Vryburg, Saturday – Castrol Team Toyota Hilux crew Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie put the finishing touches to winning the Production Vehicle category when they cruised to victory at the Vryburg Endurance, round five of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, which ended here today.
Today’s win for Poulter/Howie added to victories on the RFS Endurance, the Sugarbelt 450, the Nkomazi 450 and one of two heats that made up the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana, and underlined the domination they have exerted on the title race from day one. The pair went into the weekend needing only a third place to clinch the title, and were virtually home and dry when defending champions and team-mates Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy ran into problems in the qualifying race that determined grid positions.
Going into the race Taylor and Murphy were the only other crew with a mathematical chance of winning the championship. By adding the cross country title to a South African rally championship and numerous national circuit racing and karting titles, Poulter is also assured of a place in the local motorsport history books.
“We lost time on the second loop with two punctures, but otherwise it was a clean run,” said Poulter. “This was a fast and tough event but it has been a good season for us.”
There was late drama when the two factory Ford Performance Ranger entries dropped out of contention while running second and third. Former South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, who won this race last year, suffered drive train failure while Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable retired with a broken suspension arm.
It was a bitter pill for the Ford Performance squad who looked to be en route to salvaging some pride after a disappointing season. The retirement of the two Ford Rangers opened the door for Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) and North West crew Jason Venter and Vincent van Allemann (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) to finish on the podium.
The Horns were delayed by a couple of punctures, but Venter and van Allemann reported a clean run and never had to get out of the car. Fourth placed Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson, in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara, also never had to get out of the car and were well clear of fifth placed Taylor and Murphy who did well to snatch a top five finish after starting from the back of the field.
A steady run took Terence Marsh and television’s Cave Man presenter Janez Vermeiren into sixth place in a second Regent Racing Nissan Navara. They came in ahead of former South African champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (Toyota Hilux), who were first in Class S for cars up to four litres with solid axle rear suspension.
Youngsters Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer (Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger) rounded out the top eight ahead of Portuguese crew Rómulo Branco and João Serôdio (Regent Racing Nissan Navara), and North West pair Heine Strumpher and Henri Hugo in the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux. Going into the event Strumpher/Hugo led the Branco/Serôdio by just nine points in the Class S title race, but the Portuguese pair paid a heavy price for a clash with officialdom.
Branco and Serôdio looked to be challenging for a class win and a top five placing before they were hit with a 30 minute penalty for a designated service park infringement during a compulsory 20 minute service halt. That dropped the Portuguese pair down the pecking order and, from a championship point of view, let Strumpher and Hugo off the hook.
The Class S title will now be up for grabs at the final event of the season, the Atlas Copco Gold 450, on the West Rand on October 30 and 31. And, after winning every qualifying event and every race so far this season, the Castrol Team Toyota squad will be defending an unbeaten record.
Hutchison/Stassen Lose a Battle But Win the Championship War
Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen lost a battle but won the war when they wrapped up the Special Vehicle category championship at the Vryburg Endurance, round five of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, which ended today.
Second place for Hutchison and Stassen, in the Motorite BAT Viper, was enough to put the title out of reach of race winners Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr (Century Racing CR5) and Lance Trethewey and Geoff Minnitt, in the LTE BAT Venom. Trethewey and Minnitt went into the weekend trailing Hutchison/Stassen by 17 points, but alternator problems dropped them out of the race and blew them out of the championship picture.
It was a long overdue win for Corbett and Mohr and a maiden success for the Century Racing CR5, which was designed and built in the team’s Midrand workshop. It was a victory that lifted Corbett/Mohr into second place in the championship ahead of Trethewey and Minnitt – but even if they win the final event of the season with Hutchison/Stassen failing to finish, the Century Racing crew cannot overtake the new champions.
“From refuel when we were in the lead it was simply a question of staying on the route and having a clean run,” said Corbett. “It was a really good run for us and obviously we are very happy.”
Corbett and Mohr took over the lead when Trethewey/Minnitt and qualifying race winners Jimmy Zahos and Zaheer Bodhanya, in the Cobalt Racing Stryker, dropped out of the race. At the finish the Century Racing crew had more than 15 minutes to spare over Hutchison and Stassen with the result adding to another second on the Sugarbelt 450 and wins on the RFS Endurance and both heats on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana.
Hutchison and Stassen, in turn, were just over three minutes clear of Parker and van Zyl who halted a lean mid-season spell with their second podium finish of the season. The father/daughter combination of Coetzee and Sandra Labuscagne were fourth in the ChemSystems Porter after a typically steady performance from the former Blue Bulls scrum half and his veterinary daughter.
That saw the pair well clear of Lourens and Carien Booysen, in a BAT, who produced an impressive performance in their first endurance event. Next up were Andre Fourie and Hendrik Pienaar (PHB BAT) who were also well clear of Class P winners and championship leaders John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten in a Zarco Magnum.
Thomson and Zermatten, the Class P champions in 2014, were doubtful starters after problems picked up while winning the qualifying event. They were followed home by fellow Class P competitors Andrew Makenete and Ntaote Bereng (Zarco Magnum), who scored their first points of the season, and Colin Matthews and Rodney in a Century Racing CR-T.
The final event of the season will see the Donaldson series head for the West Rand on October 30 and 31 for the Atlas Copco Gold 450.
Photos: Marc Bow