|ABSA 2010: Win for Toyota and Visser/Badenhorst on Sugarbelt 400.|
Privateers Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst withstood all the pressure two factory entrants could throw at them to win the Atlas Copco Sugarbelt 400, round three of the South African Absa Off Road Championship. Visser and Badenhorst, in the RFS/Visser Transport Toyota Hilux, finished 66 seconds ahead of reigning South African driver’s champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie, in the factory Team Castrol Toyota Hilux, to secure their second overall and SP Class victory of the season. Earlier in the season Visser/Badenhorst scored their maiden national win when they won the Adenco 400 in the Western Cape.
A second Team Castrol Toyota Hilux in the hands of Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton took the final place on the podium. The second works Toyota Hilux finished just over five minutes behind Vos and Howie.
Visser and Badenhorst won the Donaldson Prologue to determine start positions by one second from Taylor and Houghton with the Vos/Howie entry another nine seconds in arrears. It was clear Visser and Badenhorst were going to come under severe pressure from the two works Toyotas, with the early stages of the race crucial.
"We knew if we could keep Anthony and Duncan behind us in the early stages, we would have a chance," said Badenhorst. "We made a few mistakes here and there but it was difficult to pass and being first on the road the dust worked to our advantage. We worked hard to earn some breathing space and then it was a matter of not throwing it all away."
Visser and Badenhorst first came under pressure from Taylor and Houghton on the first of the three loops that made up the race. A broken brake pipe then cost the Toyota crew five minutes in the pits, and that effectively ended their victory challenge.
The chase was then taken up by Vos and Howie who identified two overtaking areas. They fluffed the first and were not close enough at the second to apply any pressure. "With all the dust we weren’t close enough," said Vos. "All we could hope for was a mistake from Chris and Japie but they held it all together."
Local favourite Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, in the Ford Racing Ranger TDCi, came up with a workmanlike race to finish fourth. The pair made history recently when they became the first crew to win a national race in a diesel powered vehicle.
The top five was rounded out by another local hero, off road legend Alfie Cox, and German co-driver Jurgen Schroder in a PS Laser Nissan Navara. The Navara was originally built for this year’s Dakar Rally with Cox and Schroder not eligible to score points towards the Absa championship.
Cox and Schroder were followed home by former SA champions Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege, in the RFS Toyota Hilux, who came up with a superb drive to rescue valuable championship points. The pair went into the race leading the championship but a mishap on the prologue saw them start 12 minutes behind the leaders.
"On this event anything can happen and we knew that if we finished we would pick up decent points," said ter Stege. "We never went in for heroics and we are very happy with the way it finally turned out."
Michael Whitehouse and brother-in-law Mathew Carlson kept their impressive finish record intact with seventh place in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara. They were passed at the death by Grobler/ter Stege and were followed home by Christiaan du Plooy junior and Henk Janse van Vuuren (RFS Toyota Hilux) who completed the top eight.
Reigning SA champions Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit took the Class D win in the new Northam Toyota Hilux with the car having its first outing in what is a new category. It was their second success of the season after a win on the Adenco 400.
The Class E honours went to Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux with the pair missing out on last year’s championship by a single point. Labuschagne and Erasmus were given a run for their money by local teenager Lance Woolridge, son of Neil, and Ward Huxtable, in a Ford Racing Ranger, who were looking for a second successive win.
2010/05/25 | 15:18 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/FORTUNE