|ABSA 2011: Maiden production vehicle class win on Toyota Dealer 400 rally.|
Regent Racing Nissan Navara crew Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson scored a stunning maiden victory on a dramatic Toyota Dealer 400, round two of the South African Absa Off Road Championship.
Bookmakers would have offered generous odds for a Whitehouse/Carlson victory, but a crew that has built up a reputation for reliability and consistency drove with their heads and not their feet to simply grind the opposition into the Mpumalanga mud. Recent good rains in the area turned much of the course into a slippery slide with a couple of river crossings and mud holes wreaking havoc.
Whitehouse and Carlson eventually finished a mammoth 22 minutes ahead of Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr in the Barden Nissan Navara. It was a second successive second for Rundle/Mohr with both the Regent and Barden Navara’s former Nissan factory entries.
There was also a first podium for reigning South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in their second appearance for the Ford Racing Ranger factory team. Visser and Badenhorst produced a typically stubborn performance to finish well in areas behind the Barden entry.
"We are ecstatic," said Whitehouse afterwards. "We managed to run at a good pace throughout the race and avoided the troubles and pitfalls that hit other crews. "When we realised we had a sniff at winning we took the decision to simply keep it steady and not do anything stupid."
The treacherous conditions forced the organisers to alter the route after the second of the three loops that made up the race. This cut out a particularly problematic river crossing, and cars were regrouped before starting at one minute intervals.
There was, however, an element of good fortune for the first three crews. The Team Castrol Toyota pair of Duncan Vos and Rob Howie led for much of the event before a late wrong slot cost them time.
Vos and Howie then rolled out of contention 30 kilometres from the finish, with the same fate befalling Free State crew Pieter Ruthven and Rudi Britz in the Ruwacon Racing Toyota Hilux. Earlier Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin, in the second Castrol Toyota Hilux, ran into the back of a Special Vehicle competitor, and radiator damage forced them to retire on the first of three loops that made up the race.
There were only eight Production Vehicle finishers. Gutsy performances saw Dewald van Breda/Johan de Klerk (Potch Plastics Toyota Hilux D4D), Gary Bertholdt/Andre Vermeulen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) and Terence Marsh and George Smalberger, in the second Regent Racing Navara, finish fourth, fifth and sixth respectively in the premier SP Class.
The final finishers also saw less fancied crews score maiden national victories. Brothers Sarel and Jack Oosthuizen, in a Land Rover, were the only finishers in Class D. And, in their first outing at national level Dirk Putter and Koos Klaasens, in a Toyota Hilux, were the only finishers in Class E.
Fancied crews who failed to see out the distance were Adenco 400 winners Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege (RFS BMW X3), Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable, in the second Ford Racing Ranger and Kobus van Tonder and Freddie Kriel in the UniFreight Ford Ranger.
It was also an unhappy return to racing for Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Atlas Copco Micaren Excel Toyota Hilux) who retired early with a broken power steering pump.
2011/04/15 | 14:06 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/FORTUNE