There were mixed fortunes today for Production Vehicle title challengers on the Donaldson Prologue to determine grid positions for tomorrow’s RFS Magalies 400 at Tarlton International Raceway.

Ford Ranger Off-Road

The race is the final round of the Absa Off Road Championship and with just 10,5 points separating six crews the season is headed for an exciting finale. A seventh crew also has a mathematical chance of sneaking the title, and adding to the potential for drama was the fact that three of the title contenders finished out of the top 10 on the 60 kilometre prologue.

Duncan Vos and Rob Howie (Team Castrol Toyota Hilux) were 11th, Terence Marsh and George Smalberger (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) were 16th and Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr (Barden Tyre Services Nissan Navara) were 17th. Vos/Howie were hit by a puncture, Marsh/Smalberger rolled two kilometres into the route and Rundle/Mohr encountered fuel pressure problems.

There was better news for the other title contenders. Championship leaders Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Team Ford Ranger TDCi) were second behind prologue winners Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus, Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (International Toyota Hilux) were fourth and Mike Whitehouse/Mathew Carlson (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) and Malcolm Kock/Johann Burger (Kock and Sons Toyota Hilux) sixth and seventh.

Only 15 seconds separated Labuschagne/Erasmus, in the Ruwacon Toyota Hilux, and reigning champions Visser and Badenhorst. Third placed Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin, in the second Team Castrol Toyota Hilux, were another 20 seconds adrift with veterans Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege slotting into fifth place in the RFS BMW X3 now fitted with a V8 petrol engine.

Apart from the difference in start times the big problem for Vos/Howie, Marsh/Smalberger and Rundle/Mohr is where they will start on the road, with the Production Vehicle brigade vying for grid positions in the Special Vehicle category. Vos/Howie will start 26th on the road and Marsh/Smalberger 42nd and Rundle/Mohr 47th and all three crews face uphill battles in working their way through the field.

“We are exactly where we wanted to be,” said championship leader Chris Visser. “The car was good but this is a tough and rocky route with plenty of lurkers.

“You need to be on top of your game throughout the race and it is going to be a tough day with plenty of pressure.”

Outgoing champions Deon Venter and Ian Palmer (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) were eighth overall and led the Class D brigade. They were followed by Louis Weichelt and Francis Boersma and Cliff Weichelt and Johan Smalberger with both crews out in N1 4×4 Toyota Land Cruiser entries.

Class E honours went to Dirk Putter and Koos Claassens (Zizwe Toyota Hilux) ahead of rookie season teenagers Jason Venter and Vincent van Alleman in the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux. Third were Diederik Hattingh, who leads Putter by a narrow margin in the drivers’ championship, and Buks Cilliers in the Transcor Toyota Hilux.

Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service park are all situated at Tarlton International Raceway with public access to these areas free of charge. Public entry to spectator points along the route is also free with the race starting at 8:30.