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ABSA 2009: Vos leads the way for Nissan on Eastern Cape 400.

Reigning drivers champion Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford, in the factory Donaldson Nissan Navara, have snatched pole position in the Production Vehicle category for the Eastern Cape 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, here tomorrow.

Vos and Pitchford, who won the opening round of the season, came home 28 seconds ahead of the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux crew of Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn to dominate the premier SP Class. The testing 60 kilometre prologue determined start times for tomorrow’s race with Vos and Pitchford strengthening their status as favourites for a second win in a row.

Third, another 12 seconds in arrears, were the Castrol Toyota Hilux crew of Hein Lategan and Chris Birkin. It was an impressive turnaround after Lategan and Birkin, who won this event last year with Mark Cronje, rolled the vehicle on a test run earlier in the day.

"It was a tough and interesting prologue, and the race will be just as tough," said Pitchford. "It is going to be hard work but Duncan is in top form and the vehicle is good so we have high hopes."

Former champion Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr, in a second Donaldson Nissan Navara, and Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (RFS Toyota Hilux) completed the top five. Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen, having their first outing in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux, were sixth in an impressive debut after switching from the Special Vehicle category.

Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and Briton Quin Evans, were seventh in a third factory Donaldson Nissan Navara with the husband and wife pair of George and Sharon Barkhuizen eighth in the AIM Toyota Hilux. Tollefsen and Evans finished fourth on this year’s Dakar Rally in a Nissan Navara built in South Africa.

The major casualties in the Production Vehicle category were Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton in the second factory Castrol Toyota Hilux, and Terence Marsh/Pieter Groenewald in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara. Suspension problems saw Taylor/Houghton miss their start time and, after a good run, a 15 minute penalty dropped them way down the field.

Marsh and Groenewald were only eight kilometres into the route when they hit a rock with heavy damage including a broken prop shaft. They were hoping to repair the damage and start the race proper from the back of the field.

Also in the wars were Peter Ruthven and De Wall Boshoff in the Ruwacon Racing Ford Ranger. They lost oil pressure 24 kilometres into the route and decided not to risk serious damage to the engine.

The Raysonics Nissan Hardbody pair of Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber set the fastest time in Class D. They came in ahead of the Northam Toyota Hilux D4D of Dewald van Breda and Johan du Toit.

Third were the father and son pair of Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D. The Weichelt’s won the opening event of the season in the Western Cape.

The Ruwacon Ford Ranger combination of Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling struck an early psychological blow in Class E. They led home Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux) and KwaZulu-Natal crew Baphumze Rubuluza and Khuliele Vakaliza in a factory Ford Racing Ranger.

Tomorrow’s race starts at 08h30 at the Mentorskraal Country Estate on the outskirts of Jeffreys Bay. The designated service park is also situated at Mentorskraal with competitors completing two loops of a route that also includes the Longmore Forest.

2009/04/21 | 12:54 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Charmaine Fortune

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