Reigning champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, in the Moreca Ford Ranger, won the final battle but lost the war when they stormed to victory in the Carnival City Casino 400 in eastern Gauteng on Saturday. Woolridge and Skjoldhammer ...
Reigning champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, in the Moreca Ford Ranger, won the final battle but lost the war when they stormed to victory in the Carnival City Casino 400 in eastern Gauteng on Saturday.
Woolridge and Skjoldhammer finished around seven minutes ahead of Nissan Motorsport pair Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan but, in a grandstand finish to the season, missed out on the Class T and overall Production Vehicle drivers and co-drivers championships. Second place was enough to see de Villiers and Jordaan crowned as the new champions with just three points separating the first three crews.
Seventh overall and fourth in Class T saw Buks Carolin and Hennie ter Stege, in the Mitsubishi Motorsport Pajero, finish second in the championship - two points behind de Villiers and Jordaan. Third in the championship, a single point further back, were Woolridge and Skjoldhammer.
Third overall on a wet and muddy event were Franz Czepek senior and Philip Vosloo, in the Vee Motors Chenowth, with the pair winning the Special Vehicle category. It was Czepek's seventh win in eight events this season with the veteran and son Franz junior, who sat out this event through injury, crowned Class A and Special Vehicle champions.
Fourth overall and third in the Production Vehicle category were multiple former champions Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton in the Team Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser. A terrific performance saw Piet Haasbroek and Christo Bosch, in the Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser, finish fifth overall.
This gave Bosch the co-drivers championship in Class D, with the driver's title going to Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser star Shumie van Vuuren. The final championship issue in the Production Vehicle category was settled when Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham, in the Class E Moreca Ford Ranger, came in sixth overall.
With nearest challengers Andrew and Chris Birkin (Castrol Toyota Hilux) succumbing to engine problems, Schroder and Peckham wrapped up the Class E drivers and co-drivers titles. As a finale to the season, it all could not have been better stage-managed.
Marius Beaurain made a rare appearance in his Mighty Mag and survived the wet and muddy conditions to win Class B.
Last placed finisher Giel Nel (LUK Afrika Truggy) had clinched the Class B drivers' championship prior to the Carnival City Casino 400, but five contenders were locked together in the co-drivers title stakes.
With no other finishers in Class B the co-drivers title went to Deon Bezuidenhout.
Second in the Special Vehicle category and seventh overall were Atang Makgekgenene and Mike Stangl after a steady run in the SAM Jimco Porsche. The only other Class A finishers were Eastern Cape pair Greg Harvey and Boy Stone in the Castrol Queen Motor Spares Jimco.
Woolridge/Skjoldhammer, de Villiers/Jordaan, Mitsubishi Motorsport Pajero pair Buks Carolin and Hennie ter Stege and Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser crew Shumie van Vuuren and Fanie Kotze were all in with a mathematical chance of winning the overall Production Vehicle titles. Van Vuuren and Kotze dropped out after a spate of punctures, while Carolin and ter Stege gradually dropped down the leader board via a combination of punctures and a broken ball joint after a coming together with Reyneke and Houghton.
As Carolin and ter Stege dropped down the leader board, so their chances of winning the championship started to dwindle. The attention then focused on de Villiers/Jordaan and Woolridge/Skjoldhammer.
De Villiers and Jordaan were the first into the start/finish area after the first two 140 kilometer loops. Drama struck early on the third and final loop when the Nissan Hardbody picked up a puncture - a malady that affected just about all the top runners - and they lost nearly seven minutes when they battled to get the jack to work in the muddy conditions.
While the Nissan crew were changing the wheel Woolridge and Skjoldhammer went into the lead. From that moment on their championship hopes rested on the progress, or lack of it, de Villiers/Jordaan and Carolin/ter Stege made over the rest of the event.
For de Villiers, in only his second full season of off-road racing, winning the championship caps a remarkable motorsport career, and sees him emerge as one of the most versatile drivers in South African motorsport history. De Villiers switched to off-road racing after winning four consecutive Touring Car championships with Nissan, and is also a former South African Saloon Car Champion.