|ABSA 2012: Atlas Copco Crew off to a good start on RFS Magalies 400 Rally.|
The Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux pair of Gary Bertholdt and stand-in navigator Siegfried Rousseau upstaged a string of more fancied crews to win the Production Vehicle category on the Donaldson Prologue at the RFS Magalies 400 here today.
The prologue determined grid position for tomorrow’s race, round one of the Absa Off Road Championship, and produced a few surprises. With Rousseau standing in for Ralph Pitchford who had prior commitments this weekend, the Atlas Copco pair stormed to a 39 second advantage over former champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the factory Ford Racing Ranger.
The experienced Rousseau has plenty of seat time in space frame Special Vehicles and was having his first outing in a Production Car. It turned into a successful and provided the Atlas Copco team with a flying start to the season.
"We had a clean run everything fell into place," said Rousseau. "There is a big difference between Special and Production Vehicle but I enjoyed myself. Hopefully the race will also produce a happy result."
Visser and Badenhorst, the 2010 Production Vehicle champions had a trouble free run and has 35 seconds in hand over Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus in the Ruwacon Racing Toyota Hilux. North West privateers Malcolm Kock and Johan Burger (Kock and Sons Toyota Hilux) and Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable, in the second factory Ford Ranger, rounded out the top five.
Reigning champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (International Truck Toyota Hilux) were next up with just 12 seconds separating Labuschagne/Erasmus, Kock/Burger, Woolridge/Huxtable and the reigning champions. Woolridge/Huxtable and Visser/le Roux posted identical times.
There were mixed fortunes for some fancied crews. Castrol Toyota Hilux pair Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin hit a hidden rock at speed and lost a front wheel and other suspension bits and pieces in the process. They will set off tomorrow from the mass start at the back of the field and have an uphill task ahead of them.
Team-mates Duncan Vos and Rob Howie took a conservative approach and finished 10th. Last year’s winners, Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege (RFS BMW X3) started off strongly and then a puncture set them back with the veteran crew eventually finishing 16th.
Teenagers Jason Venter and Vincent van Alleman (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) made a good start to their Class D career by upstaging the experienced Cliff Weichelt/Johan Smalberger and Louis Weichelt/Maret Bezuidenhout in a pair of N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruisers. For the youngsters, who last year competed in Class E, the race will be an early test of character.
The experienced Dirk Putter/Koos Claasens (Sizwe Toyota Hilux) and Diederik Hattingh/Buks Cilliers (Transcor Toyota Hilux) set the pace in Class E. Not far behind them were Northern Region graduates Johan Griffioen and Willem Marais in the Force Fuel Toyota Hilux.
Tomorrow’s race starts at 08:30 at Tarlton with crews scheduled to complete three laps of a 110 kilometre route. There will be a compulsory 15 minute stop after the second lap.
Public entrance to Tarlton International Raceway is free of charge, and there is also no charge for entry to spectator points along the route.
2012/03/10 | 15:32 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/FORTUNE