|ABSA 2011: Grobler/Ter Stege off to flying start on Adenco 400 prologue.|
Veterans Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege got their season off to a flying start here today when they won the Donaldson Prologue to determine start positions for the Adenco 400 rally in Saturday, round one of the South African Absa Off Road Championship.
With Grobler and ter Stege, in the RFS BMW X3, striking an early psychological blow in the premier SP Class. Grobler and ter Stege finished 29 seconds clear of Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr who also made an encouraging start in the Barden Tyres Nissan Navara.
There was also a good start to their career as a Ford Racing factory crew for Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst. The reigning South African champions came in third, two minutes behind Grobler/ter Stege, despite having to complete a technical 70 kilometre route without being able to communicate with each other because of a faulty intercom system.
"The car was good and we had a clean run," said Grobler. "It was a tight and technical route and during the race you are going to have to be aware of any number of pitfalls. "It was a nice way to start the year but tomorrow is when it counts most."
Rundle and Mohr did not do themselves justice last season, and today’s result was an indication of their potential. "It was very slippery and tight out there, but the car felt good," said Rundle.
Visser and Badenhorst were also happy with their first outing in the works Ford Ranger although the lack of communications between the pair was a problem. Switching from a right hand drive Toyota Hilux to the left hand drive Ford Ranger with turbo diesel power, has also meant a steep learning curve for Visser.
"There weren’t too many places where you could build up a head of speed," Visser said. "The intercom problem was a nuisance but the car felt good and I am settling down in the cockpit."
Behind the first three steady performances took Gary Bertholdt/Andre Vermeulen Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) and Kobus van Tonder/Freddie Kriel (Uni Freight Ford Ranger) into the top five. Mike Whitehouse/Mathew Carlson (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) and Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) were among eight drivers penalised 10 minutes for not stopping at road crossings, and that dropped them down the pecking order.
The penalties also lifted Willem and Dana Vos (Vossies Toyota Hilux), Jannie Visser and Joks Le Roux (Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux) and Terence Marsh and George Smalberger, in the second Regent Racing Nissan Navara, into the top eight.
At the other end of the scale it was a disappointing first outing for the two factory Team Castrol Toyota Hilux entries in the hands of Anthony Taylor/Chris Birkin and former SA champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie. Both cars suffered from fuel starvation problems, and Vos/Howie also broke a prop shaft, with the pair having to be satisfied with 12th and 16th respectively.
The first two cars in Class D, reigning SA champions Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) and brothers Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen (Land Rover) were both among those hit with the 10 minute penalty. Other serious Class D challengers, Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable (Ford Racing Ranger), were among the non finishers after a roll, but will start the race from the back of the field.
Diederik Hattingh and Kristo Bosman (Transcor Toyota Hilux) were also among those penalised but were the only finishers in Class E. Gerald le Roux and Willem Pretorius (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) and newcomers Piet Kotze and Salomon Victor (Toyota Hilux) fell by the wayside but are also likely to start the race from the back of the field.
The race starts at the Darling Club at 08:30 with the first cars due at the finish between 13:30 and 14:0. Entry to the start/finish and the designated service area are all free of charge, and public access to spectator points is also free.
2011/03/12 | 14:17 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/FORTUNE