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

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - PHOTO: QUICKPIC

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.

PHOTO: QUICKPIC

Gareth Wool­ridge and Boyd Dreyer on their way to win­ning sec­ond place in Class T at the Sun City 450 last week­end.

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