The dominance Castrol Team Toyota pair Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie have exercised over the Production Vehicle category in the Donaldson Cross Country Championship was richly rewarded when the pair won the recent Vryburg Endurance, the penultimate round of the series, to wrap up the overall and premier Class T titles.
The Vryburg result gave Poulter and Howie their fourth victory of the season, with the pair also sharing heat wins on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race with team-mates and outgoing champions Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy. Poulter and Howie went into the North West Race needing only a third place to settle title business, with Taylor and Murphy the only other crew with a mathematical chance of denying Poulter and Howie their moment of glory.
Behind the two Castrol Toyota Hilux crews the Vryburg event provided a bit of a shake-up in the overall and Class T championships. Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) moved into third place in the two title chases ahead of 4×4 Mega World Toyota crew Jason Venter and Vince van Allemann.
The Horns were second and Venter/van Allemann third in Vryburg to score their second podium finishes of the season and move up the championship ladder. The consistent Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson (Regent Racing Nissan Navara), along with Poulter/Howie the only crew with a 100 percent finish record this season, also moved up a notch or two into fifth place.
The Horn brothers, Venter/van Allemann and van Staden/Lawrenson will go into the final event of the season fighting for third place in the overall championship, and in Class T for cars above four litres with independent rear suspension. Also at stake will be bragging rights as leading privateers.
In the Class T title race the Horns have a mathematical chance to draw level on points with Taylor/Murphy but would lose on a count out. For that to happen, however, the Horns would have to win the final event with Taylor/Murphy failing to score.
Youngsters Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer (Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger) have excelled in their first season of national racing. They did enough at the Vryburg event to give them a mathematical chance of moving ahead of the Horns, but would also need an unlikely overall win at the final race.
A close race for honours in Class S – for cars up to four litres with solid axle rear suspension – will also be settled at the final event. Here only six points separate North West crew Heine Strumpher and Henri Hugo (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux), and Portuguese pair Rómulo Branco and João Serôdio in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara.
In the final analysis a 30 minute penalty on the Vryburg event for a designated service park indiscretion could come back to haunt the Portuguese pair. The penalty cost them a comfortable win ahead of North West crew Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (Toyota Hilux) but, more important, five championship points went down the drain and could come into play at the last race.
Freddie and Sune Kriel (Uni Freight Ford Ranger) stay third although they raced in the Class T category in Vryburg, while reliability problems continued to plague Deon Venter and Jaco van Aardt, in the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux. They stay fourth after their fourth non finish, and are eight points clear of former national champions Visser and le Roux who were in action for only the second time this season.
The final event in this year’s Donaldson series will be the Atlas Copco Gold 450 on the West Rand on October 30 and 31. Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service park will again be located at the Kloof Country Club in Glenharvie.
Images: Snaps Photography