VETERANS HOLDING ON: Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy lead the championship by only three points in the SA National cross-country championship. Image: SA Cross-Country
JOHANNESBURG - The win for privateers Johan/Werner Horn at the recent Force Fuel 450 at Sun City not only left the Toyota and Ford factory teams with bloodied noses but also breathed new life into the Production Vehicle category.
The Horns have been the revelation of the season, and a popular maiden overall and premier Class T win, at Round 5 of the Donaldson Cross-Country Championship, has rejuvenated the series.
With reigning champions and current series leaders Anthony Taylor/ Dennis Murphy (Toyota Hilux) leaving Sun City empty handed, the Horns closed to within three points of the works team in the overall title race, with just two points the difference in Class T.
Taylor said: “We went into the race looking to consolidate our championship lead. It turned out to be an unhappy weekend and a gearbox problem finally put us out of our misery. At the same time you have to give credit to the Horns for their performances this season, and we now have a championship fight on our hands.”
Taylor/Murphy went to the Force Fuel 450 with a 28-point lead in the overall championship, but were not the only ones to suffer. Ford Racing Ranger pair Manfred Schroder/Japie Badenhorst finished out of the money in the overall standings, but damage control saw them rescue five points for 11th in Class T.
That dropped them to fourth behind Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howie, in the second factory Toyota Hilux, in the overall standings. Schroder/Badenhorst trail Poulter/Howie by 12 points and, are only one point clear of team mates Gary Bertholdt/Siegfried Rousseau.
In the Class T standings there was more suffering for Schroder/ Badenhorst. They dropped from third to fourth behind Poulter/Howie, who were third at the Force Fuel, and are now level on points with Bertholdt/Rousseau who came home in second place in the Pilanesberg race.
After a win at Sun City former South African champions Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (Hilux) are the first of the Class S competitors, and move a single point clear of team mates Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling in the Ford Ranger. They are eighth and ninth in the overall standings, but it is a slightly different story at the top of Class S which is for cars up to four litres with solid axle rear suspension.
Here three wins in a row have brought Visser/le Roux to within nine points of Bloemfontein based de Bruin/Greyling. Visser/le Roux missed an event earlier in the season, but with three wins in a row under their belts it is game on.
Visser/le Roux went into the Force Fuel 450 race level on points with Deon Venter/Ian Palmer in the Hilux. Palmer was replaced by Jaco van Aardt but Visser/le Roux opened up a 15-point lead in North West battle.
Archie Rutherford/Gerhard Schutte (Nissan Navara) are a further 25 points in arrears in fourth place. In a tight situation they are only two points clear of Pieter Ruthven/Hansie Rheeder in another Hilux.
An interesting situation has also developed in the Class G category, also known as Side by Side, with just one point separating Brian Capper (Polaris) and Gareth Woolridge, in another Polaris. Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer made it two in a row at Sun City with Dreyer second among the co-drivers.
Leander Pienaar is third among the drivers. Stephan Marais, who has shared co-driver duties for Pienaar with Carl Swanepoel, slots in behind Dreyer in the navigator stakes.
After a popular fifth overall with Mike Whitehouse (Nissan Navara) on the Force Fuel 450, former Springbok rugby captain John Smith leads the Imperial Auto Celebrity Challenge. Smith is two points ahead of TV celebrity Jeannie D – who also picked up a top 10 finish with Terence Marsh in the Navara.
With two cars in the top 10 the SA Manufacture’s Championship is turning into a romp for Toyota. They now have 343 points with Ford next up on 176, Nissan on 83 and BMW on 73.
The next round of the Donaldson Cross Country championship is the Vryburg 450 on September 11/12.