Pri­va­teers on the podium

The Witness - Wheels - - RACING - CHAR­MAINE FOR­TUNE

THE iron grip the Toy­ota Ga­zoo Rac­ing SA fac­tory team has on the pro­duc­tion ve­hi­cle cat­e­gory showed no sign of slack­ing when Leeroy Poul­ter/ Rob Howie led home team- mates Anthony Tay­lor/ Den­nis Mur­phy on the RFS En­durance Race, open­ing round of the Don­ald­son Cross Coun­try Cham­pi­onship, in Vry­burg today

Reign­ing cham­pi­ons Poul­ter and Howie fin­ished three min­utes and 17 sec­onds clear of for­mer cham­pi­ons Tay­lor and Mur­phy to take the over­all and FIA Class hon­ours. Toy­ota went through last sea­son un­beaten, with the new FIA Class al­low­ing teams to run cars to FIA Group T1 specifications that ap­ply to the FIA Cross Coun­try Rally World Cup and the Dakar Rally.

“It was a near per­fect week­end for us,” said Poul­ter. “It was a very fast route but we did not pick up any prob­lems, and it was a good start to the sea­son for the whole team.”

The race was run over two laps of 245 km, and be­hind the two Toy­ota Hilux big guns there was a ter­rific re­sult for young pri­va­teers Ja­son Venter and Vin­cent van Alle­mann in the 4x4 Mega World Toy­ota Hilux. The pair has worked their way through the pro­duc­tion ve­hi­cle ranks, and the fi­nal place on the podium also gave them over­all hon­ours in Class T where cars must now run with solid axle rear sus­pen­sion and com­mer­cially avail­able tyres.

The young North West crew were fol­lowed home by the con­sis­tent Jo­han van Staden and Mike Lawren­son ( Red- Lined Mo­tor­sport Nis­san Navara), with for­mer cham­pion Chris Visser and Ward Huxtable com­plet­ing the top five in the Neil Wool­ridge Mo­tor­sport/ Ford Per­for­mance Ranger.

Both crews prof­ited from the demise of Pre­to­ria crew Chris­ti­aan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vu­uren, in the RFS Amarok, who started the day in third place af­ter a strong show­ing in the qual­i­fy­ing race.

Be­hind the Class T cars Brazil­ian crew Cris­tian Baum­gart and Beco An­dreotti ( NWM/ Rally X Ford Ranger) again pro­duced a solid per­for­mance. The pair started and fin­ished the day in sixth over­all and did enough to make sure of third place in the FIA Class.

The Brazil­ians were fol­lowed home by two more Class T cars with an­other steady per­for­mance lift­ing Hen­nie de Klerk and Adriaan Roets into sev­enth place in the Trea­sury One BMW X3. De Klerk and Roets were just over a minute clear of Mpumalanga brothers Jo­han and Werner Horn ( Malalane Toy­ota Hilux), who had a good day in mov­ing from 15th at the start to eighth.

Ninth place went to a sec­ond Brazil­ian crew in Mar­cos Baum­gart and Kle­ber Cincea in an­other NWM/ Rally X Ford Ranger who lost a lit­tle ground dur­ing the course of the day. Both the Ford Rangers were built in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg by Neil Wool­ridge Mo­tor­sport, with the two Brazil­ian crews tak­ing ad­van­tage of the in­tro­duc­tion of the FIA Class.

It was also a good day for Luke Botha and An­dre Ver­meulen, in an­other of the Red- Lined Mo­tor­sport Nis­san Navaras. Af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing qual­i­fy­ing race they worked their way into the top 10 fin­ish­ing ahead of the likes of Mal­colm Kock/ Jo­han Burger ( Kock and Sons Toy­ota Hilux), Gareth Wool­ridge/ Boyd Dreyer ( NMW/ Ford Per­for­mance Ranger) and Gary Bertholdt and for­mer na­tional rally cham­pion Pierre Ar­ries in the new At­las Copco VW Amarok.

Apart from du Plooy and Janse van Vu­uren the other big losers on the day were Ter­ence Marsh and TV per­son­al­ity Mar­ius Roberts ( Red- Lined Mo­tor­sport Nis­san Navara) and Kim­ber­ley based new­com­ers Otto Graven and Bobby Brewis in a Graven Mo­tor­sport Toy­ota Hilux. Marsh/ Rob- erts were hand­ily placed when they hit a rock and re­ar­ranged the Navara’s front sus­pen­sion while Graven/ Brewis, who started the day lead­ing Class S for cars un­der four litres, also fell by the way­side.

• The next event on the Don­ald­son calendar is a new in­no­va­tion, a one day Su­per Sprint Race, on 7 May in Vre­de­fort in the Free State.

PHOTO: QUICKPIC

Pmb’s Gareth Wool­ridge and co­driver Boyd Dreyer led the NWM Ford Per­for­mance Rangers and were amongst the fastest run­ners in Vry­burg.

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