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2013-12-09 14:51

TOUGH FIGHT: Anthony Murphy and Dennis Talyor were given a run for their money in the cross country off-road championships on Saturday. Image: Motorpress

The works Toyota Hilux and Ford Racing Ranger teams looked set for a whitewash in all eight rounds of the Production Vehicle category in the Donaldson Cross Country championships but then were stopped in their tracks.

An unexpected win at the Gold 400 in Westonaria by Rustenburg crew Willem Vos and Werner Weiss  (BMW X3) stumped the leaders.
Honours among the factory teams went to Toyota with five wins to two with the overall and premier SP Class going to Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy. A burst of four successive wins mid-season saw Taylor and Murphy settle the championship on the penultimate event of the year, with outgoing champions Duncan Vos and Rob Howie taking the other Toyota victory.

Ford started the year on a high with two wins in the first two races. Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable won the opening event, the RFS 400, and former champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst won the inaugural Nkomazi 400 in Malalane.
A run of podium finishes – they ended up with seven in eight races – kept Visser and Badenhorst in the title hunt until the Ford Dealer 400 in the Free State. After their early win Woolridge and Huxtable’s form was patchy. 
Behind the two factory teams the privateers waged some interesting battles with bragging rights finally going to Atlas Copco crews Gary Berthold and Siegfried Rousseau and Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson.
Bertholdt/Rousseau took an early podium in a Toyota Hilux, switched to a Nissan Navara in mid-season and ended up on the podium at their own event at the end of the 2013 season.

A third Atlas Copco crew, Sarel van Biljon and Philip Herselman also grabbed a top five finish while a bevy of Toyota crews had their moments. The group included Malcolm Kock/Johan Burger, Hugo de Bruyn/Henri Hugo (Hilux), former champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (Hilux) and Deon Venter/Ian Palmer (Hilux) who were integral parts of some fierce midfield battles.
Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson were far and away the pick of the Regent Racing Nissan Navara squad and, at the other end of the scale, BMW crew Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren had a nightmare time of it. They have sold the BMW to Richard Fuller and will be hoping for a better yield from a Ford Ranger in 2014.
The Class D championship was a straight fight between Jason Venter and Vincent van Alleman (Hilux) and brothers Johan and Werner Horn in the Toyota Land Cruiser. A horrible start to the season with three non-finishes in the first four events did nothing for the Malalane based Horns.
They finished the season with four wins in a row but it was too much too late. Venter and van Alleman could afford to miss the final race and still finish clear of the Horn brothers who will move into the SP Class in 2014.

Third in the championship went to former champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen in the Land Rover Defender. The pair could not produce their usual level of reliability, but were the epitome of competitors who go cross country racing simply for the enjoyment of it all.
The Class E championship was decided with two events still to run with Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens (Ford Ranger) clinching back to back championships. Douglas Fear and Kurt de Villiers (Toyota Hilux) had a good year with three wins, and newcomers Johan Pretorius and Gesina Dauth (Hilux) ended the season on a high with a maiden national win on the Atlas Copco Gold 400.
The 2013 season was also noteworthy in that there was not a single competitor protest throughout the eight events. No one connected with the sport can remember when that last happened.
Motorsport South Africa steward Francois Jordaan said: “Going through a season without a single protest is a credit to the professionalism and sportsmanship in the Donaldson championship.

“We had a few close shaves, but race officials made a number of correct calls at the right time.”
Read more on:    gauteng  |  racing  |  off-road  |  motorsport

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