Ex-champs score in Timbertrack
VICTORY FOR TEAM TOYOTA: Despite teething problems, Duncan Vos and Rob Howie had their second win in a row in the Production Vehicle category of the Atlas Copco Timbertrack 400.
PIETERMARITZBURG - Ex-South African champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie had their second win in a row in the Production Vehicle category of the Atlas Copco Timbertrack 400, round three of the Absa Off-Road championship, which ended in Richmond on Saturday.
Vos and Howie (Toyota Hilux) started behind Toyota team mates Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin who lost a couple of places with an early puncture. That gave Vos and Howie a lead they were never to relinquish and the win saw them tighten their hold on the Overall and premier Class SP championships.
“It was a very difficult race with a tough route and tricky conditions,” said Vos. “We had no problems and were able to control matters from the front but on this route you could not afford the slightest mistake.
“It was tight and slippery and the slightest lapse in concentration was going to cost you.”
Cold weather with intermittent drizzle and mist made life difficult for competitors so race officials cut out a large portion of the second of the two 175km loops of the race. “The drizzle and mist forced us to cut out a section of the route for safety reasons,” said clerk-of-the-course Rex Boreham.
“A time factor that affected back markers and crews who ran into mechanical difficulties also influenced the decision.”
Vos and Howie finished 22 minutes ahead of Gary Bertholdt/Ralph Pitchford (Hilux) who edged out local favourites Alfie Cox and German co-driver Jurgen Schroder (Nissan Navara). Cox/Schroder led at the end of the first lap but were then delayed by a puncture on the second.
CHAMPIONS EDGED OUT
Taylor/Birkin eventually came home fourth ahead of the BMW X3 of veteran former SA champion Hannes Grobler/Hennie ter Stege. Taylor was not feeling well at the start of the race and Grobler/Ter Stege produced another of their workmanlike performances to harvest valuable points.
They were followed by team mates Christiaan du Plooy/Henk Janse van Vuuren who edged out current South African champions Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (Hilux) who scored their first points of the season.
Next up were Free Staters Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling (Ford Ranger) who edged out former champions Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst (another Ranger).
For the second race in a row the Ford pair had to mount a rearguard action to rescue championship points. Behind, the top 10 were completed by Mike Whitehouse/Mathew Carlson (Navara) who were having their second outing of the season.
SPATE OF PUNCTURES
There were surprises in Classes D and E in which double winners this season both had to take a back seat. Class D went to Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn (Toyota Land Cruiser) who edged in ahead of Cliff Weichelt/Johan Smalberger in another Land Cruiser.
A spate of punctures hampered Weichelt/Smalberger who finished nearly an hour behind the Horns. Third were reigning champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen (Land Rover) who are again showing the sort of consistency that earned them the 2011 Class D title.
Local crew Rowan Lamb/Lyle Parker (Ranger) scored a maiden Class E win ahead of Dirk Putter/Koos Claasens (Hilux) who went into the race on the back of two wins. Second-loop problems hit the Toyota crew with Johan Griffioen/Willem Marais (Hilux) scoring their first points of the season.