Ford on form at Carnival City
NOT YET THREATENED: Duncan Vos and Rob Howie fought back to finish fourth in the 4x4 Mega World 400 at Carnival City on Saturday and retain their championship lead with two races remaining.
Former champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst on Saturday, September 1, 2012, revived their Production Vehicle title hopes when they won the 4x4 Mega World 400.
The Ford Racing Ranger crew came in two minutes and 39 seconds ahead of veterans Hannes Grobler/Hennie ter Stege (BMW X3) to score their second victory of the season in round six of the Absa Off Road Championship. It was a timely win that kept Visser/Badenhorst in the championship frame with unofficial scoring now putting the pair 24.5 points behind championship leaders Duncan Vos/Rob Howie (Toyota Hilux) with two races remaining.
After an early scare when they dumped their Hilux on its side, Vos/Howie recovered to finish fourth behind Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable in the second factory Ranger. It was the second time this season the two Ford crews finished on the podium.
Victory completed a good weekend for Visser/Badenhorst who also won the Donaldson Prologue to determine race grid positions. A trouble-free run saw the Ford crew then lead the race from start to finish with Grobler/ter Stege struggling with power steering and brake problems.
Visser said after the race: “This has come just at the right time. We have not had much luck in recent events and broke a rear anti-roll bar 10 kilometres into the race.
“It affected the handling but it was good to win and it was a great result for the team to also have Lance and Ward on the podium.”
There was a further bonus for Ford when it took the manufacturer’s award. The two Ford Racing factory teams combined with privateers Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling to edge out team Toyota.
Woolridge/Huxtable also put disappointing recent performances behind them and were around seven minutes ahead of Vos/Howie. The Toyota crew recovered well from its early scare and a late puncture to finish a minute and 21 seconds clear of Mike Whitehouse/Matthew Carlson, who battled a misfire and clutch problem to complete the top five in a Nissan Navara.
Vos/Howie went into the event chasing a fourth win that would virtually have wrapped up the championship. A penalty that dropped them down the pecking order on the recent Sun City 400 could also come back to haunt the Toyota crew.
TOP CREWS BARRELLED OUT
After two non-finishes in a row, Gary Bertholdt/Ralph Pitchford (Toyota Hilux) bounced back to finish sixth. They were just over a minute ahead of de Bruin/Greyling, with South African champions Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux next up in a Toyota Hilux.
A solid ninth place represented a good result for Terence Marsh/George Smalberger who were out for the first time in the V8-powered Nissan Navara. Another Navara, crewed by Archie Rutherford and former Springbok rugby player Stefan Terblanche, completed the top 10 with the pair recovering well from a disappointing prologue result.
An ultra fast route took its toll on some fancied crews. Sun City 400 winners Christiaan du Plooy/Henk Janse van Vuuren (BMW X3) retired after an early roll while Anthony Taylor/Chris Birkin (Toyota Hilux) went out with suspension damage after hitting a ditch. The incident dropped Taylor/Birkin to third in the championship behind Visser and Badenhorst.
A hugely competitive Class D outing eventually saw championship leaders Cliff Weichelt/Johann Smalberger (Toyota Land Cruiser) edge out Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn in another Cruiser. In a desperately close finish just four seconds separated Weichelt/Smalberger and the Horns, while Dana Vos/Johan Vlok were third in a Hilux.
Winning has become a habit this season for Class E championship leaders Dirk Putter/Koos Claasens (Toyota Hilux) and they were at it again to score their fifth success in six races. The pair was more than 15 minutes clear of Diederik Hattingh/Gary Austin (Toyota Hilux) and has a tight hold on the championship.
Perseverance paid off for the Toyota Hilux pair Johan Griffioen/Willem Marais with the Northern Region championship graduates taking a hard-earned third place.