Mpumalanga: Series event summary

HISTORIC VICTORY FOR FORD CREW ON TOYOTA DEALER 400 Lydenburg, Saturday - Former South African champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer made off road racing history with a dramatic Production Vehicle category victory for Ford on the...

HISTORIC VICTORY FOR FORD CREW ON TOYOTA DEALER 400

Lydenburg, Saturday - Former South African champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer made off road racing history with a dramatic Production Vehicle category victory for Ford on the Toyota Dealer 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Racing Championship, here today.

It was the first ever Absa series victory for a diesel powered car with Woolridge and Skjoldhammer bringing their factory Ford Racing Ranger TDCi home two minutes and 27 seconds ahead of two more former SA champions, Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege, in the RFS Toyota Hilux. After a third place on the recent Adenco 400 in the Western Cape unofficial scoring has Grobler and ter Stege leading the Production Vehicle championship.

It was also a first win for Woolridge and Skjoldhammer, who have been together for 10 years, since the Carnival City 400 in 1907. The pair are also the only competitors to have won the Roof of Africa Rally on both two and four wheels.

In a dramatic finish reigning SA drivers champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie nipped in ahead of Castrol Toyota Hilux team-mates Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton to take the final podium position. Taylor/Houghton bogged down at a river crossing only kilometres from the finish, and limped home fourth ahead of George Barkhuizen and David van Wyck in the AIM Toyota Hilux.

After missing the Western Cape opener it was a stunning performance by Woolridge and Skjoldhammer. A huge amount of work went into the Ranger in the off season and it paid off.

"The vehicle was unbelievable," said Woolridge. "This win has totally vindicated the decision at the start of last season to go the diesel route.

"It was a tough and treacherous route and we took the cautious option. We never had to get out the vehicle so it was the right approach."

Woolridge and Skjoldhammer started seventh on the road but at the end of the first of two loops that made up the race they held a narrow 17 second lead over Adenco 400 winners Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the RFS/Visser Transport Toyota Hilux. Donaldson Prologue winners Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout (Red Star Raceway Toyota Hilux) were third, Kobus van Tonder and Freddie Kriel fourth in the Uni Freight Ford Ranger and Barkhuizen/van Wyck fifth.

Behind them Grobler/ter Stege led Vos/Howie and Taylor/Houghton with all three crews not having happy mornings. Grobler/ter Stege had two flats at the same time, Vos/Howie had steering problems and Taylor/Houghton kept stopping to clean the windscreen after wiper failures.

The position was to alter drastically on loop two and the Bezuidenhout's and van Tonder/Kriel were to retire for mechanical reasons, while punctures and a mud hole gradually dropped Visser/Badenhorst down the pecking order. With Barkhuizen/van Wyck hampered by overheating problems and a late puncture Grobler/ter Stege and the two factory Castrol Toyota Hilux cars made strides up the leaderboard.

Barkhuizen/van Wyck were later hit by clerk of the course Rex Boreham with a 15 minute penalty for speeding on an open section. It did not change their situation with fellow Free State crew Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger), who finished behind them, hit with exactly the same penalty.

There were no starters in Class D where new cars are in the pipeline but the Ford and Woolridge cups overflowed when 18-year-old Lance Woolridge, son of Neil, scored his maiden national championship win in Class E. The pair started at the back of the field, and after a long day at the office young Woolridge and veteran Ward Huxtable were the last of the classified finishers in a factory Ford Racing Ranger.

CLASS P CREW MAKE OFF ROAD HISTORY ON TOYOTA DEALER 400

Lydenburg, Saturday - Pretoria crew Johan van Staden and James Rossouw wrote their names into the off road record books when they won the Special Vehicle category at the Toyota Dealer 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, here today.

Van Staden and Rossouw, in the KEC BAT, became the first Class P crew to win an Absa series event overall. In a stunning performance van Staden/Rossouw outlasted a string of more fancied premier Class A crews.

The pair came in just over 13 minutes ahead of the father and son team of Hermann and Wichard Sullwald in the Sullwald Racing SVR. For the Sullwald's it was only their second outing in the car and they had plenty in hand over another father/son combination in Nick and Ryan Harper (Atlas Copco BAT) who completed the podium positions.

The Harpers and a string of other Special Vehicle crews were later handed 15 minute penalties by clerk of the course Rex Boreham for speeding in an open section. It did not affect the Harpers in terms of their finish position, with the Atlas Copco team bouncing back after rolling on the opening event of the season.

Victory for van Staden/Rossouw was set up yesterday when they finished second on the Donaldson Prologue to determine start positions for the race. A dramatic prologue saw a string of premier Class A crews also run into trouble with Boreham for deviating from the route.

The culprits picked up 40 minute penalties and with other Class A crews running into mechanical and other problems, van Staden and Rossouw found themselves second on the road behind reigning South African champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann in the Motorite BAT. It was the ideal platform for van Staden and Rossouw who are in only their second full season of national racing.

"We were never out of the top five and when cars ahead of us dropped up or picked up problems we suddenly found ourselves leading," said a delighted van Staden. "We always had the feeling that under a special set of circumstances we could win a race.

"Those circumstances cropped up today and to say we are over the moon is an understatement."

Van Staden and Rossouw were fifth at the designated service point after the first of the two loops that made up the race. On lap two race leaders Hutchison and Bergmann retired with mechanical problems with Adenco 400 winners Shameer Variawa/Siegfried Rousseau (Total Motorsport Porter) put out of action when they hit a rock and tore off a front wheel.

The Sullwald's and the Harpers were slowed by punctures and other niggles and it played into the hands of van Staden and Rossouw. A cracked exhaust late in the race was the only problem for van Staden and Rossouw but by then the writing was on the wall.

The Class A establishment were further rocked when two other Class B crews made it into the top five. Superb performances saw veteran crews Archie Rutherford and Craig Doubtfire (Regent Racing Jimco) and Bodo Bertholdt, who has been racing for close on 40 years, and Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco BAT) finish fourth and fifth respectively.

Sixth and seventh went to Jimmy Zahos/Stefan Coetzee (Cobalt Racing Porter), and Brandon Harcus/Ralph Pitchford (JMR Fleet Management BAT) who were also speeding victims. For Harcus and Pitchford, who is the reigning SA Production Car co-drivers champion, it was a great recovery after rolling on the Donaldson prologue. The victory in Class B for Hamish and Alistair Stubbs, in the Stafix Viper, was an emotional one. Hamish, who now lives in Australia, is in South Africa on holiday and the brothers took the opportunity to go racing together.

"We had a great time," said Hamish. "The win was a wonderful reunion present."

The brothers took charge of Class B when reigning SA champion Derick du Toit and Rod Jeffrey (Orange Tree BAT) also fell by the wayside. Power steering problems and then engine failure finally forced the Cape crew into calling it a day.

The Makenete brothers, Keith and Andrew, in a Zarco, and Simon Beckett/Steve Harris (Century Racing BAT) were the other high profile Class B casualties.

-source: saorc

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Series Other rally
Drivers Ralph Pitchford , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst