It was a rally of quickly changing fortunes over 11 high-speed stages in the Caledon area.While the Zimbabwean won only one stage, his consistency saw him triumph as problems hit some of his rivals.Early leader Fekken, who won the opening round in KwaZulu Natal three weeks ago, was slowed by power steering problems and a flat wheel after hitting a bank.
Former champion Jan Habig and new co-driver Ralph Pitchford (VW Polo) led the event at the end of the first day by just 0,4 second from Johnny Gemmell and Drew Sturrock (Castrol Toyota Auris), but went out early on day two when they lost drive to the wheels.Gemmell had a puncture on Saturday that effectively ruled him out of a win and he eventually finished fourth.
Team-mates Mark Cronje and Robert Paisley, third at the overnight stop, led from Rautenbach and Kuun at the end of stage eight, but suffered a broken propshaft and incurred a three minute penalty for lateness.This dropped them back to sixth at the finish.
Stage wins went to Fekken (3), Gemmell (3), Kuun (2) and Rautenbach, Cronje and Habig (1 each).
With the Castrol Toyota Hiluxes of new team-mates Duncan Vos and Anthony Taylor both dropping out of the first loop of Saturday’s race with suspension problems, it was Friday’s Donaldson prologue winners Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (RFS/Visser Transport Toyota Hilux) who took the class SP and overall honours at the end of the 425-km event.It was their first win in the production vehicle category of the championship and they finished over six minutes ahead of privateers Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) and a further minute in front of Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege, having their first outing together in a second RFS Hilux.
Fourth was the Red Star Raceway Toyota Hilux of husband-and-wife team Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout ahead of the privateer Regent Racing Nissan Navara of Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson and a third RFS Toyota of Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren.
In a race where a rough and demanding route, sweltering hot temperatures and heavy dust took their toll, reigning champions Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit (Northam Toyota Hilux) were the only finishers in class D, with rookies Gerald le Roux and Willem Pretorius (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) the only survivors in class E.
Former champions Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau (Team Total Porter) were winners of the special vehicle category after also recording the fastest time in Friday’s 95-km prologue.They finished 1m 24s ahead of Colin Matthews and Alan Smith in a Century Racing BAT and 15 minutes in front of defending champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann (Motorite Racing BAT Spec 3).
An early challenge for the lead by Herman and Wichard Sullwald (Sullwald Racing SVR), who were fastest in the opening 165-km loop of Saturday’s race, came to nothing as the Sullwalds dropped back in loop two with car troubles and eventually finished 11th, ahead of a returning Brandon Harcus and new co-driver Scott Watson in a JMR Fleet Management BAT Spec 4.
Johan van Staden and James Rossouw won class P in a KEC BAT and reigning champion Derick du Toit and Adre Rheeder (Orange Tree BAT) were comfortable winners of class B in Rheeder’s first ever off road race.