CHAMPIONS WIN SHORTENED QUALIFYING RACE ON FORD 400
Thaba ‘Nchu, Friday – Reigning Special Vehicle champions Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen struck an early psychological blow when they won a shortened qualifying race for the Ford Dealer 400, the penultimate round of the Donaldson Cross Championship, here today.
Only 14,5 points separate the top five drivers in the championship, and the first four crews are separated by only 12,5 points. That has set up a tense championship situation with all the championship contenders in the top six in a qualifying race cut from 63 kilometres to 26 kilometres when a Production Vehicle caught alight and set off a mountain bush fire.
Hutchison/Stassen, in the Motorite BAT Viper, led former champions Quintin and Kallie Sullwald (Elegant Fuel BAT Venom) and Colin Matthews and Rodney Burke (Century Racing C3) with Matthews, who races a Class P car, still a factor in the race for the driver’s title. Former champions Hermann and Wichard Sullwald were fourth ahead of Philip de Vries/Johan Viljoen (Conqueror Porter) with championship leaders Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell (Dirt Sport Components Porter) down in sixth place.
Gibson and Campbell are the only crew with a 100 percent finish record this season and still have to drop one score. That adds more than a touch spice to the championship situation with none of the other crews able to afford another entry under the non finish column in the results.
“All I can say is it was dynamite,” said a happy Hutchison. “Now all we have to do is finish off the job tomorrow.”
Only 16 seconds separated the first three cars and that is going to lead to an interesting start and first few kilometres. This is particularly true in that Matthews is a flyer and will take the fight to the Class A brigade.
Gibson and Campbell are only little more than a minute behind Hutchison and Stassen but will face an uphill battle during the race. The route is tight and technical and the KwaZulu-Natal crew are unlikely to go in for heroics.
Brothers Eduardo and Riccardo Argazzi, who are based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, put in a solid performance to finish seventh with an impressive drive taking former Class B champion Derick du Toit into eighth. Du Toit, making his first appearance for two or three seasons, is partnered by teenager Sean van Staden in a BAT and showed few signs of ring rust.
Matthews and Burke completely dominated Class P with Andrew Makenete and Reginald Mothibeli (Zarco) around three minutes in arrears. They were followed by the steady Jeremy Wood and veteran Lesotho based co-driver Ashley Thorn in the K9 Racing Aceco.
For championship leaders John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten (Zarco), who finished down in sixth place, it was a tale of woe. Their GPS system packed up at the start and they kept getting lost with a locked gate compounding their problems.
Good performances on the Toyota 1000 Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race saw two KwaZulu-Natal crews earn free entries into this event. Both are Class B competitors with Grant Watkins/Jeffrey Guscott (Zarco) leading home Graeme Petersen in a singleseater Dragonfly.
Tomorrow’s race starts and ends at the Black Mountain Hotel on the fringes of Thaba ‘Nchu. Race headquarters and the designated service park are also located at the hotel with free public entry to these areas. The race starts at 08:30.