SA CROSS-COUNTRY OPENER: Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen beat wet and muddy conditions to win the Special Vehicle class of the first round of the 2015 SA Cross-Country championship. Image: Kein Davie
Former South African champions Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen mastered treacherous conditions to win the Special Vehicle category in the RFS Endurance, the opening round of the South African Cross-Country championship around Harrismith on Saturday (March 28).
They battled rivals in wet and muddy conditions over two loops covering 251km. Conditions grew progressively worse as the day wore on with competitors hit by a high rate of attrition.
Only seven Special Vehicle entries made it to the finish as mechanical failures took their toll.
'WE FEARED THE WORST‘
Hutchison said: “That was hard work but we’ll take the win. We had a good day with one major scare 140km in the second loop.
"We feared for the worst when the car suddenly stopped with no warning. It was a relief when we got going again and had no further trouble.”
Hutchison/Stassen started the day second behind Colin Matthews and Rodney Burke who romped away with the qualifying race to determine grid positions. With Matthews/Burke suffering reliability problems, Hutchison/Stassen took the lead during the compulsory 20min service halt at the end of the first lap.
Coetzee Labuscagne and daughter Sandra, who started third, also had mechanical issues which let Lance Trethewey and Geoff Minnitt move ahead. Trethewey and Minnitt reported a clean run but could not catch Hutchison/Stassen and finished six minutes behind.
Jimmy Zahos and Zaheer Bodhanya picked up their best result yet by taking the final podium position. Zahos had a tough time with nausea caused by food poisoning.
Brett Parker and VZ van Zyl spent time pulling a pair of Production Vehicle category competitors out of mudholes but still managed fifth. They were six minutes ahead of Class P winners James Watson and John Thompson.
MATTHEWS/BURKE WOES CONTINUE
In a close finish, Watson/Thompson sneaked in six seconds ahead of Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr who were looking at a podium finish until they broke a tie-rod end 20km from the finish.
The unfortunate Matthews/Burke dropped off the radar but kept plugging away and were the last of the classified finishers and were rewarded with second in Class P.
The next race on the calendar will the Sugarbelt 450 sprint in Eston, Pietermaritzburg over May 8/9 2015.