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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: Toyota clinch Class-D Title in South African Championship

Winning the Class D title, taking a share of the Class E spoils and a podium finish were Toyota features on the Ford Carnival City 400, the final round of the Absa Off Road Championship, over the weekend. In the premier Super Production Class results saw the Castrol Toyota Hilux pair of Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin finish third in what turned out to be a highly competitive race. Cronje and Birkin got off to a great start when they won the prologue to determine start positions, but for the third time this season what looked like certain victory eluded them.

Cronje and Birkin were holding off the Ford crew of Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer until 10 kilometres from the finish. A windscreen washer water bottle malfunctioned and Cronje/Birkin had to stop after going through mud splashes. "It was impossible to see through the windscreen and we had no option but to stop," said Cronje. "The first time we stopped the Ford went past us, and the second time it was Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan who got ahead of us."

At the finish only one minute and 43 seconds separated Woolridge/Skjoldhammer, Grobler/Jordaan and the Castrol Toyota Hilux. "It was again more than frustrating," said a disappointed Cronje. "On the positive side we showed throughout the season we have the pace to be serious contenders in next year’s championship."

Last year’s winners, Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton, in the second factory Castrol Toyota Hilux this year failed to see out the distance. Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Castrol Toyota Hilux) were also among those to fall by the wayside with Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn, in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux, battling their way to a solid sixth place overall.

Third place in the Bosal Toyota Hilux D4D was enough for the father and son combination of Cliff and Louis Weichelt to win Class D. The Weichelt’s went into the race with a slender five point lead in a category where five crews were in line to take the title.

Second in class, only 16 seconds behind the winners, also saw rookies Ramon Bezuidenhout and Stefan Lock, in a Toyota Hilux, clinch second place in the championship. It was a highly impressive first year in off road racing for the Delmas based crew.

Down in Class E the Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux pair of Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux, after finishing seventh in class in the prologue, stormed through the field to take a dramatic win in Class E. It was a win that saw le Roux clinch the co-driver title ahead of Lucio Santoro who, sitting alongside Jack Peckham, finished second in a Ford Ranger.

Visser fell just three points short of overtaking Peckham in the driver championship. The differentiation in driver and co-driver points surfaced after Santoro fell ill during the Amathole 500, and Peckham finished the event on his own. Deon Venter and Ian Palmer, in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux picked up a good third. For other Toyota contenders in the category it was a disappointing day.

Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie (Castrol Toyota Hilux), Mark and Stuart Moffatt (Bosal Toyota Hilux), George and Sharon Barkhuizen and Fabio Tafani/Allen Dearling (Toyota Hilux) and Jaco Swanepoel and Keith Solomon (IDM Cement Toyota Hilux) all fell by the wayside. Broken steering racks, blown motors, burned out clutches and gearbox problems all contributed to the fact that only four Class E entries saw out the distance.

"We’ll go away and look at what we learned this season, and then come back next year and do it all again," said Toyota Motorsport manager William Haddad. "There is no doubt we will be championship contenders next season, and we’ll be hoping for more than our share of the luck you need to win races and championships. The Class D and E winners did us proud and we will again have plenty of depth next

2007/12/16 | 17:25 CET | Editor: MR/Sharon Garson/hs

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