Poulter and Howie remain unbeaten
MALALANE — Toyota Gazoo Racing SA pair Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie kept their unbeaten record this season when they romped to victory at the Nkomazi 450, round five of the Donaldson Cross Country Motor Racing Championship, last weekend.
In a Toyota Hilux running in the FIA class, Poulter and Howie had over 14 minutes to spare on local heroes Johan and Werner Horn.
In their best result of the season the Horn brothers, much to the delight of the local fans, brought the Malalane Toyota Hilux home in second place to win Class T for vehicles over four litres with solid axle rear suspension.
Third place went to Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson in a Red-Lined Nissan Navara. There was a three-minute gap between the Horns and Van Staden/ Lawrenson.
The most significant retirement came when Anthony Taylor and Denis Murphy were forced to throw in the towel. The former champions ran into powersteering problems in the second of the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA entries.
The race, backed by Malalane Toyota and RCL Foods, and run in warm spring conditions drew spectators in their droves. And, despite a 10 minute penalty for failing to stop at a road crossing, prerace favourites Poulter and Howie did not disappoint their supporters, with the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team unbeaten since the start of the 2015 season.
Fourth place and third in Class T went to Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer in the Neil Woolridge Motorsport/Ford Performance Ranger. It was their first outing since the Ranger was severely damaged in a fire at the NWM workshop in Pietermaritzburg.
The puncture-riddled race also saw Class T championship leaders Jason Venter and Vince van Allemann (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) and the Gary Bertholdt and Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco) finish ahead of Chris Visser and Ward Huxtable in a second NWM/Ford Performance Ranger. With only two rounds of the championship left, the NWM/Ford Performance pair now face an uphill task in Class T.
Team principal Neil Woolridge said it was a good weekend overall, especially for Gareth Woolridge and Dreyer after missing the last race. They got a solid third, which is great to see after the hard work everyone put in.
“The team thought I was mad three weeks ago when I said that we should rebuild Gareth’s car after the fire, and have it at Malalane.
“But they all pulled together and worked exceptionally hard to get the car ready for this event. It was literally finished on [the] Wednesday before the race and loaded on the truck that evening. We had no problems at all with the vehicle during the entire race, which is a fantastic result for what is effectively a brand new car. The team has really done us all proud,” said Woolridge.
Gareth Woolridge said: “We had a re- ally good first lap and we were running second on lap two, so I was really optimistic and excited about that. But with the tyres taking a beating I didn’t want to risk dropping off the podium so I played it safe and finished third. I had one puncture in roughly the same place as the cars in front of us, so we all landed up replacing tyres together, which was actually quite funny.
“The terrain was rough and hard, and there was simply no margin for error when going even slightly off the track. Once the soil had been dug away by all the cars after qualifying and the first loop, it left an abrasive rock surface that just chewed up the tyres.
“Other than the punctures, it was a good race and the car was brilliant, running faultlessly throughout the race.”
The pair of “loan rangers”, Chris Visser and Ward Huxtable in their borrowed T8 Ranger, perhaps showed too much respect for the tyres during the first loop and lost time with a bent jack point, but after putting foot on the second loop they ironically had only one puncture despite going faster, said Visser. • The next leg of the national championship cross country race is the Sun City 450 at Pilanesberg on September 30 and October 1.
Loan rangers: Chris Visser and navigator Ward Huxtable in their borrowed Ranger.