FORD RACING CREW STAY TOP OF PRODUCTION VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP
The Ford Racing factory crew of Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst maintained their early grip on the Production Vehicle championship with a close second place on the recent Toyota Dealer Sugarbelt 400, round three of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, in KwaZulu-Natal.
Former champions Visser and Badenhorst now have a win and two seconds to their credit in a great start to the season, and head for the Toyota 1000 Kalahari Botswana Desert Race in June with a 15 point cushion over Team Castrol Toyota Hilux pair Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy. However, the Botswana outing is the only marathon event on the Donaldson calendar and, carrying points and a half, could see some significant changes in the overall and class championships.
Taylor and Murphy gave the Team Castrol Toyota squad their first victory of the season in KZN with a narrow win over Visser and Badenhorst with 39 seconds separating the two teams at the finish. Murphy has replaced veteran Chris Birkin in the Team Castrol Toyota squad, and it was his maiden victory at national level.
North West privateers Malcolm Kock and Johan Burger (Kock and Sons Toyota Hilux) have also made a tremendous start to the season and lie third in the overall championship – albeit by a single point. Breathing down their necks are reigning champions Duncan Vos and Rob Howie, in the second works Castrol Toyota Hilux, who finished third behind Taylor/Murphy and Visser/Badenhorst on the Toyota Dealer Sugarbelt 400.
Although they were classified as non finishers in KZN the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux pair of Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau hold onto fifth place in the championship. They have a four point lead over Atlas Copco team-mates Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson who have made a steady start to their Production Vehicle campaign.
In the premier SP Class the top five remain the same. The KZN event, however, pointed towards the Ford and Toyota works teams flexing their muscles and the Botswana visit is going to be loaded with interest.
The Toyota Dealer Sugarbelt 400 also saw a change in the Class D pecking order with reliability experts Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen (LMC Land Rover) moving into an 11 point lead over North West youngsters Jason Venter and Vincent van Allemann in the Trysome Toyota Hilux. The Oosthuizens survived a roll to finish in the points for the third time this season while Venter and van Allemann, after two wins in a row, were among the non finishers.
Another reliability record, however, came to an end in KZN. Reigning Class E champions Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) suffered their first non finish in 16 starts with fuel pump problems plaguing them throughout the weekend.
The demise of Putter/Claasens saw Douglas Fear/Kurt de Villiers take the Class E honours in the Brytons Removals Toyota Hilux. It gave the pair a maiden national championship win.