|ABSA 2010: Visser/Badenhorst win Human Auto 400 Rally in Production Class.|
Privateers Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst Saturday eked out the narrowest of wins on the inaugural Human Auto 400, the penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, to all but wrap up the Production Vehicle category title in this year’s national series.
According to provisional scoring Visser and Badenhorst, in the RFS Toyota Hilux, need just one point to make sure of the championship. Today’s win was the third of the season for Visser/Badenhorst and 15th place on the RFS Magalies 400 next month, the final event of the year, will be enough to write their names into the record books.
A violent wind and thunderstorm wreaked havoc at the finish shortly before the end of the race. It provided the backdrop for a dramatic end to a day full of drama and shifting fortunes, with only 27 seconds separating the first three cars across the line.
In one of the closest finishes in the history of the Absa championship Visser and Badenhorst finished just one second clear of the Team Ford Ranger TDCi of former South African champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer. Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren were only another 26 seconds adrift in a second RFS Toyota Hilux.
A drag race developed between the three cars over the last two kilometres. It was exciting stuff and after some banging and barging in atrocious conditions both the Ford Ranger and the du Plooy/van Vuuren cars finished with suspension damage.
"It was a tough day at the office and in the end it was too close for comfort," said Visser afterwards. "The last part of the race was very tricky but we managed to avoid making mistakes. From a championship point of view it was a good result, but we won’t get carried away just yet."
Visser and Badenhorst started fifth on the road and retirements and problems for other crews gradually moved them up the pecking order. Donaldson Prologue winners Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton (Team Castrol Toyota Hilux) picked up a string of punctures, Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr (Barden Tyre Services Nissan Navara) broke a gearbox, Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege (RFS BMW X3) were also puncture victims and Duncan Vos/Rob Howie (Team Castrol Toyota Hilux) were blown out of the championship race with suspension damage.
Woolridge/Skjoldhammer and du Plooy/van Vuuren, seventh and 10th respectively after the Donaldson Prologue to determine grid positions, also moved up the pecking order ahead of Grobler/ter Stege who were fourth. Terence Marsh and stand-in navigator Richard Leeke were a solid fifth in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara, and edged out local Ruwacon Racing crews Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling and Pieter Ruthven/Rudi Britz.
At one stage Ruthven and Britz, for the first time in their careers, led the event and sparked hopes of a fairytale hometown victory.
Taylor and Houghton rounded out the top eight and factory crews have now won only two of the seven races this season. Ninth went to the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux of Gary Bertholdt, who finished the race with a broken hand, and Andre Vermeulen with veterans Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux completing the top 10 in another RFS Toyota Hilux.
For the second race in a row Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) were the only finishers in Class D. After building up an eight-minute advantage early leaders Louis Weichelt and Johann Smalberger (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux) fell by the wayside, and Venter and Palmer now lead the championship.
The Class E championship was also thrown wide open when Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus (4x4 Mega World Toyota) scored a come from behind win to move within nine points of teenager Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable in the Team Ford Ranger. Woolridge and Huxtable crashed out of the race on the Donaldson Prologue, and a back injury might keep the KwaZulu-Natal youngster from competing in the final race.
Labuschagne and Erasmus picked up their third win of the season – and gave Toyota a clean sweep of class victories - with five minutes to spare over Gerald le Roux and Willem Pretorius in the Ruwacon Ford Ranger. The final podium place went to brothers Diederik and Danie Hattingh (Transcor Toyota Hilux) who were another 12 minutes off the pace.
2010/10/26 | 08:34 CET | EDITOR: MR/HS/FORTUNE