Carnival City, Friday – With less than a minute separating the first seven cars the Production Vehicle category is poised to produce fireworks on the 4×4 Mega World 400, round six of the Absa Off Road Championship, here tomorrow
Adding to the potential for drama is the fact that the first seven crews in the championship are separated by only 17,5 points. The Donaldson Prologue to determine start positions for the race turned out to be a fast and dusty route, with Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin (Castrol Toyota Hilux) eking out a 16 second lead over veterans Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege in the diesel powered RFS BMW X3.
“We had a clean run on what is a good but difficult route,” said Taylor. “It is hard work for the co-drivers and tomorrow is going to be hot and dusty.
“We start behind a couple of Special Vehicles and that is going to lead to dust problems. For all that we are nicely placed although there is not much between the top 10.”
Third were Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr in the Barden Tyres Services Nissan Navara. They were only eight seconds behind Grobler and ter Stege who won the opening event of the season, the Adenco 400, in the Western Cape.
Atlas Copco Toyota crew Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen, who won this event two years ago, were only six seconds behind Rundle and Mohr in an encouraging start to their weekend. The Atlas Copco Hilux is now fitted with a V8 motor with Bertholdt and Vermeulen the first privateer crew to go the V8 route.
Reigning South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst completed the top five in the factory Team Ford Ranger TDCi. They were only three seconds behind Bertholdt and Vermeulen with just 36 seconds separating the first five cars.
Next up were the father and son combination of Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux. They edged out Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) and the husband and wife team of Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout in the Botes Vervoer Toyota Hilux.
The big losers on the prologue were current championship leaders Duncan Vos and Rob Howie in the second Castrol Toyota Hilux. A puncture put them on the back foot and they trailed in 11th in the Production vehicle category and 23rd on the road.
Vos and Howie were nearly 10 minutes behind Taylor and Birkin and will have a tough job on their hands. The pair have, however, shown an ability in the past to turn bad prologue results into a good race result.
It was a family affair in Class D where Louis Weichelt and Francis Boersma edged out Cliff Weichelt and Johan Smalberger with both teams out in N1 4×4 Toyota Land Cruisers. The Weichelts came in ahead of reigning champions Deon Venter and Ian palmer in the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux with championship leaders Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen fourth in a Land Rover.
Only 30 seconds separated the first three cars in Class E. Championship leaders Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens (Sizwe Toyota Hilux) were just over a minute ahead of teenagers Jason Venter and Vincent van Alleman in the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux. With only 1,5 points between the two crews in the championship there is plenty of pressure on both crews.
Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service point are all at the Carnival City complex in Brakpan. Public entry to these areas, as well as spectator areas within close proximity of Carnival City, is free of charge.