Reigning South African Driver’s champion, Duncan Vos and navigator Ralph Pitchford brought their Donaldson Nissan Navara home 41 secs ahead of team-mates Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr to win the opening round of the 200 Absa Off Road Championship, which took place in Darling in the Western Cape this weekend. It was Nissan’s seventh straight win on the Western Cape event which this year produced one of the toughest routes in recent memory.
Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the RFS Toyota Hilux came in third – preventing Nissan occupying the top three places on the podium – when the Hardbody of Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and his British co-driver got a puncture 30 kms from the finish.
The top five were rounded out by Castrol Toyota Hilux stalwarts Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton.
The tough route took a heavy toll on vehicles and crews in Class D and E, with Class D honours eventually going to Cliff Weichelt and his son Louis, while Deon Venter and Ian Palmer in their 4×4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux, overcame a myriad of suspension problems to win Class E.
The next round of the championship takes place in the Eastern Cape on the 17/18 April.
The 2009 Sasol SA Rally Championship got underway at Durban’s Sun Coast Casino in KwaZulu Natal this last weekend. The event was characterised by controversy and attrition, with only 22 (of the 38) cars that started, surviving the two-day episode in the cane fields around Scottburgh.
Johnny Gemmell and Peter Marsh were the provisional overall winners in their S2000 Castrol Toyota Auris. Gemmell, who won three of the 14 stages, was never headed after early leader and Toyota team-mate Mark Cronje rolled on stage nine.
Their BP Volkswagen rivals weren’t quite as fortunate, when just four kilometres into the first stage, an aggressive cornering manoeuvre into a steep downhill turn by Enzo Kuun and navigator Guy Hodgson, saw their BP Volkswagen Polo forced up onto its left-hand wheels.
Kuun managed to control the car and prevent it from rolling, but still hit the embankment on the opposite side of the road. The impact of landing back on all four wheels was enough to damage the suspension and their Polo rolled to a halt, just metres down the road.
On the narrow roads, their stricken Polo proved an effective roadblock, disadvantaging the following two competitors – which happened to be their teammates, Habig and his navigator Judd as well as the defending champions Fekken and Arries. After organisers decreed that the time the two teams lost amounted to “bad luck.” Volkswagen have appealed the decision and the results, which look destined to be determined by lawyers.
Further down the field Toyota dominated proceedings in classes A6 and N3, thanks to the efforts of Rodney Visage/Carolyn Swan (Team Total Toyota RunX) and Dave Compton/Pierre Jordaan (Sasol Toyota RunX) respectively, while class A5 became a titanic battle between the two BP Volkswagen Citi Golf entries of defending class champion André Cleenwerck and navigator Des de Fortier as well as Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin
After Cleenwerck and De Fortier built up a substantial early lead, a gearbox change on Friday evening saw the duo incur a lateness penalty, leaving Zulu and Peskin to claim the class victory.
The second round of the Sasol SA Rally Championship is the Toyota Dealer Rally which takes place in the Western Cape on 3rd and 4th of April.