Toyota Gazoo Racing SA pair Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie kept their unbeaten record this season when they romped to victory on the Nkomazi 450, round five of the Donaldson Cross Country Motor Racing Championship, here today.
In a Toyota Hilux running in the FIA Class, Poulter and Howie had over 14 minutes to spare on local heroes Johan and Werner Horn. In their best result of the season the siblings, much to the delight of the local fans, brought the Malalane Toyota Hilux home in second place to win Class T for vehicles over four litres with solid axle rear suspension.
Third place and the final position on the podium went to Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson in a Red-Lined Nissan Navara. There was a three minute gap between the Horns and van Staden/Lawrenson.
The race, backed by Malalane Toyota and RCL Foods, and run in warm spring conditions drew spectators in their droves. And, despite a 10 minute penalty for failing to stop at a road crossing, pre-race favourites Poulter and Howie did not disappoint their supporters with the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team also unbeaten since the start of the 2015 season.
Fourth place and third in Class T went to Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer in the Neil Woolridge Motorsport/Ford Performance Ranger. It was their first outing since the Ranger was severely damaged in a fire at the NWM workshop in Pietermaritzburg.
The Horn brothers, van Staden/Lawrenson and Woolridge/Dreyer started the day in that order. It was behind them that the pecking order changed with Class T championship leaders Jason Venter and Vince van Allemann (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux), moving ahead of Chris Visser and Ward Huxtable in a second NWM/Ford Performance Ranger.
The Atlas Copco VW Amarok in the hands of Gary Bertholdt and Philip Herselman also finished ahead of Visser and Huxtable, and the end result saw the NWM/Ford Performance pair lose more ground to Venter and van Allemann in the Class T championship. With only two rounds of the championship left the NWM/Ford Performance pair now face an uphill task in Class T.
The opposite was the case in Class S for vehicles under four litres with solid axle rear suspension where Kimberley based Otto Graven and Bobby Brewis (Graven Motorsport Toyota Hilux) were eighth overall and first in Class S. Graven/Brewis were the only finishers in Class S and increased their lead over Heine Strumpher/Henri Hugo (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) in the Class S championship.
Behind the Graven car two other crews were also on the move. Luke Botha and Andre Vermeulen (Red-Lined Nissan Navara) came home ninth overall after being out of the top 10 after the qualifying race to determine grid positions.
The top 10 were rounded out by rally star Japie van Niekerk and multiple former rally and cross country champion Robin Houghton. Van Niekerk, making his cross country debut, and Houghton retired from the qualifying race when their Red-Lined Nissan Navara was hit with a power steering problem.
The pair was forced to start from the back of the field and an impressive performance saw them into the top 10.
The most significant retirement of the race came when Anthony Taylor and Denis Murphy were forced to throw in the towel. The former champions ran into power steering problems in the second of the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA entries.
The next round of the Donaldson series sees national championship cross country racing return to the Pilanesberg with the running of Sun City 450 on September 30 and October 1.