|ABSA 2012: Ford crew Visser/Badenhorst keep South African title hopes alive.|
Ford Racing’s former South Africa champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst made sure the Production Vehicle championship stayed alive when they won the "Human Auto 400", the penultimate round of the South African "ABSA Off Road Championship", which ended last weekend.
Visser and Badenhorst (Ford Racing Ranger) scored their second win in a row when they held off a fierce challenge from championship leaders Duncan Vos and Rob Howie, in a Team Castrol Toyota Hilux.
In the process Visser and Badenhorst trimmed the Castrol Toyota pair’s championship lead from 24,5 points to 18,5 points, and for the second year in a row the championship fight will go to the final event of the season.
Visser and Badenhorst, who started the day a second ahead of Vos and Howie, finally stretched the gap to 36 seconds. The two frontrunners set a hot pace and were nearly five minutes ahead of third placed Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin, in a second Castrol Toyota Hilux.
"The Ford crew drove a terrific race," said a sporting Vos at the finish. "We were waiting for them to make a mistake, but it never came. "It was a very technical route with a good mix of fast and slow sections, and you had to be constantly alert. I think we both did a good job."
Only four seconds separated Taylor/Birkin, Visser/Badenhorst and Vos/Howie after the Donaldson Prologue to determine race grid positions. After the start Visser/Badenhorst were soon into the lead followed by Vos and Howie with Taylor/Birkin dropping back.
At the end of the first of the 170 kilometre loops that made up the race the gap between the Ford crew and Vos/Howie was only seven seconds. A fascinating cat and mouse game was played out over the second loop with Visser and Badenhorst holding their nerve under intense pressure.
Taylor/Birkin eventually got the better of Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege, in the RFS BMW X3, for the final place on the podium. The veteran RFS BMW were a solid fourth but a little further back a huge fight developed with only 10 seconds finally separating three crews.
Off road legend Alfie Cox and German co-driver Jurgen Schroder (PS Laser Nissan Navara) finally edged out Christiaan du Plooy/Henk Janse van Vuuren (RFS BMW X3) by four seconds with Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable a further six seconds adrift in the second Ford Racing Ranger.
The top 10 was completed by the Regent Racing Nissan Navaras of Mike Whitehouse/Matthew Carlson and Terence Marsh/George Smalberger and the SA Warranties Navara of Archie Rutherford and Paralympics swimming legend Natalie du Toit. It was a second successive top 10 finish for Rutherford with a sporting celebrity sitting alongside him.
"It was an awesome experience," said du Toit afterwards. "Two punctures on the first lap hurt us, but we were 10 minutes faster on the second loop and a top 10 finish was great."
The Class D battle produced a popular win for Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn in the Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser. After a couple of near misses this season the Horns finally saw off championship leaders Cliff Weichelt and Johann Smalberger in the N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser.
A troubled second loop saw Weichelt and Smalberger under pressure from reigning champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen (LMC Land Rover) who were only 14 seconds in arrears.
A sixth win in seven outings saw Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) wrap up the Class E title. After a disappointing prologue, Putter and Claasens made up more than four minutes to beat KwaZulu-Natal pair Rowan Lamb and Lyle Parker (Ford Ranger) by 44 seconds.
After prologue problems Bloemfontein crew Gerald le Roux and Hendrik Badenhorst fought back to take third place in the Ruwacon Ford Ranger.
Human Auto 400 Final overall results Cars Production Class Top 10
01) Visser / Badenhorst I Ford Ranger I 05:25:01
02) Vos / Howie I Toyota Hilux I 05:25:37
03) Taylor / Birkin I Toyota Hilux I 05:29:48
04) Grobler / Ter Stege I BMW X3 I 05:31:02
05) Cox / Schroder I Nissan Navara I 05:38:35
06) Du Plooy / Janse van Vuuren I BMW X3 I 05:38:39
07) Woolridge / Huxtable I Ford Ranger I 05:38:45
08) Whitehouse / Carlson I Nissan Navara I 05:43:46
09) Marsh / Smalberger I Nissan Navara I 05:59:48
10) Rutherford / Du Toit I Nissan Navara I 06:09:30
2012/10/22 | 19:21 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/FORTUNE