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ABSA 2009: Surprise Special Vehicle Winners at Highveld 400.

The form book was thrown out the window when Gerhard du Plessis and Ferdie Seegers came from nowhere to win the Highveld 400, round six of the South African Absa Off Road Championship, which ended at Carnival City this week.

Du Plessis and Seegers, in an ageing Porter, had not competed in a national event for more than two years but produced a copybook performance to stun fellow competitors and enthusiasts alike. The pair came home 18 seconds ahead of Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau, in the Total Porter, to complete a fairytale victory.

"I think we surprised ourselves and everyone else," said du Plessis. "The car is nine years old but never missed a beat and we enjoyed ourselves." The final podium place went to runaway championship leaders Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann in the Motorite Revo1. Hutchison and Bergmann, with four wins from five starts going into the race, had a mathematical chance of wrapping up their second overall championship.

Starting from eighth place in the Special Vehicle category was too much of a handicap and Hutchison and Bergmann finally opted to settle for a safe third. At the finish they were just over six minutes behind Variawa and Rousseau, but with two events left this season are all but assured of winning the championship. "We had a disappointing prologue and that set us back," said Hutchison. "It wasn’t the best weekend we have had."

Du Plessis/Seegers and Variawa/Rousseau spent most of the first of two loops that made up the race chasing after Mark Corbett and Rudi Balzer in the Century Racing CR1. Corbett and Balzer won the Friday prologue to determine start positions but mechanical problems again sidelined the notoriously fragile 4x4 CR1 which has yet to finish a race.

Another steady drive took Mike Whitehouse and Matthew Carlson (Regent Racing BAT) to fourth place with brothers David and Gary White completing the top five in the Ruwacon Racing BAT. The Whites were also the first Class P car home with the pair taking their second win in three races.

KwaZulu-Natal driver Don Thompson and Hjalmar van Gessellen, in a Zarco, were second in Class P and seventh overall. Thompson and van Gessellen were 10 minutes behind the Whites and, in turn, had 10 minutes in hand over third placed Archie Rutherford and Craig Doubtfire in the Regent Racing BAT.

The big losers were championship leaders Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout. An engine problem sidelined the Adenco BAT making it three races in a row without a point for the Cape crew.

Another Cape crew, Derrick du Toit and Ian Pienaar, in the Orange Tree BAT, took their third Class B victory in a row to tighten their hold on the championship. Second were brothers Keith and Andrew Makenete, in a Zarco, who were around 12 minutes in arrears. "It was a pleasure not to get out the car," said Keith. "It was tough going but we had a clean run."

Third in Class B were Johan de Klerk and Louis Pretorius in a Zarco with early leaders Simon Beckett and Steve Harris dropping back to fourth after problems on the second loop.

2009/09/04 | 10:58 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Charmaine Fortune

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