|ABSA 2011: Surprise Victory for Labuschagne Team on 4x4 Mega World 400.|
Wolmaransstad crew Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus pulled off a major upset when they won the Production Vehicle category on the 4x4 Mega World 400, round six of the South African Absa Off Road Championship, which ended last weekend.
Labuschagne and Erasmus are the reigning Class E champions and were having only their second outing in the premier SP Class. The pair took control of the race just before the end of the first of two laps that made up the race, and eventually finished 63 seconds ahead of teenager Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable in the Team Ford Ranger.
"We had a comfortable lead on the second loop when we suddenly saw the Ford in our mirrors," said Labuschagne. "They were flying and we had to pick up our pace. We had a game plan and stuck to it but the major factor was that we never had to get out of the vehicle throughout the race."
Third were North West crew Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux, in the International Toyota Hilux, who are former Class E champions. Visser and le Roux were around six minutes behind Woolridge and Huxtable but for the veteran crew it was their third visit to the podium this season.
Both the Castrol Toyota Hilux factory entries of Duncan Vos and Rob Howie and Anthony Taylor/Chris Birkin and the works Ford Racing Ranger of reigning champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst failed to see out the distance. That has left the Production Vehicle championship poised on a knife edge.
Unofficial scoring sees only nine points separating the top five crews with two events remaining. The Barden Tyres Services Nissan Navara pair of Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr now lead the championship with seventh place enough to take them to the top of the table ahead of Vos/Howie and the Regent Racing Navara of Terence Marsh and George Smalberger.
Marsh and Smalberger finished fifth, just behind Regent Racing team-mates Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson. Whitehouse and Carlson are also in the championship picture and trail Vos/Howie and Marsh/Smalberger by two points.
A steady drive took the father and son pair of Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) into sixth place. They edged out Rundle/Mohr who battled with power steering problems.
Both Castrol Toyota Hilux entries suffered from fuel pressure problems, and the same malady put paid to Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege in the RFS BMW X3. Gearbox problems sidelined Visser/Badenhorst while Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen rolled the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux early on the first loop.
With a high rate of attrition in the SP Class, the top eight was rounded out by the 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux of reigning Class D champions Deon Venter and Ian Palmer. Both the N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruisers of Louis Weichelt/Francis Boersma and Cliff Weichelt/Johan Smalberger were also casualties.
That gave championship leaders Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen, in a Land Rover, a clear run into second in Class D. The Oosthuizens maintained a 100 percent finish record, and have taken a firm grip on the championship.
Down in Class E championship leaders Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens (Zizwe Toyota Hilux) extended their points lead. A solid performance brought in well ahead of Free State crew Gerald le Roux and Walter Hickley in the Ruwacon Racing Ford Ranger.
A suspension problem was a setback for teenagers Jason Venter and Vincent van Alleman in the 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux. They started the day only 1,5 points behind Putter and Claasens, and it was their first non finish in three events.
2011/09/12 | 13:19 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/FORTUNE