Special Vehicle championship frontrunners took a beating on the recent Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round four of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, with victory catapulting the father and son team of Herman and Wichard Sullwald to the top of the overall and Class A title races.
The Sullwalds, in the Elegant Fuel Stryker, arrived in Botswana lying eighth in the overall and Class A championships and went home to Phalaborwa with a 2,5 point advantage at the top of the respective points tables. With the Desert Race offering points and half, the Sullwalds made up 35 points on reigning South African champions and last year’s race winners, Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen, in the Motorite BAT Viper.
For the Special Vehicle brigade the race was one of attrition. Only five crews made it to the finish and there were some unfamiliar faces on the podium.
Second were Botswana driver Keith du Toit and Keith Solomon (White Star Racing BAT), with Swaziland driver John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten winning Class P and completing the podium in a Zarco. The only other classified finishers were brothers Daniel and Louw Zeelie (Maxxis Liqui Moly Rockstar Porter) and Philip de Vries and Johan Viljoen in the Conqueror Porter.
De Vries and Viljoen were the only crew ahead of the Sullwalds on the championship ladder who added to their points tally by completing the entire race. Day one drop out KwaZulu-Natal crew Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell (Dirt Sport Components Porter) and Marius and Jolinda Fourie (PHB BAT), picked up valuable bonus points when they rejoined the race on racing section three.
Hutchison/Stassen, Gibson/Campbell, Quintin and Kallie Sullwald (Elegant Fuel BAT Venom) and Nick and Ryan Harper (Motorite BAT Venom) all drop one place in the standings. Second placed Hutchison/Stassen had their lead over Gibson and Campbell cut to 1,5 points with the Sullwalds a further 11,5 points in arrears.
The extra points gained enabled to Gibson/Campbell to slip into second place in the Class A championship. The KZN crew are 6,5 points behind the Sullwalds and a point clear of Hutchison and Stassen.
In the overall standings the Harpers drop from fourth to fifth, while de Vries and Viljoen move up a place to sixth with Thomson and Zermatten three points behind. In a significant move Thomson and Zermatten now take over the Class P championship lead from Century Racing CR3 crew Colin Matthews and Alan Smith, and immediately go 33,5 points clear.
The unfortunate Matthews and Smith won the qualifying race to determine race grid positions and led the Special Vehicle category after the first racing section. The pair were still in the lead late in racing section two before they were sidelined with a gearbox problem.
Thomson/Zermatten and Matthews/Smith are now separated in the overall championship by du Toit and Solomon. Du Toit and Solomon also made a quantum leap up the standings and move from 23rd to seventh while Matthews/Smith drop from fifth to ninth with Daniel and Louw Zeelie occupying 10th.
The next event on the Donaldson Cross Country Championship calendar is the Sun City 400 in North West on July 26 and 27. There was always the chance, given the points allocation, that the Desert Race would drastically alter championship positions – and it did just that!