Sun City 400: Series prologue report

TAYLOR/HOUGHTON SET BLISTERING PACE TO WIN SUN CITY 400 PROLOGUE Sun City, Friday -- The Castrol Toyota Hilux pair of Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton set a blistering pace today to win the Production Vehicle prologue for the Sun City 400,...


Sun City, Friday -- The Castrol Toyota Hilux pair of Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton set a blistering pace today to win the Production Vehicle prologue for the Sun City 400, round five of the Absa Off Road Championship, in the Pilanesberg tomorrow.

Provisional results for the 70 kilometre prologue to determine start positions for tomorrow's race saw Taylor and Houghton finish 47 seconds ahead of veteran former South African champion Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr in a factory Donaldson Nissan Navara. With dusty conditions expected along the route being first on the road could provide Taylor and Houghton with a major advantage.

"We gave it maximum attack and got the result we wanted," said Taylor. "Now we must convert this performance into a race win.

"The team desperately needs a victory and a win on the prologue is an early boost."

It was a good day for the factory Castrol Toyota team with Hein Lategan and Chris Birkin, in a second Hilux, completing the top three. They were 29 seconds behind Grobler and Mohr who is the reigning South African co-driver's champion.

Fourth and fifth went to former SA champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, in the twin turbo diesel Ford Ranger, and Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux. Fourth was a huge morale booster for Woolridge/Skjoldhammer with Ford the first manufacturer to go the diesel route in South Africa. There was also a clean run for Thomas rundle and Stavros Yiannakis in the second factory entry.

The surprise of the day hinged around championship leaders Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford in another of the Donaldson Nissan Navaras. The pair have won three of the four events so far this season, but were seventh fastest today after reporting a clean run.

Vos and Pitchford will start two minutes and 43 seconds behind Taylor and Houghton. It means the Nissan crew have a mountain to climb, but they have made a habit of converting poor prologues into impressive race results.

A terrific battle is on the cards in Class D where only two seconds separated Cliff Weichelt/Johan Smalberger (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D) and reigning champions Henri and Maurice Zermatten in a Nissan Hardbody. The Zermatten's are making their first appearance of the season with Weichelt, who has won three times this year, teaming up with Smalberger after son Louis moved into the premier SP Class as a driver.

Third in Class D were former Blue Bulls scrum half Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody. The pair have not finished an event this season and need a good result. Circuit racing and track star Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie (Ferodo Nissan Hardbody) took their second Class E prologue win in a row with another impressive performance. They were more than two minutes quicker than Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus who lead the championship with 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux team-mates Deon Venter and Ian Palmer.

Tomorrow's race starts at 08:00 and incorporates a spectator friendly route with numerous viewing points within 50 kilometres of the start/finish at Sun City. The designated service area is also situated at the start/finish.

The first cars are expected at the finish at around 13:30.


Sun City, Friday -- Toyota 1000 Desert Race winners Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau continued their good form when they won the Special Vehicle prologue for tomorrow's Sun City 400 in the Pilanesberg.

The race is round five of the Absa Off Road Championship with Variawa and Rousseau, in the Total Porter, hoping for a repeat of history. After winning last year's Toyota 1000 Desert Race the pair scored two more wins on the trot to mount a strong championship challenge.

"We had a clean run and hopefully it will be the same in the race," said Variawa. "It would be nice to win this race two year's in a row, and we have a little leeway to make up in the championship.

"It is important to get a good start position out of the prologue, and we got what we wanted without taking chances."

Variawa and Rousseau came in 37 seconds ahead of Kallie and Quintin Sullwald, in the Sullwald Racing BAT, with the reigning champions having a disappointing season so far. They are virtually out of the championship reckoning but would like to grab a win or two over the rest of the season.

Third fastest were Mark Corbett and Rudi Balzer in the 4x4 Century Racing CR2. Reliability has been a problem, however, and the pair will be looking to give the car its first race finish in 12 outings.

The top five was completed by Nick and Ryan Harper in the Atlas Copco BAT and Jan Kraaij and Tiddo Voogt in the Keymax BAT. It was a fine performance by former champion Kraaij and Voogt, who is the reigning Class B driver's champion, with the pair setting the pace in Class P.

It was not a happy day for championship leaders Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann, in the Motorite Revo1 4x4, who were hit by a puncture. It cost them around three minutes and dropped them down to 10th in the Special vehicle category and 23rd on the road.

Hutchison and Bergmann have won three times this year and have a comfortable championship lead. The pair, however, have never won the Sun City 400 and crashed out of last year's event.

There was something of an upset in Class B where Toyota 1000 Desert Race winners Derick du Toit and Ian Pienaar (Orange Tree BAT) were upstaged by Simon Beckett and Tim Curtis in the Century Racing BAT. Third fastest were Bez Bezuidenhout and son Deon, in the Adenco BAT, with the pair needing a good run after two did not finish results in a row.

Class P leaders Kraaij and Voogt were 52 seconds clear of veteran Ernest Corbett and son-in-law Warwick Goosen, in the futuristic Century Racing CR2. Corbett and Goosen, in turn, had a 19 second lead over John Weir-Smith and Richard Carolin in the Men's Health Zarco.

Weir-Smith/Carolin were under extreme pressure from Johan van Staden and James Rossouw, in the KEC BAT, who were only a further two seconds in arrears. It adds up to a good scrap in a class that gets more competitive with every race.

The race starts at 08:00 at the Sun City complex with a spectator friendly route providing for viewing points within 50 kilometres of the start/finish. The designated service park is also at the start/finish with the first cars expected at around 13:30.


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Series Other rally
Drivers Ian Palmer , Ralph Pitchford , Mark Corbett , Duncan Vos , Leeroy Poulter