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Matthews/Smith top Timbertrack

2012-05-21 09:50

PIETERMARITZBURG - Colin Matthews and Alan Smith continued their 2012 revival when they cruised to victory in the Special Vehicle category of the Atlas Copco Timbertrack 400, round three of the SA National Off-Road championship, which ended in Richmond at the weekend.

The win made them the first Class P crew to score two overall victories on National events; the also won the Adenco 400 in the Western Cape the previous season – their only finish in eight events – and the weekend’s was their third Class P success in three outings in the 2012 season.

FOG IN THE MOUNTAINS

Matthews and Smith came home three minutes and 11 seconds ahead of husband-and-wife team Marius and Jolinda Fourie (BAT), first in Class A. The third podium place went to current South African champions Hermann and Richard Sullwald (BAT) who fought back after starting 10th among the Special Vehicles.

Sullwald senior said: “It was slippery and there was bad fog at the top of the mountains. We took a no-risk approach and were happy to take the points.”

With the race hitting cold, wet and misty weather in the mountain sections race officials were forced to cut a chunk out of the second of the race’s two 175km loops. Clerk-of-the-course Rex Boreham explained: “The conditions were increasingly hazardous and the decision to cut the route was taken for safety. A time factor for back markers and those with mechanical problems was also taken into consideration.”

SECOND PODIUM

Apart from banking their second overall victory, Matthews and Smith clinched a second overall podium finish this season. They were also on the podium after finishing third overall on the RFS Magalies 400 at the start of the season, with a reputation of being only Donaldson Prologue specialists dead and buried.

“The tight track and slippery conditions gave us an edge over the more powerful Class A cars,” said a delighted Matthews. “Winning the Donaldson Prologue on Friday and a trouble-free run in the race made for a perfect weekend.

“The switch in our fortunes compared with 2011 has been amazing and I hope we can keep the momentum going over the rest of the season.”

For the Fouries, among the small band of Class P crews to have won a National off road event overall, it was their first Class A win. The pair moved into the premier Class A at the start of the season.

“It was a difficult race for us but the result was good and we enjoyed ourselves,” Fourie said. “The route and the conditions were tough enough but I also suffered from spells of motion sickness.”

HOUR IN ARREARS

Fourth place went to Wolmaransstad brothers Laurence and Gerhard du Plessis (Zarco Magnum) with local pair Lance Trethewey and Carl Wichmann (BAT) a steady fifth. Team mates Nick and Ryan Harper (Revo 4x4) and Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen (BAT Venom), who started from the back of the grid after prologue problems, were next up with John Telford and Jaco Swart completing the top eight.

Telford and Swart (BAT) were second in Class P but were about an hour behind Matthews and Smith. There was another big gap between Telford/Swart and former Blue Bulls rugby player Coetzee Labuscagne and daughter Sandra in a Zarco.

Championship leaders Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson (BAT) were sandwiched between Telford/Swart and the Labuscagnes after a troubled second loop. A litany of problems gradually dropped Van Staden/Lawrenson down the order but ninth overall and seventh in class rescued championship points.

The next event in the championship will be the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, the only marathon race on the calendar, in Botswana over June 22-24.