Motorsport: Lichtenburg 400
Lesotho driver Stefan van Pletzen and Jaco Pieterse upset the applecart when they scored a surprise win in the Special Vehicle category at the Lichtenburg 400, first round of the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS), here today.
It was a fairy tale maiden win for the pair who finished sixth in the overall and Class A championships last season. The cautious approach paid off for van Pletzen and Pieterse, in the Live Lesotho Chenowth, who had around six minutes in hand over South African champions Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen in the King Price Extreme BAT Viper.
“We were cautious in the qualifying race and again today,” said van Pletzen. “It paid off, everything was great today and we enjoyed ourselves.”
Hutchison and Stassen the pre-race favourites, won the Friday qualifying race to determine grid positions, but stumbled in the race. A puncture on the first of two 170 kilometre loops that made up the race – with the car falling off the jack – cost Hutchison and Stassen time on the first loop.
“This is the kind of race that separates the men from the boys, and I was one of the boys,” said Hutchison. “Despite displaying a lot of caution I ended up with a puncture on the first loop.
“This was a route with a little bit of everything. We battled to pass slower cars on the second loop and had another puncture.”
The King Price Extreme team suffered another setback on debut when Schalk Burger and rally champion Elvene Coetzee, in a Porter, were forced to retire on the first lap. They hit a pole and broken a steering control arm.
Despite the puncture on the second loop Hutchison and Stassen were comfortably ahead of the husband and wife team of Marius and Jolinda Fourie (PHB BAT) who took the final place on the podium. The Fourie’s, however, also had their share of problems and the pair finished the last 60 kilometres of the race in second gear when a gear lever cable broke.
There were also two outstanding performances when John Telford and Victor Ntsekhe (Calcamite Hellcat) and Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer (Century CRT) finished fourth and fifth to lead home the Class P contingent. Telford and Ntsekhe’s time also included a 10 minute penalty with Baragwanath and Cremer coming from 12th place on the grid to force their way into the top five.
Kobus and Marinda Fourie (BAT) slotted into sixth place with another Lesotho based driver in Werner Kennedy seventh. Kennedy was partnered by Thinus Venter in the Live Lesotho Aceco with the pair finishing third in Class P.
After finishing on the podium in the qualifying race the father and daughter team of Coetzee and Sandra Labuscagne (4×4 Mega World Porter) gradually slipped down the pecking order. They finished eighth with a comfortable lead over Lourens and Carien Booysen in a BAT.
It was a close shave, however, for the Booysens. They had only 14 seconds to spare on Botswana pair Keith du Toit and Robbie Coetzee in the White Star Racing BAT, who came from 15th on the grid, to clinch a top 10 finish.
The next event on the championship calendar will be the Battlefield 400 in KwaZulu-Natal and May 12 and 13.