Sun City, Saturday – Pretoria youngsters Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse Vuuren confirmed their status as stars of the future when they scored a maiden Production Vehicle national championship victory on the Sun City 400, round five of the Absa Off Road Championship, here today.
In a perfect weekend for the RFS BMW X3 pair they also won the Donaldson Prologue which determined grid positions for the race. Du Plooy and Janse van Vuuren came home just over two minutes ahead of Team Castrol Toyota Hilux pair Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin to add to their third place on the Toyota Desert Race.
“It is an awesome feeling,” said du Plooy. “It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it was a trouble free weekend for us.”
There was also a first podium finish for Ruwacon Ford Ranger crew Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling. De Bruyn is a former Special Vehicle category champion but this was his first Production Vehicle category podium finish.
There was late drama, however, when championship leaders Duncan Vos and Rob Howie, in the second Team Castrol Toyota, were penalised 15 minutes for a designated service park transgression at the end of the first of the two 175 kilometre loops that made up the race.
The incident dropped Vos and Howie down to seventh place. The penalty also put an end to a run of three wins in a row for the Castrol Toyota crew.
It also saw du Plooy/Janse van Vuuren and Taylor/Birkin make inroads into what had been a comfortable championship lead for Vos and Howie. Going into the race Vos and Howie held a 33 point lead over Taylor and Birkin.
Taylor and Birkin were hit by a puncture on the second loop, but du Plooy and Janse van Vuuren effectively won the race on the Friday prologue. On a tight and dusty route running at the front of the field was a huge advantage for the RFS crew.
“We were chasing hard, but the puncture was a killer blow for us,” said Taylor.
Fourth placed Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, in the Ford Racing Ranger, also benefitted from the penalty dished out to Vos and Howie. They finished comfortably clear of Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) who overcame an overnight five minute penalty which dropped them way down the start order to force their way into the top five.
A steady run took Mike Whitehouse and Matthew Carlson, in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara, ahead of Vos and Howie. The top eight was rounded out by Louis Weichelt and Maret Bezuidenhout who produced a great result that also saw them score their second Class D win in a row in the N1 4×4 Toyota Land Cruiser.
In what was a tight finish Weichelt and Bezuidenhout were only 19 seconds clear of Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn in the Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser. Despite their first non finish of the year Weichelt’s father Cliff and Johann Smalberger, in the second N1 4×4 Toyota Land Cruiser, stay ahead in the Class D championship race.
Third place went to reigning Class D champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen in the LMC Land Rover. It was their 14 th finish in 15 starts.
Down in Class E there was another comfortable win for championship leaders Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens in the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux. They were more than half an hour clear of KwaZulu-Natal crew Rowan Lamb and Lyle Parker, in the ex factory Ford Ranger, who were well clear of Diederik Hattingh and debutant Kobus Kruger in the Transcor Toyota Hilux.
For Putter and Claasens it was their fourth win in five events.