HIGH-KICKERS: Willem Vos and Werner Weiss and their BMW X3 gave spectators some in-flight entertainment during the 2014 Vryburg 450 round of the SA Off-Road championship. Keino & Belinda@Snaps
VRYBURG, North West Province - Former South African champion Chris Visser made a dream return to the Production Vehicle category in the 2014 South African Cross-Country championship on Saturday (Sept 13).
He and Ford Racing team mate Japie Badenhorst won the Vryburg 450, Round 6 of the series.
Visser was making his first appearance of the season after neck surgery for an injury sustained on the Dakar Rally in January 2014 and once again linked up with regular co-driver Badenhorst. The win was the team’s second of the season, finishing 21sec ahead of championship leaders Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy (Toyota Hilux).
'TIGHT AT THE FINISH'
It was a stunning return to action for Visser, made better by his cousin Malcolm Kock and Johann Burger (Hilux) finishing third. It was local lads Kock and Burger’s second appearance of the season and they made the most of the home-town conditions.
Visser said later: “It was a dream result but it got a little tight towards the finish. It was just great to be back in the car, the win was a bonus.”
For Taylor and Murphy a conservative approach earned them some breathing space in both the overall and premier Class T championships. They went into the weekend with a three-point lead over Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn (Hilux) in the overall standings.
After a troubled qualifying the Horns fought back well to finish eighth overall and sixth in class. It provided some damage control but, with two events left, handed the advantage to Taylor and Murphy.
Taylor explained: “After our hiccup on the Force Fuel 450 we were not taking any chances. From a championship point of view, it was a good result for us.”
An impressive display by Kock and Burger saw them finish 23sec clear of North West youngsters Jason Venter and Vince van Allemann (Hilux) who came up with an equally impressive drive to finish in the top five for the first time.
Venter and Van Allemann were well clear of Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie (Hilux) who also recovered well after a disappointing qualifying.
Venter also claimed bragging rights over his father Deon who was sixth overall and first in Class S with Jaco van Aardt (Hilux). Venter senior and Van Aardt were well clear of veteran former SA champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (Hilux).
Visser and Le Roux, however, tightened the screws on championship leaders and team mates Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling (Ford Ranger) in Class S. The ultra-fast route with long straights left the diesel Ford at a distinct disadvantage but the pair held on for sixth in class.
The Horns trailed in behind Visser and Le Roux, and were followed by Etienne Nienaber and Dewald Ferreira (Hilux) who were third in Class S in their first season of National competition. They were then hit with a 35-minute penalty that dropped them way down the order.
That lifted the ever-steady Terence Marsh and actress Hlubi Mboya, competing in the Celebrity Challenge, to ninth in their Nissan Navara. After a highly disappointing run of results Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren (Ranger) also found themselves elevated into the top 10.
THIRD IN A ROW
Class D saw qualifying race winners Dewald and Anton Nienaber (Land Cruiser) take a comfortable win ahead of Diederik Hattingh and Gary Austin (Ranger. The Nienabers were always in control, with Hattingh/Austin on the back foot after problems in qualifying.
A third win in a row took Gareth Woolridge (Polaris) to the top of the new Class G standings ahead of Brian Capper in another Polaris. Woolridge’s co-driver, Boyd Dreyer, is also closing in on Jaco Swart, who sits alongside Capper, in the navigators’ standings.
The route and high temperatures took a heavy toll on the Class G brigade. Chris Wood and Peet Markram (Polaris) were the only other finishers but more than 50 minutes behind Woolridge and Dreyer.