninth overall in the Team Total Toyota Corolla.

A dramatic event saw Habig and Judd take the overnight lead after the first leg of the event in and around Bloemfontein on Friday. The reigning SA champions led from van der Walt/Harding, Damseaux/Hodgson and Lourens/Paisley but were soon in trouble when the event restarted in Barkly East on Saturday.

On the first special stage of the day the factory Sasol VW Golf ran out of fuel at the flying finish after a fuel pipe broke, and then caught fire at the control point. Hasty work by service crew got the crew back on the road, only for the fuel rail to break on the next special stage.

While the crew were working on the car Judd inadvertently misplaced the crew's time card - a misdemeanour carrying either a hefty time penalty or exclusion from the results. A VW team member was sent back into the special stage to look for the card - with a potentially explosive situation defused when the card was found.

van der Walt and Harding also had their problems with a big off-road excursion and a gear linkage problem costing them time. At the Barkly East refuel - with four stages to run - Damseaux/Hodgson led from Lourens/Paisley, Habig/Judd and van der Walt/Harding.

On the long special stages that characterise the Mountain Trial, the two Class A8 cars were expected to make up time on Damseaux/Hodgson and Lourens/Paisley in the Class A6 Toyotas. Habig and Judd managed to overhaul Damseaux and Hodgson, and with Lourens/Paisley running into problems of their own with a gearbox change and a broken control arm, van der Walt and Harding moved into third place ahead of the Toyota crew.

Habig and Judd also took Class A8 with Damseaux and Hodgson winning Class A6. The Class A7 win went to Tony Ball and Martie Olivier, in the Bulwer Park VW Golf, when early leaders Johnny Gemmell and Erroll Finniss, in a Nissan Sentra, went off the road and lost 12 minutes - with the pair finally dropping out on the last special stage when the Nissan's gearbox packed up. Grobler and Duncan took Class N3 by about four minutes from another veteran crew in Geoff Mortimer and Jerry Gericke in the Sasol Nissan Sentra. Both Mortimer and Gericke are former SA champions with the pair finishing tenth overall.

Sanders and Hooper, the reigning champions, took Class N2 but also had an adventurous rally. They changed an engine after running bearings on day one, with service crew working through the night to get them to the restart. Second in Class N2 were Kobus Roos and Niel Fourie, in the Toyota Corolla with Toyota picking up a third category win in Class N1. Here the Houghton brothers, Mike and Robin, in the Toy Toy Spares Toyota Tazz, edged out reigning champions Rodney Visagie and Carolyn Swan in the Team Total Toyota Tazz.

Visagie and Swan led after day one but then suffered from an intermittent misfire that service crew could not cure. That saw the finish 41 seconds behind the Houghton brothers.

<pre> Provisional results:

1 J Habig/D Judd (Sasol VW Golf) 01:54:24 2 S Damseaux/G Hodgson (Dealer Team Toyota Corolla) 01:54:34 3 T van der Walt/C Harding (Sasol VW Golf) 01:55:53 4 E Lourens/R Paisley (Team Total Toyota Corolla) 01:56:08 5 H Grobler/B Duncan (Total Bridgestone Nissan Sentra) 02:00:18 6 J-P Damseaux/J Klaasen (Team Total Toyota Corolla) 02:00:27 7 B Grobbelaar/M Burrows (Sasol VW Golf) 02:00:50 8 T Ball/M Olivier (Bulwer Park VW Golf) 02:02:44 9 D Sanders/G Hooper (Team Total Toyota Corolla) 02:03:33 10 G Mortimer/J Gericke (Sasol Nissan Sentra) 02:04:00

Class results:

Class A8 - J Habig/D Judd (Sasol VW Golf) Class A7 - T Ball/M Olivier (Bulwer Park VW Golf) Class A6 - S Damseaux/G Hodgson (Dealer Team Toyota Corolla) Class N3 - H Grobler/B Duncan (Total Bridgestone Nissan Sentra) Class N2 - D Sanders/G Hooper (Team Total Toyota Corolla) Class N1 - M Houghton/R Houghton (Toy Toy Spares Toyota Tazz)

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