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ABSA South African Championship 2007 Special-Newssection

This is the single-news section of the special of the ABSA South African Offroad Championship series 2007. To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

ABSA 2007: Hutchison/Bergman dominate Toyota Dealer 400 in BAT-Cat.

Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann, in a Motorite BAT, completely dominated the Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga over the weekend to set up a nail biting finish to the Special Vehicle title race in this year’s Absa Off Road Championship.

The Toyota Dealer 400 was the penultimate round of the championship and Hutchison and Bergman’s third win of the year means the final event - the Ford Carnival City 400 - will see a straight fight between the Motorite crew and Atlas Copco BAT pair Nick and Ryan Harper in the overall and Class A championships. The Harpers went into the Mpumalanga event with a 15 point lead over Hutchison and Bergmann in the overall championship, but lost valuable ground when they came in third behind the Motorite team and Collin Matthews/Alan Smith in the Century Property Development BAT.

At the same time this weekend’s race settled one other championship issue. Veterans Richard Schilling and Chris Davies, with a little help from Rob Wark, wrapped up the Class S title.

This weekend’s affair also produced a race that had a little bit of everything. Rapidly rising water at a river crossing forced the cancellation of the pre-race prologue, forcing officials to revert to the national seeding list for a start order, and the elements and a tough route then produced a race of attrition.

Only a third of the Special Vehicle category starters were classified as finishers, and it took the lead crews just over six hours to complete the 400 kilometre course. A route that had plenty of variety and the elements combined to make it a long day at the office.

Hutchison and Bergmann, however, were in compelling form and pulverised the field. Apart from a couple of punctures, a common malady, they had a clean run and were around four minutes ahead of Matthews and Smith. "We knew it was all or nothing for us, and we just had to win," said Hutchison. "The Century Property Development Team did us a favour by coming in ahead of the Harpers, and now it is all the way to the wire at Carnival City."

Matthews and Smith continued their stunning recent form with their best result to date. An intermittent misfire was their only concern, and they are rapidly earning a reputation as chargers. Matthews and Smith were five minutes ahead of the Harpers who spent their day fighting against the likes of reigning champions Alfie Cox and Hennie ter Stege, in the second Motorite BAT, the Total Motorsport Porter of Shameer Variawa/Siegfried Rousseau and the Total Jimco of Naeem Moosajee and Rayhaan Bodhanya.

The Total pair were to fall by the wayside and Cox/ter Stege came in fourth. Hit by punctures the outgoing champions were around eight minutes behind the Harpers, but had just over a minute in hand over the steady Terence Marsh and Pieter Groenewald, in the Regent Racing BAT, who rounded out the top five.

Apart from Variawa/Rousseau and Moosajee/Bodhanya the high attrition rate included the likes of Gary Bertholdt/Geoff Minnitt (Atlas Copco Porter), Nardus Alberts and Henry Kirstein in the Wrapsa BAT and Clint Gibson/Gary Campbell in the Absolute BAT. Apart from mechanical woes, the tough route and punctures saw crews time barred and there were the usual hard luck stories.

In one of the best performance of the day brothers Johann and Etienne Bezuidenhout brought the Adenco BAT home in sixth overall to win Class B. It was a good day for the Bezuidenhout family with father Bez, paired with Johann de Bruyn in a second Adenco BAT, finishing second in class.

For the first time this season Class B champions Hendrik and Jan Kraaij (Regent Racing BAT) failed to see out the distance. They were one of any number of crews to be plagued by punctures, and eventually ran out of wheels.

Another fine performance saw Schilling and Davies, joined by Wark in the Aceco, come home eighth overall. With closest challengers Nic Goslar/Richard Carolin (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco) among those to be time barred, it wrapped up the Class S title for Schilling and Davies.

With Schilling breaking his wrist a fortnight ago, Wark was brought in to share driving duties. Schilling fought the pain barrier to drive the second of the three loops that made up the route, and was more than happy to hand the car back to Wark for the final driving stint. Although the Class B and Class S title issues have been laid to rest, the season is set for a pulsating climax at the Ford Carnival City 400. The final showdown between the Harpers and Hutchison/Bergmann is a race to relish.

2007/11/06 | 17:46 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Charmaine Fortune

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