Malalane, Friday – Pretoria crew Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren, in the RFS BMW X3, blitzed the rest of the Production Vehicle today to romp to victory in the Nkomazi 400 prologue.
The win means du Plooy and Janse van Vuuren will start a minute and 40 seconds ahead of former South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Ford Racing Ranger) in what is round two of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship. The event is a new one of the championship calendar and a tight and rocky route made the crews work hard for their results on the 60 kilometre prologue that determined race start positions.
“It was very tight and technical but this is the sort of route that suits us,” said du Plooy. “Starting first provides us with an edge, and hopefully we will have another good run in the race.”
Visser and Badenhorst were troubled by an intermittent misfire and sneaked home nine seconds ahead of Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux. “It was hectic,” said Bertholdt who afterwards was treated by medics after suffering from motion sickness.
Fourth place went to reigning South African champions Duncan Vos and Rob Howie in the first of the factory Team Castrol Toyota Hilux entries. A puncture was their only problem with Vos commenting that passing slower cars would be a problem during the race.
An encouraging performance saw Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson, in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara, complete the top five. They were 23 seconds behind Vos and Howie and came home 16 seconds ahead of RFS 400 winners Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable in the second of the factory Ford Racing Rangers.
Woolridge and Huxtable were comfortably clear of Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy in the second of the Team Castrol Toyota Hilux entries. Taylor and Murphy, like Vos and Howie, were hampered by a puncture and lost extra time finding a level piece of road on which to change the wheel.
The Team Castrol Toyota had plenty in hand over Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr, in another Regent Racing Nissan Navara, who ran into clutch problems from the start of the prologue. Just over a minute behind Rundle/Mohr were former SA champion Archie Rutherford and celebrity co-driver international model, film, TV and surfing star Roxy Louw, who grabbed a top 10 finish in the Imperial Automotive Nissan Navara.
“Roxy was cool and calm,” said Rutherford while Louw said the experience “exceeded my expectations.” Previous celebrity co-drivers who have sat alongside Rutherford include cricketers Fanie de Villiers and Jonty Rhodes, rugby Springbok Stefan Terblanche and Paralympics swimming legend Natalie du Toit.
The final top 10 placing went to Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson in a second Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux. The pair, who competed in this year’s Dakar Rally, reported a clean run.
There was plenty to shout about for local crew Johan and Werner Horn, in the Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser, who took a narrow Class D win ahead of RFS 400 winners Jason Venter and Vincent van Allemann in the Trysome Toyota Hilux. Only 13 seconds separated the crews with an interesting race battle on the cards.
Class E honours went to reigning champions Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens now campaigning a Ford Ranger that has a long history. A superb performance saw Putter and Claasens finish ahead of the Horns and Venter/van Allemann.
Tomorrow’s race starts at 08:30 at the Riverview Preparatory School near Malalane. Public entrance to the start and designated service point at the school is free.