|ABSA 2012: Close Production Vehicle battle on Human Auto 400 Prologue|
With only four seconds separating the three championship contenders on the grid the Production Vehicle category is poised for high drama on the "Human Auto 400", the penultimate round of South Africa´s "ABSA Off Road Championships", on Friday.
Team Castrol Toyota Hilux pair Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin led the way on a tight 62 kilometre Donaldson Prologue which took the off road fraternity into new territory with the event moved to Thaba ‘Nchu after two years in Bloemfontein.
Taylor and Birkin were just one second ahead of Ford Racing crew Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, with the 2010 South African champions three seconds ahead of championship leaders Duncan Vos and Rob Howie in a second factory Castrol Toyota Hilux.
Vos and Howie go into tomorrow’s race with a 24,5 point championship lead over Visser and Badenhorst in the Ford Ranger. Taylor and Birkin are a further 10,5 points arrears in the second Castrol Toyota Hilux and will be looking for their first win of the season.
The four second gap at the start between the three frontrunners is going to ensure a hectic start to the race. It is a recipe for high drama on a tough and technical route that is going to provide a stern test for all the crews.
Such was the pace of the three frontrunners that they were more than 40 seconds clear of veteran former SA champions Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege, in the RFS BMW X3. A little more than 40 seconds also separated Grobler and ter Stege, who will retire at the end of the season, from off road legend Alfie Cox and German co-driver Jurgen Schroder in the PS Laser Nissan Navara.
Cox and Schroder were followed home by Bloemfontein crew Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling in the Ruwacon Racing Ford Ranger. In another tight contest only 11 seconds separated the local crew from Willem Vos/Werner Weiss (Vossies BMW X3) and Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren in the second RFS BMW X3.
There was a huge amount of interest in the off road debut of Paralympics swimming legend Natalie du Toit who was sharing the SA Warranties Nissan Navara with veteran driver Archie Rutherford. In a competent performance the pair finished 13th in the premier SP Class.
There was yet another close contest in Class D where Cliff Weichelt and Johann Smalberger led home Louis Weichelt and Maret Bezuidenhout by only 11 seconds. Both crews were out in N1 4x4 Land Cruisers with Cliff Weichelt and Smalberger looking to wrap up the championship this weekend.
Brothers Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser) were a further 25 seconds adrift of Louis Weichelt and Bezuidenhout. A friendly rivalry has sprung up between the Weichelts and the Horns and the trio look set for another interesting duel.
There was a surprise in Class E where KwaZulu-Natal crew Rowan Lamb and Lyle Parker (Ford Ranger) led home reigning champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen (LMC Land Rover) and runaway championship leaders Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens in the 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux. Lamb/Parker had a four minute cushion over the Oosthuizens with Putter/Claasens a further 12 seconds in arrears.
Tomorrow’s race starts at 08:30 at the Black Mountain Hotel on the outskirts of Thaba ‘Nchu. The designated service point will also be at the Black Mountain Hotel with a compulsory 15 minute halt at the end of the first of two 170 laps.
Public entry to the start/finish and the designated service point, as well as spectator points along the route, is free of charge.
2012/10/19 | 22:07 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/FORTUNE