|ABSA 2010: Nissan Privateers win Sun City 400 Rally in Production cat.|
Former South African champions Terence Marsh and Buks Carolin turned the form book upside down when they won the Production Vehicle category at the Sun City 400, round four of the Absa Off Road Championship, here today.
Marsh and Carolin, in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara, became the second privateer team to win an event this season. The pair started fifth on the road and edged out Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux crew Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen to join two-time winners Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (RFS/Visser Transport Toyota Hilux) on the privateer roll of honour this season.
Prior to this weekend Marsh and Carolin were lying 12th in the overall championship with their best result and eighth place on the Toyota Dealer 400. But it all fell into place for the veteran crew and they eked out a 23 second win ahead of Bertholdt and Vermeulen that rocketed them into fourth place in the championship.
"That was a tough race," said Marsh who last won in 2008. "At the designated service point we were worried about a noise from the back of the vehicle, but we later discovered a piece of wire wrapped around a rear hub. "It was the sort of result we needed and is a huge boost for the whole team."
The form book took another beating when Thomas Rundle and former SA champion Juan Mohr completed the podium in the ex factory Barden Nissan Navara. In two previous outings this season Rundle/Mohr had failed to finish.
Reigning SA drivers’ champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie, in a Team Castrol Toyota Hilux, recovered from starting 13th on the road to finish fourth with the top five completed by Kobus van Tonder and son-in-law Freddie Kriel in the Uni Freight Ford Ranger.
There was a controversial incident early in the race, which put leaders Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton, in the second factory Team Castrol Toyota Hilux, out of the running. Taylor and Houghton had a coming together with Special Vehicle category crew Nick Harper and Kevin Hume (Atlas Copco BAT) that put the Toyota crew out of action with a damaged front suspension.
Marsh/Carolin took the lead late on the first of the two loops that made up the race, and managed to hold off Bertholdt and Vermeulen who were hit by four punctures during the course of the race. Bertholdt and Vermeulen also fought a cat and mouse battle with Rundle and Mohr, and at the finish just over a minute separated the two crews.
Sixth place went to Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren (RFS Toyota Hilux) who put together a typically gutsy race. They were only 26 seconds behind two-time winners Visser and Badenhorst who rescued valuable championship points with a storming drive from the back of the field.
A roll on the Donaldson Prologue saw Visser/Badenhorst start from the back of the field. They made up nine minutes on the field on the opening loop, and continued the charge to the finish.
Among the high profile casualties were veteran former champions Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege who were having their first outing in the new diesel RFS BMW. They retired on the first loop with an oil leak.
"We were a bit worried after the prologue, and it was soon evident we were in trouble," Grobler said. "Rather than blow the motor we decided to call it a day, but the car has a great deal of potential."
The Class D honours went to Deon Venter and Ian Palmer, in the 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux, who were having their first outing of the year. They took control when reigning champions and current championship leaders Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit (Northam Toyota Hilux) ran into a fuel starvation problem.
Down in Class E there was a second win for teenager Lance Woolridge, in his first season of national racing, and Ward Huxtable in the Ford Racing Ranger. The pair were just behind Gerald le Roux and Willem Pretorius (Ruwacon Racing Ford) after the first loop and then finished strongly to comfortably win the battle of the Fords.
The next event in the Absa Off Road Championship will be the 4x4 Mega World 400 at Carnival City, on the East Rand, on August 27 and 28.
2010/07/19 | 14:51 CET | Editor: MR/HS/FORTUNE