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ABSA 2009: Vos take day one Production Cars honours.

The factory Donaldson Nissan crew of Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford on Saturday totally dominated day one of the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, round four of the South African Absa Off Road Championship, which started here today.

At the overnight halt with the race producing a high rate of attrition, Vos and Pitchford went from 28th on the road and 13th in the premier SP Class to a commanding lead of 33 minutes in the Production Vehicle category. With a tight route and surprisingly wet conditions only seven of the 28 Production Vehicle category crews who set out from here this morning made it to the overnight stop.

Vos, the reigning South African driver’s champion, and Pitchford were just over three minutes ahead of Kobus van Tonder and Riaan Guelpa in the Uni Freight Ford Ranger, at the designated service point (DSP) midway through the day. Van Tonder and Guelpa were second loop casualties and at the overnight halt Vos and Pitchford led the RFS Toyota Hilux of Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst by 33 minutes and three seconds.

Third were Pretoria student Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren, in another RFS Toyota Hilux, who were steadiness personified on a day that wreaked havoc with more fancied runners. Fourth were Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton in the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux who almost matched Vos and Pitchford in the individual honours.

Taylor and Houghton started 23rd in the SP Class and 44th on the road and their day included losing wads of time by twice getting stuck in mud holes. Also in line for individual honours were Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus who took the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux to fifth in the Production Vehicle category with the pair the only Class E runners left in the race.

There were no Class D finishers with the casualties including championship leaders Cliff and Louis Weichelt (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D), the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody of Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber and Dewald van Breda/Johann du Toit in the Northam Toyota Hilux D4D.

The Weichelt’s failed to start after being unable to repair the Toyota after prologue problems. Labuscagne/Gerber lasted only 30 kilometres and van Breda/du Toit retired after the DSP.

The last two cars in the SP Class to make it to the overnight halt were the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux of Gary Bertholdt and Danie Stassen, and the Donaldson Nissan Navara of Ivar Tollefsen and Quin Evans. Both crews trailed Vos/Pitchford by more than an hour, with Tollefsen/Evans still running courtesy of the third works Nissan Navara of Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr being stripped for spares after both cars hit the same rock.

Also among the retirements were the factory twin turbo diesel Ford Racing Rangers of former winners Neil Woolridge/Kenny Skjoldhammer and Thomas Rundle/Stavros Yiannakis and the second works Castrol Toyota Hilux of Hein Lategan and Chris Birkin.

Among the Class E retirements were championship leaders Deon Venter and Ian Palmer in a second 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux, circuit racing and kart star Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie in the factory Ferodo Nissan Hardbody, and reigning champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in the RFS Toyota Hilux. The race ends at the Game City complex in Gaborone tomorrow with the survivors expected at the finish at around 3pm.

2009/06/23 | 11:49 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Charmaine Fortune

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