Rustenburg crew Willem Vos and Werner Weiss produced the shock of the season when they won the Atlas Copco Gold 400, the final round of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship.
Making only their second appearance of the season in the Vossies BMW X3, the pair also overcame a five minute penalty – for a qualifying race start infringement – to complete an unlikely win. Vos and Weiss eventually held a one minute 39 second advantage over newly crowned South African champions Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy in the factory Team Castrol Toyota Hilux.
“It was totally unexpected, but it feels great,” said winner Vos at the finish. “We were a bit disappointed with the penalty, but just drove our own race and it all fell into place.”
Taylor and Murphy, who clinched the title last time out, had an adventurous day. They completed the first of the two 170 loops that made up the race without a windscreen, and were then hampered by a puncture.
“We were also held up by one of the Special Vehicles which did not help,” said Taylor. “It was a tough weekend.”
The podium was completed by the Atlas Copco Nissan Navara pair of Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau. It was their first podium finish in the Navara after finishing second on the Nkomazi 400 in a Toyota Hilux earlier in the season.
Fourth and fifth went to outgoing South African champions Duncan Vos and Rob Howie, in the second factory Team Castrol Toyota Hilux, and Deon Venter/Ian Palmer (Trysome Toyota Hilux) who produced their best result of the season. For multiple champion Vos it was a disappointing end to what is likely to have been his last race for the Toyota team.
When Vos/Howie led at the halfway stage it looked as though Vos’s Toyota career would end on a high. On the second loop, however, the pair were hit by two punctures.
“We went from there to here,” said a laconic Howie pointing to the Vos/Weiss BMW, the Taylor/Murphy Toyota and the Bertholdt/Rousseau Nissan and the second Hilux lined up in finish order in the post race Parc Ferme.
There was further disappointment for Vos/Howie and the Team Castrol Toyota squad when Ford Racing pair Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst fought a rearguard action to finish sixth. It was enough to give Visser/Badenhorst second in the overall championship ahead of Vos and Howie – although the Ford crew missed out on an eighth successive podium finish.
A faultless drive took Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser) into the top eight. Their only problem en route to a fourth win this season was a single puncture on the first loop.
The Horns came in comfortably ahead of Dana Vos and Hendrik de Kock in the Vossies Toyota Hilux with former champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen third in the LMC Land Rover Defender. The win, however, was not enough to give the Horns the Class D title ahead of Jason Venter and Vincent van Allermann (Trysome Toyota Hilux) who wrapped up the title on the previous event.
Down in Class E there was a maiden national win for Toyota Hilux pair Johan Pretorius and Gesina Dauth. In only their fourth event the pair came home ahead of Douglas Fear and Kurt de Villiers, who were looking for a fourth win this season, in the Brytons Removals Toyota Hilux.
The Class E championship was settled earlier in the season with Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens taking back to back titles in a Ford ranger.