Lydenburg: Series Prologue summary

CLOSE BATTLE IN PRODUCTION VEHICLE PROLOGUE Lydenburg, Friday -- The Production Car prologue to determine start positions for tomorrow's Toyota Dealer 400, round seven of the Absa Off Road Championship, turned into a tight battle today with just...

CLOSE BATTLE IN PRODUCTION VEHICLE PROLOGUE

Lydenburg, Friday -- The Production Car prologue to determine start positions for tomorrow's Toyota Dealer 400, round seven of the Absa Off Road Championship, turned into a tight battle today with just four seconds separating the first three cars.

When the dust had settled Sasol Nissan Navara pair Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr set the quickest time -- by just one second after 75 kilometres of racing. Surprise packages Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Castrol Toyota Hilux) were second fastest with the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux, in the hands of track star Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton, a further three seconds adrift.

The top five places were completed by the second works Castrol Toyota Hilux in the hands of Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin, and the factory Ford Racing Ranger of Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer. There were only two seconds between the two crews but they were a minute behind the first three cars.

The big losers in the prologue were reigning South African drivers champion Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford in a second works Sasol Nissan Navara. The pair are locked in a tight championship battle with Grobler/Mohr and Woolridge/Skjoldhammer but suffered a litany of problems.

They were eventually forced to withdraw from the prologue and will start tomorrow's race at the back of the field. It means Vos and Pitchford will have a mountain to climb with the championship issue still very much on the boil.

Also in the wars were Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and British co-driver Quin Evans in the third Sasol Nissan Navara. They lost wads of time with drivetrain problems and finished the prologue in two-wheel drive.

A tight battle also developed in Class D where only a second separated Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber, in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody, and brothers Henri and Maurice Zermatten in the Ryobi Nissan Hardbody. The Zermatten's currently lead the championship from Labuscagne/Gerber and the two crews are set for an interesting battle in the race.

Third in Class D were Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren in the RFS Toyota Hilux. They were around four minutes behind the fight between Labuscagne/Gerber and the Zermatten's.

Reigning drivers champion Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro, in the factory Ford Racing Ranger, dominated Class E. They were around two minutes quicker than Limpopo 400 winners Deon Venter and Ian Palmer in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux.

Third were Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in the Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux. Visser and le Roux have a handy lead in the championship and will be looking only at seeing out the distance in the race.

The race starts at Lydenburg Toyota in Voortrekker Street at 08h00 tomorrow. The race will be run over two loops with a designated service area at the Lydenburg rugby club.

MATHEWS/SMITH WIN SPECIAL VEHICLE PROLOGUE

Lydenburg, Friday - The Century Racing BAT pair of Colin Mathews and Alan Smith confirmed that a first national win could be around the corner when they won today's Special Vehicle prologue at the Toyota Dealer 400.

In an impressive display Mathews and Smith came home exactly a minute ahead of Limpopo 400 winners Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen in the Atlas Copco Porter. Third, a further 21 seconds in arrears, were reigning South African champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann, in the Motorite BAT, who have had a miserable season so far and are out of the championship running.

Bertholdt/Vermeulen are involved in a tight championship battle with Karl-Heinz and Quintin Sullwald (Sullwald Racing BAT), former South African champion Shameer Variawa/Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter) and Terence Marsh/Pieter Groenewald in the Regent Racing BAT. The Sullwald's set the fourth fastest time but Variawa/Rousseau ran into mechanical problems and will start from the back of the field, while Marsh/Groenewald also had an unhappy run and were classified 21st.

Nick Harper, partnered by son Ryan in the Atlas Copco BAT, is also a contender where the driver's championship is concerned. They also did not have the happiest of days and found themselves down in 10th place.

Former South African champion Atang Makgekgenene and Geoff Minnitt were also in the wars in their new Porter. As was the case with Variawa/Rousseau they were stranded out on the route.

In an impressive display Class P contender Don Thomson, partnered by Gary Campbell in a Zarco, rounded out the top five places. The Kwa-Zulu Natal pair came in ahead of a string of Class B cars and were about 90 seconds ahead of Class P championship leaders Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout in the Adenco BAT.

Brothers David and Gary White (Ruwacon BAT) are also in title contention in Class P but will also start from the back of the field. They picked up an electrical problem when a wire snapped.

Reigning SA champion Hendrik Kraaij and Tiddo Voogt, in the Keymax BAT, were the fastest of the Class B contingent. They were a minute ahead of second placed Louw de Bruin and Rudi Britz in the Ruwacon BAT.

De Bruin currently leads the Class B driver championship with Voogt leading the co-driver stakes. Voogt has partnered both Hendrik and Jan Kraaij this season, while Britz missed one event earlier in the season.

Third in Class B were Marc de Chalain and Pieter de Wit in the Stafix Racing Viper. De Chalain has taken over driving duties from regular driver Alistair Stubbs who has taken time off to be with his wife at the birth of their first child.

The race starts at Lydenburg Toyota in Voortrekker Street at 08h00 tomorrow. The race will be run over two loops with a designated service area at the Lydenburg rugby club.

-credit: saorc

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