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ABSA 2009: Vos/Pitchford tighten hold on Production Championship

A third victory this season on the recent Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana, saw reigning South African driver’s champion Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford strengthen their hold on the Production Vehicle title race in this year’s South African Absa Off Road Championship.

After a dodgy start to the weekend in the prologue to determine start position for the race proper, the Donaldson Nissan Navara factory crew completely dominated proceedings. Vos and Pitchford had around 40 minutes in hand over second placed Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton in the works Castrol Toyota Hilux.

Seventh overall and sixth in the premier SP Class saw Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and his British co-driver Quin Evans, in a second Donaldson Nissan Navara, hold onto second place in the championship. The overseas crew are now seven points clear of the consistent Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (RFS Toyota Hilux) who are the first of the Toyota crews.

A solid fifth place lifted Visser and Badenhorst ahead of former champion Hannes Grobler and Johan Mohr, in the third factory Donaldson Nissan, who were day one casualties after hitting a rock. Second place lifted Taylor and Houghton (Castrol Toyota Hilux) into fifth in the championship – but behind them there is a logjam with just four points separating the next seven drivers.

The picture in the SP Class is a little different, courtesy of the difference in points between overall and class finish positions. The top four remain the same but Hein Lategan and Chris Birkin, non finishers in the second Castrol Toyota Hilux, still edge out team-mates Taylor and Houghton.

The top three in Class D remain the same with Cliff and Louis Weichelt (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D), Heini Strumpher/Hendrik van der Linde (Micaren Excel Toyota Hilux) and Dewald van Breda/Johann du Toit (Northam Toyota Hilux D4D) all non finishers in Botswana. The class win went to Mpumalanga crew Johan and Werner Horn in the Malelane Toyota Land Cruiser and they move into fourth place.

There is a tie at the top of the Class E leaderboard between 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux crews Deon Venter/Ian Palmer and rookies Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus. Venter/Palmer won the first two events and Labuschagne/Erasmus have won the last two.

Labuschagne/Erasmus finished a creditable sixth overall in Botswana where they outlasted reigning champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in the RFS Toyota Hilux. The experienced Visser/le Roux combination is now 14 points behind the two Megaworld teams.

Toyota produced eight of the 11 finishers - out of 28 starters - in the Production Vehicle category and that lifted them ahead of Nissan in the prestige South African Manufacturer’s Championship. After outscoring their arch rivals by 86 points to 41 Toyota now have 260 points and Nissan 232.

The next event on the Absa Off Road Championship calendar is the Sun City 400 on July 24 and 25.

2009/07/07 | 17:04 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Charmaine Fortune

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