Cross Coun­try chasers have lot of catch­ing up to do

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - CHAR­MAINE FOR­TUNE

THE Nko­mazi 450, round four of the Don­ald­son Cross Coun­try Cham­pi­onship, held to­mor­row and Satur­day, will be D-Day for pro­duc­tion ve­hi­cle crews chas­ing the two Cas­trol Team Toy­ota Hiluxes lead­ing the over­all and premier Class T ti­tle races.

Be­tween them, Leeroy Poul­ter/ Rob Howie and reign­ing cham­pi­ons An­thony Tay­lor/Dennis Mur­phy have done all the win­ning so far this sea­son. Those do­ing the chas­ing are fly­ing dis­tress sig­nals, and un­less they man­age to halt the Team Cas­trol charge at the Mpumalanga out­ing — one of three sprint events on the sixrace cal­en­dar — they could be wav­ing white sur­ren­der flags.

The Poul­ter/Howie and Tay­lor/ Mur­phy dom­i­na­tion is re­flected in the cham­pi­onship stand­ings, and sim­ple math­e­mat­ics paints a grim pic­ture for the chasers.

Poul­ter/Howie en­joy a 14-point lead over Tay­lor/Mur­phy, but the gap be­tween the lead­ers and Lance Wool­ridge/Ward Huxtable (Ford Per­for­mance Ranger) and Gary Bertholdt/ Siegfried Rousseau (At­las Copco Ford Ranger), who share third place in the cham­pi­onship, is a mas­sive 67 points. That is more than two wins, and the grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion for the likes of Wool­ridge/Huxtable and Bertholdt/Rousseau is ex­ac­er­bated by the fact there are only 90 points up for grabs over the last three events.

Fur­ther down the cham­pi­onship lad­der there is also plenty of scope for drama. Young­ster Gareth Wool­ridge and Boyd Dreyer (NWM Ford Ranger), in their de­but sea­son, are only four points be­hind Wool­ridge’s el­der brother and Huxtable.

But it is be­hind them that things start to get in­ter­est­ing, with only nine points sep­a­rat­ing Wool­ridge/Dreyer and the next five crews on the points’ ta­ble. Lumped to­gether in that mix are Jason Ven­ter/Vince van Alle­mann (4x4 Mega World Toy­ota Hilux), the con­sis­tent Jo­han van Staden/Mike Lawren­son (Re­gent Rac­ing Nissan Navara), Chris Visser/Japie Baden­horst (Ford Per­for­mance Ranger), Heine Strumpher/Henri Hugo (4x4 Mega World Toy­ota Hilux) and lo­cal broth­ers Jo­han and Werner Horn in the Malalane Toy­ota Hilux.

The stand-out crew in a tight mix is Visser/Baden­horst with the for­mer cham­pi­ons des­per­ate to fi­nally make an im­pact this sea­son.

The de­but of Aus­tralian pair John Pur­shouse and Mur­ray Hynes, in the ex-fac­tory Ford Ranger in which Man­fred Schroder/Japie Baden­horst won last year’s Toy­ota Dealer 450, adds a fair dol­lop of in­ter­est to the Class T mix over the rest of the sea­son. The Por­tuguese pair of Ró­mulo Branco and João Serô­dio, will prob­a­bly be at home in the sprint-race for­mat in Mpumalanga.

Rac­ing starts to­mor­row with a 100 kilo­me­tre qual­i­fy­ing race to de­ter­mine grid po­si­tions and con­tin­ues on Satur­day with two laps of about 175 kilo­me­tres each. Dur­ing the race there will be a com­pul­sory 20-minute ser­vice halt at the end of the first lap. The race head­quar­ters is at the Riverview Prepara­tory School on the out­skirts of Malalane.


Ford’s lead­ing teams are chas­ing a 90-point lead in the Nko­mati 450 in Mpumalanga this week­end.

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