Pietermaritzburg, Saturday – Century Racing pair Colin Matthews and Alan Smith continued their 2012 revival when they cruised to victory in the Special Vehicle category on the Atlas Copco Timbertrack 400, round three of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended in Richmond today.
In the process Matthews and Smith (Century Racing CR3) became the first Class P crew to score two overall victories on Absa national championship events. The pair won the Adenco 400 in the Western Cape last season – their only finish in eight events – and today’s victory was their third Class P success in three outings this season.
Matthews and Smith came home three minutes and 11 seconds ahead of the husband and wife team of Marius and Jolinda Fourie, in the PHB BAT, who were first in Class A. The final podium place went to reigning South African champions Hermann and Wichard Sullwald (Elegant Fuel BAT) who staged a fight back after starting 10th among the Special Vehicles.
“It was slippery and there was bad fog at the top of the mountains,” said Sullwald senior. “We took a no risk approach and were happy to take the points.”
With the race run in cold conditions sporadic rain and mist in mountain sections forced race officials to cut a chunk out of the second of the two 175 kilometre loops that made up the race. “The conditions were increasingly hazardous and the decision to cut the route was taken for safety reasons,” said clerk of the course Rex Boreham.
“A time factor for backmarkers and those with mechanical problems was also taken into consideration.”
Apart from banking their second overall victory, Matthews and Smith clinched a second overall podium finish this season. They were also on the podium after finishing third overall on the RFS Magalies 400 at the start of the season, with a reputation of being only Donaldson Prologue specialists is dead and buried.
“The tight track and slippery conditions gave us an edge over the more powerful Class A cars,” said a delighted Matthews. “Winning the Donaldson Prologue on Friday and a trouble free run in the race has made for the perfect weekend.
“The switch in our fortunes compared with last year has been amazing and hopefully we can keep the momentum going over the rest of the season.”
For the Fourie’s, who are among the small band of Class P crews to have won a national off road event overall, it was their first Class A win. The pair moved into the premier Class A at the start of the season.
“It was a difficult race for us but the result was good and we enjoyed ourselves,” said Fourie. “The route and the conditions were tough enough but I also suffered from spells of motion sickness.”
Fourth place went to Wolmarransstad brothers Laurence and Gerhard du Plessis (Zarco Magnum) with local pair Lance Trethewey and Carl Wichmann (LT Earthmovers BAT) a steady fifth. Motorite team-mates Nick and Ryan Harper (Revo 4×4) and Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen (BAT Venom), who started from the back of the grid after prologue problems, were next up with John Telford and Jaco Swart completing the top eight.
Telford and Swart, in the Calcamite BAT, were second in Class P but were around an hour behind Matthews and Smith. There was another big gap between Telford/Swart and former Blue Bulls rugby player Coetzee Labuscagne and daughter Sandra in the Raysonics Zarco.
Championship leaders Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson (Atlas Copco BAT) were sandwiched between Telford/Swart and the Labuscagnes after a troubled second loop. A litany of problems gradually dropped van Staden/Lawrenson down the order but ninth overall and seventh in class rescued championship points.
The next event in the Absa Off Road Championship is the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, the only marathon race on the calendar, in Botswana from June 22 to 24.