EAT MY DUST: Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy kick up a winning storm in the Production Vehicles class at the Vryburg 450. Image: Marc Bow
VRYBURG, North West - Despite earning some breathing space on the recent Vryburg 450, Round 6 of the SA National Cross-Country championship, Production Vehicle champions Anthony Taylor/Dennis Murphy are still in a precarious position.
With two events left, Taylor/Murphy (Toyota Hilux) lead brothers Johan and Werner Horn (Hilux) by 14 points in the overall title race and by 11 in the premier Class T battle. With two events remaining – and 50 points to score – there are sure to be twists and turns before the end of the season.
The problem for Taylor/Murphy is that they've already chalked up two ‘did not finish’ results in the six events run so far. Teams have to drop one score at the end of the season and another non-finish for the Toyota pair could be disastrous.
The Horns by contrast are sitting on one of the only two 100% records in the Production Vehicle category. It's a situation in which Taylor/Murphy will be under considerable pressure in the final races – and not only from the Horns.
The second Hilux works crew of Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howie is also by no means out of the equation. They are 26 points shy of Taylor/Murphy and have made it to the podium in four of the six races – but have one non-finish to their names and need to avoid a second.
With Manfred Schroder having handed over driving duties to regular Ford Racing incumbent Chris Visser, the Poulter/Howie combination are in a pretty safe third in the overall standings. Schroder stays fourth, a point ahead of former team mate Gary Bertholdt, who lost ground when he and Siegfried Rousseau failed to finish the Vryburg 450.
Sixth-placed Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Nissan Navara) won’t race again this season because of Dakar Rally preparations, and seventh and eighth overall are filled by Class S crew Jannie Visser/Joks Le Roux (Hilux) and Jason Venter/Vincent van Allemann in another Hilux.
CHANGE OF LUCK
An interesting situation completes the top 10. Here Navara team mates and brothers-in-law, Terence Marsh/Mike Whitehouse, have both competed with Imperial Auto Celebrity Challenge co-drivers, and are level pegging in the driver standings.
The only significant change among the co-drivers sees Howie move to within two points of Badenhorst in third and fourth. For Visser it was a dream return to action after neck surgery, when he teamed up again with Badenhorst and gave Ford their second win of the season in Vryburg.
The race for the Class S title, for cars up to four litres with solid rear axle suspension, is also going to produce fireworks. Free State crew Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling, in the diesel Ford Ranger, were outgunned on the Vryburg race, and had their championship lead cut to one point.
A solid second place for former South African champions Visser/le Roux in Vryburg has put huge pressure on the Free Staters. Deon Venter, now partnered by Jaco van Aardt, also threw his hat into the Driver’s title race, and victory ahead of Visser/le Roux means that just 10 points separates the first three drivers.
On the Class G front there was a change of leadership in the driver stakes, and a run of good form has taken Gareth Woolridge (Polaris) into a 14 point led over Brian Capper in the Polaris. Jaco Swart, who sits alongside, Capper retains the co-driver lead – by five points – ahead of Boyd Dreyer who navigates for Woolridge.
Toyota has a lead in excess of 200 points over Ford in the South African Manufacturers Championship, and the final outcome is a foregone conclusion. Behind them Nissan and BMW are separated by 20 points.
Review: Special Vehicles results