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ABSA 2009: Nissan take eight Toyota 1000 Desert Race Win in a row.

Reigning South African champion Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford produced a new faultless display to give Nissan their eighth Toyota 1000 Desert Race victory in a row on Sunday. Vos and Pitchford, in the factory Donaldson Nissan Navara, led by 33 minutes at the end of day one and finally finished just more than 40 minutes ahead of Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton in the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux. Taylor and Houghton threw in the towel at the final designated service point after picking up a gearbox problem.

The Toyota pair decided not to risk heroics and opted to settle for a solid second place after losing wads of time on day one stuck in two mud holes. And while the overall win again eluded Toyota, there was compensation by way of taking the Manufacturers Award, having four cars in the first five and winning Classes D and E for the fourth time in a row.

After a dodgy prologue that saw them start 13th in the Production Vehicle category and 28th overall, Vos and Pitchford never put a wheel wrong. They even managed to avoid the last lap drama that so often snatches defeat from the jaws of victory on this race.

"There was no pressure and it was probably the easiest day Ralph and I will ever have on a Desert Race," said Vos. "The car was perfect, Ralph was as good as ever and apart from the prologue it was the perfect weekend."

A tight route and unexpectedly high levels of water took a heavy toll on the Production Car field. Only 11 of the original 28 starters made it to the finish with high profile casualties including former winner Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr in another Donaldson Nissan Navara.

A terrific performance from Pretoria student Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren, in the RFS Toyota Hilux, saw them score their first ever national podium finish. The youngsters brought the car home almost without a scratch in what is their first season in the premier SP Class.

Fourth place went to Gary Bertholdt and Danie Stassen, in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux, who were also victims of day one mud holes. The consistent Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, in a second RFS Toyota Hilux, rounded out the top five despite an encounter with a tree on day one.

Ivar Tollefsen/Quin Evans (Donaldson Nissan Navara), Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Toyota Hilux) and Terence Marsh/Pieter Groenewald (Regent Nissan Navara) completed the SP Class finishers. Tollefsen and Evans hit a rock on day one and all three crews endured tough weekends.

A gutsy sixth overall took Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus, in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux, into sixth place and gave them the win in Class E. They came in ahead of reigning champions Jannie Visser and Joks Le Roux, in another RFS Toyota Hilux, with the pair the only Class E finishers.

Limpopo crew Johan and Werner Horn, in the Malelane Toyota Land Cruiser, were the only finishers in Class D. Casualties included Cliff and Louis Weichelt (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D) who won the three previous events.

2009/06/23 | 15:50 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Charmaine Fortune

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