Brakpan, Saturday – Wolmarransstad brothers Laurence and Gerhard du Plessis today became the sixth different Special Vehicle winners in six races when they won the 4×4 Mega World 400, round six of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended at Carnival City today.
The brothers, in a Zarco, came home with one minute and 28 seconds to spare over former South African champion Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen in the Motorite BAT Venom. There was ample compensation for Hutchison and Stassen who take over the Special Vehicle championship lead from Atlas Copco BAT crew Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson.
“It was a good result for us,” said Hutchison, “but the championship is far from over. The last two races of the season are going to be very tense.”
In another boost for the Motorite team the father and son pair of Nick and Ryan Harper came in third in a second BAT Venom. It was first time out for the new Venom with the Harpers never having to get out of the car on the way to podium finishes in both the race and the Donaldson Prologue that determined race grid positions.
Victory for Gerhard du Plessis gave him his second Carnival City victory. Du Plessis won in 2009 but on that occasion was doing the driving with Charl Seegers sitting alongside him.
After recent ups and downs there were also good results for the husband and wife pair of Marius and Jolinda Fourie (PHB Porter) and former SA champions Quintin and Kallie Sullwald in the Elegant Fuel BAT. They completed the top five with the Fouries eventually two and a half minutes clear of the Sullwalds with both crews running into niggly mechanical problems.
They were followed by KwaZulu-Natal crew Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell (Gibson Racing Porter) and van Staden and Lawrenson who led the Special Vehicle championship going into the race. A roll early in the race set van Staden and Lawrenson back on their heels, and on a fast and dusty route they had to work hard to salvage seventh place and valuable championship points.
Unofficial scoring sees Hutchison/Stassen now leading van Staden/Lawrenson, who also ran out of brakes 100 kilometres from the end, by seven points. The du Plessis brothers move into third place with a slim mathematical chance of winning the title, and with crews having to drop one event at the end of the season the title chase is delicately poised.
Hardest hit in the championship battle were reigning champions Herman and Wichard Sullwald in the Elegant Fuel Porter. Suspension damage suffered early in the race left them listed among the non finishers and they are now effectively out of the championship equation.
The top 10 was rounded out by a trio of Class P cars with championship leaders Colin Matthews and Alan Smith (Century Racing CR3) leading home Richard Fuller/Denis Murphy (Regent Racing BAT) and Sun City winners Coetzee Labuscagne and daughter Sandra in the Raysonics Zarco. It was a great recovery from Matthews and Smith who overcame a prologue penalty that dropped them to 14th in the Special Vehicles and 30th on the road at this morning’s start.
Matthews and Smith eventually finished one minute and 35 seconds ahead of Fuller and Murphy with the Labuscagnes a further 10 minutes in arrears. Another win also tightens the hold Matthews and Smith, who were hit with a puncture within sight of the finish line with the pair battling to restart the car after changing the wheel, have on the Class P championship.