Malalane, Saturday – Century Racing crew Colin Matthews and Alan Smith carved themselves a little niche in South African motorsport history when they won the Nkomazi 400, round two of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, which ended here today.
Victory in the Special Vehicle category saw Matthews and Smith, in the Century Racing CR3, become the first Class P crew to score three overall victories in the national championship. The win also rounded off a near perfect weekend for the pair who also won the Friday prologue to determine race start positions.
The only blemish came when a puncture within sight of the designated service park at the end of the first of two 160 kilometre loops that made up the race, dropped them to second place behind RFS 400 winners Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell in the DirtSport Components Porter. After the 15 minute compulsory service halt it was then Gibson and Campbell who were hit by a puncture which dropped them down to fourth place at the finish.
Gibson and Campbell were first passed by Matthews/Smith and the Elegant Fuel Porter of Hermann and Wichard Sullwald, who finished the race on a wing and a prayer after gearbox problems and “funny noises” from the car. The unfortunate Gibson and Campbell were then “caught napping” in a forest section by Quintin and Kallie Sullwald, in the Elegant Fuel BAT Venom, with the younger Sullwald scoring his second podium since taking over driving duties from his father.
“We were only 18 kilometres into the second loop when we had the puncture,” said Campbell. “It was frustrating watching the others go past, but after an issue like that it is almost impossible to make up lost ground.”
The flamboyant Matthews could not resist celebrating victory with a flourish. An expansive doughnut sprayed a huge and appreciative crowd with a layer of red dust.
“That was not an easy race to win,” said Matthews after the dust had settled on what was a new event on the Donaldson Cross Country Championship calendar.
“The route was superb but you had to work hard”, he said
“The puncture was unfortunate, but once we were back in the lead we knew all we had to do was keep the car on the road.”
Gibson and Campbell were followed home by the Motorite BAT Venoms of father and son Nick and Ryan Harper and reigning champions Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen with both crews put through the mill. The younger Harper suffered from motion sickness and fatigue, while Hutchison and Stassen were hit with gear selection and other minor mechanical niggles.
Glenn Gibson and Clint Brook (DirtSport Components BAT) completed a satisfactory day for the Gibson family and the KwaZulu-Natal contingent with seventh overall ahead of another father and son combination in Tony and Michael Gouveia, in the Force Fuel BAT. Brothers Daniel and Louw Zeelie (Maxxis Porter) and veteran Rob Wark and Jeremy Wood (K9 Racing Aceco) rounded out the top 10.
As was to be expected Matthews and Smith won Class P by a huge margin from the Gouveias who last season dominated the Northern Regions championship. Wark also proved there is life in an old dog with the veteran and Jeremy Wood clinching a podium place ahead of RFS 400 winners John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten in a Zarco Magnum.