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ABSA 2009: Nissan dominate Adenco 400 Rally prologue.

The Donaldson Nissan Navara factory team today dominated the prologue for tomorrow’s Adenco 400, round one of this year’s Absa Off Road Championship, to be run in the Darling/Mamre area. Reigning driver’s champion Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford, who finished second on the Dakar Rally, lead home team-mates Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr and Ivar Tollefsen and Quin Evans. Norwegian Tollefsen and Briton Evans, who are in their third year of racing in the Absa series, were fourth overall on the Dakar Rally.

Vos/Pitchford were 14 seconds ahead of Grobler and Mohr who is the 2008 co-driver’s champion. Tollefsen and Quin were nearly two minutes further back on what was a particularly tough 66 kilometre prologue. "It was tough and cars in the lower classes are going to battle in the race," said Vos. "You have to keep your wits about you, and rule one here is not to tempt fate."

Two Toyota crews completed the top five overall and in the premier SP Class. Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst came home fourth after a solid performance and led home the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux of Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton. "It was a rough and tough prologue," said Taylor. "Caution was the key if you did not want to damage the car."

The second Castrol Toyota Hilux of Hein Lategan, on his debut for the works team, and Chris Birkin was one of the high profile casualties. They were forced out by an engine problem and were joined by Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) with a clutch problem and Kobus van Tonder and Riaan Guelpa (Uni Freight Ford Ranger) with a starter motor problem.

Lategan, the de Bruyns and van Tonder/Guelpa were all hoping overnight repairs would enable them to make the start of the race proper. For the three teams, however, it meant burning the midnight oil.

The quickest Class D time went to former driver’s champion Cliff Weichelt (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D) who is reunited with son Louis in the car this season. They led home last year’s Rookie of the Year team, Dewald van Breda and John du Toit (Northam Toyota Hilux D4D), who have moved up from Class E.

The big losers in Class D were Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody. A terminal engine problem sidelined them on an event they won last year.

Class E was characterised by an impressive off road debut by former SA circuit racing and world kart champion Leeroy Poulter. Partnered by Rob Howie in a factory Donaldson Nissan Hardbody the talented Poulter came in second behind last year’s Limpopo 400 winners Deon Venter and Ian Palmer in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux.

"It was baptism of fire for Leeroy, but he did a great job," said Howie. "What made his performance even more impressive was that conditions did not favour the Class E entries."

2009/04/02 | 17:14 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Charmaine Fortune

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