Polokwane: Series shakedown summary

EARLY BOOST FOR CASTROL TOYOTA TEAM ON LIMPOPO 400 Polokwane. Friday -- There was an early boost for the Castrol Toyota team today when factory crew Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin set the fastest time on the prologue to determine start positions...

EARLY BOOST FOR CASTROL TOYOTA TEAM ON LIMPOPO 400

Polokwane. Friday -- There was an early boost for the Castrol Toyota team today when factory crew Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin set the fastest time on the prologue to determine start positions for the Limpopo 400 here tomorrow.

The event is round six of the Absa Off Road Championship with the Castrol Toyota Hilux pair coming in five seconds ahead of surprise package Glyn Hall in a Sasol Nissan Navara. Hall, a former South African rally champion, is standing in for Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and upstaged regular factory drivers Hannes Grobler and Duncan Vos who is the reigning SA driver's champion.

Hall, partnered by Briton Quin Evans, hasn't driven a race car in anger for five years but celebrated his birthday by finishing one second ahead of third placed Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton, in the second works Castrol Toyota Hilux. Grobler was fourth, a further 27 seconds in arrears, with championship contenders Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, in the factory Ford Racing Ranger, completing the top five.

Current championship leader Duncan Vos, partnered by Ralph Pitchford in the third works Sasol Nissan Navara, was a little subdued and had to be content with seventh place behind Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the privateer Castrol Toyota Hilux. Vos and Woolridge/Skjoldhammer are currently locked at the top of the overall and Class SP championships, with Grobler and Juan Mohr also in the picture.

"We had a good run starting up front is a bonus," said Cronje. "But it is the race proper that counts and we face a tough task out there.

"The route will be tough and the competition in the SP Class this season is cut-throat."

Championship leaders Henri and Maurice Zermatten, in the Ryobi Nissan Hardbody, led the Class D contenders. Second and third were Coetzee Labuscagne/Johann Gerber, in the Raysonics Hardbody, and RFS Toyota Hilux crew Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren, who are also second and third in the Class D stakes.

Only 40 seconds separated the three crews after a short and tight prologue. The battle between the trio, with reigning drivers champion Cliff Weichelt and Nic Els (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D), the danger men could be a feature of the race.

Reigning driver's champion Jack Peckham, paired with Lucio Santoro in the factory Ford Racing Ranger, led the Class E contingent. Current championship leaders Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux, in the Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux, were 30 seconds in arrears.

Third were Deon Venter and Ian Palmer, in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux, who will be hoping for their best result of the season.

The race starts at 08h00 tomorrow at the Ysterberg Pleasure Resort and will be run over two loops with a designated service point at the Meropa Casino and Entertainment World. The finish is at Meropa Casino and Entertainment World with the first cars expected at around 14h00.

HARPERS WIN SPECIAL VEHICLE PROLOGUE AT LIMPOPO 400

Polokwane, Friday - Championship contenders had to take a back seat today when Nick and Ryan Harper, in the Atlas Copco BAT, set the fastest time in the Special Vehicle category prologue for the Limpopo 400, round six of the Absa Off Road Championship, here tomorrow.

The Harper father and son combination were 30 seconds ahead of reigning South African champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergman, in the Motorite BAT, who are hoping to rescue something from what has been a disastrous season for the champions. Third fastest were Mark Corbett and Rudi Balzer in the revolutionary 4x4 Century Racing CR1 which so far this season has run into teething problems.

Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen (Atlas Copco Porter) and Colin Mathews/Alan Smith (Century Racing BAT) completed the top five. For the top three crews in the overall and Class A championship it was a disappointing day.

Leaders Kallie and Quintin Sullwald (Sullwald Racing BAT) were 18th fastest after a throttle cable problem, Shameer Variawa/Siegfried Rousseau were sixth in the Total Porter and former champion Terence Marsh and Pieter Groenewald were 11th in the Regent Racing BAT. The championship has developed into a battle between the three teams and this weekend could have a major bearing on the final outcome.

Variawa, a former SA champion, and Rousseau have won the last two . events and are looking for a hat-trick this weekend Fastest of the . Class B cars was the Stafix Racing Viper of Alistair Stubbs and Marc de. Chalain who upstaged championship frontrunners Louw de Bruin and Rudi . Britz in the Ruwacon BAT. South African champion Hendrik Kraaij and . Tiddo Voogt were third in the Keymax BAT with the three crews separated. by 40 seconds .

For veteran Giel Nel and Deon de Kock, in the Luk Africa Zarco Truggy, it was a disappointing day. The pair were nearly five minutes off the pace but will again be looking to make it to the finish.

The top three cars in Class P were also separated by only 40 seconds. Top of the timing list were brothers David and Gary White in the Ruwacon BAT. Hot on their heels were KZN crew Don Thompson and Don Blakey (Zarco) and Cape brothers Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout in the Adenco BAT.

Thompson/Blakey and the Bezuidenhout's are tied at the top of the Class P championship. This sets up an interesting clash between the two crews with high stakes.

The race will start at 08h00 tomorrow at the Ysterberg Pleasure resort with a designated service park at the Meropa Casino and Entertainment World. The race will be run over two loops with the first cars expected at the finish at Meropa at around 2pm.

-credit: saorc

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