Malalane, Saturday – Former South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst made it two in a row for Ford Racing in the Production Vehicle category when they won the Nkomazi 400, round two of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, which ended here today.
Victory also moved Visser and Badenhorst, in the factory Ford Racing Ranger, into first place in the championship after their second place behind team-mates Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable on the RFS 400 which opened the season. Woolridge and Huxtable were among the retirements today with electrical problems at the halfway stage of what was a new event on the Donaldson calendar.
The Atlas Copco camp were also in celebratory mood after Gary Berthold and Siegfried Rousseau, in a Toyota Hilux, came in second ahead of the factory Team Castrol Toyota Hilux entries of South African champions Duncan Vos and Rob Howie and Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy. Bertholdt was treated by race medics for dehydration after the Friday prologue to determine race start positions, and said he was still not feeling 100 percent.
Visser and Badenhorst, who started a minute and 40 seconds behind Friday prologue winners Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren (RFS BMW X3) eventually finished a minute and 43 seconds ahead of Bertholdt and Rousseau. The unfortunate du Plooy and Janse van Vuuren hit a mud patch shortly before the compulsory 15 minute halfway stop and rolled out of the event.
“Everything fell into place for us today,” said Visser. “The car was perfect and we hardly made a mistake during what was a physically tough race on a very demanding route.
“Losing Lance and Ward at the halfway stage was a disappointment for the team, but it has been a great start to the season for Ford Racing.”
After a hectic battle on the second loop Bertholdt and Rousseau eventually finished 34 seconds ahead of Vos and Howie. Taylor and Murphy were a further two minutes and 51 seconds in arrears, with Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson giving the Atlas Copco team a second top five finish in another Toyota Hilux.
But perhaps the drive of the day came from North West crew Malcolm Kock and Johann Burger, in the Kock and Son Toyota Hilux, who started 21st among the Production Vehicles after a troubled prologue. They then scythed their way through the field to finish sixth.
Not far behind them in the hero stakes were Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling, in the Ruwacon Racing Ford Ranger, who were seventh after starting in 18th place. The Free State crew edged out Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson, who started the day in fifth place, by only 12 seconds.
A second Class D win in a row also brought youngsters Jason Venter and Vincent van Allemann a top 10 finish in the Trysome Toyota Hilux, with the top 10 rounded out by former SA champion Archie Rutherford and celebrity co-driver Roxy Louw in the Imperial Automotive Nissan Navara. Louw is the daughter of former rugby Springbok Rob Louw and is an international surfing star, model and TV actress.
Venter and van Allemann took Class D by a wide margin from former champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen in the LMC Land Rover. Young Venter and van Allemann took control when local favourites Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser), who won the prologue, were early casualties with a broken clutch.
A ninth win in 10 events saw Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens continue their domination of Class E. The pair last season won seven of eight events in a Toyota Hilux, and this season have won twice in a row in the ex factory Ford Ranger which in a long career has a number of national titles to its credit.