Both made-in-Maritzburg racing Fords won podiums at the Sun City 450.
Toyota Gazoo stay unbeaten as Neil Woolridge Motorsport keep Class T title hopes alive
A SECOND win this season for Anthony Taylor and Denis Murphy with Chris Visser and Ward Huxtable keeping alive their Class T title hopes were the main highlights to emerge from the Production Vehicle brigade on the Sun City 450, the penultimate round of the Donaldson Cross Country Motor Racing Championship last weekend.
Former champions Taylor and Murphy made sure the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA squad kept their unbeaten record over two seasons, with a comfortable win over team-mates Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach and Rob Howie. Rautenbach was standing in for South African champion Leeroy Poulter, who recently underwent surgery to remove an anomalous growth from the right side of his brain, with the two Toyota Hilux’s running in the FIA Class.
Third place went to former champion Visser and Huxtable in the Neil Woolridge Motorsport/Ford Performance Ranger, with the pair emerging unscathed from the Last Chance Saloon by winning Class T.
A tremendous performance ensured Visser/Huxtable would take the Class T title all the way to the wire.
Taylor and Murphy had nearly 12 minutes to spare on Rautenbach and Howie and led throughout the race. The performance of the day, however, belonged to Visser and Huxtable, who took full advantage of a dreadful weekend for Jason Venter/Vince van Allemann (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux), who led the Class T championship going into the Sun City race.
Venter/Van Allemann were plagued by all sort of problems. The pair eventually limped home in 14th place after a weekend to forget with Venter’s father, Deon, and Jaco van Aardt the last of the finishers in 15th place in a new car.
Visser and Huxtable were a little fortunate when they picked up a puncture on the first of the two 152-kilometre loops that made up the race, and the jack malfunctioned. The pair were rescued by team-mates Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer, who lent them their jack.
Team principal Neil Woolridge said other than the punctures on the first loop and the time lost with the failed jack on Visser’s car, it was a faultless weekend. “The guys drove well and both cars performed perfectly. Finally luck seems to have been on our side for a change. This means we’re right in it for the championship, and it’s going down to the wire at the final race.
“The team has worked really hard over the past couple months, and all credit goes to them for this win after the low of the fire at our workshop, finding and preparing a car for Chris, completely rebuilding Gareth’s car almost from scratch, and the high of our NWM-built Rangers finishing first and second in Brazil. It’s been a crazy period, but it’s fantastic to still be fighting for the championship.”
He can be especially proud of his young drivers Woolridge/Dreyer, who again impressed with a mature performance to round off the top five and earn their third podium in the T-class this season.
The ever steady Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson in the Red-Lined Nissan Navara. Less than a minute separated the two with Van Staden and Lawrenson revelling in a “proper cross country” route. There was also a fine performance from Class S championship leaders Otto Graven and Bobby Brewis in the Graven Motorsport Toyota Hilux. The Kimberley-based crew finish sixth overall and increased their lead in the championship for cars under four litres with solid axle rear suspension.
“We had a lot of fun and never had to get out of the car,” said Graven.
Hennie de Klerk and Adriaan Roets, in their first outing in the Treasury One VW Amarok, were hampered by two flats and fought a duel with Terence Marsh and Justin Hume (Red-Lined Nissan Navara) throughout the second loop. Marsh and celebrity navigator Hume, the marketing director for Samsung, who suffered from a bout of motion sickness, were eighth overall and third in the FIA Class. The top 10 were rounded out by Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) and the second Class S crew in Heinie Strumpher and Henri Hugo in the 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux. For the Horn brothers, who started from the back of the field, it was a far better day than in the qualifying race when they had three punctures and only two spare wheels.
The final event on the Donaldson calendar will be the Atlas Copco 450 on the West Rand on October 28 and 29. The race will run in conjunction with the final rounds of the Northern Regions Cross Country Championship and the SA Cross Country Motorcycle and Quad Championships.
Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer on their way to winning second place in Class T at the Sun City 450 last weekend.