SPECIAL VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP HEADS FOR A TENSE FINALE
Thaba ‘Nchu, Saturday – Reigning South African champions Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen took a huge step towards winning back to back Special Vehicle category titles when they won the Ford Dealer 400, penultimate round of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, which ended here today.
On a dramatic day that saw race officials twice have to hurriedly think on their feet and revise the route because of bush fires, Hutchison and Stassen (Motorite BAT Viper) leapfrogged all their closest rivals to open up a precious 12,5 point lead at the top of the championship. There was more drama, this time in the boardroom, when Democratic Republic of the Congo brothers Eduardo and Roberto Argazzi (Zarco) were bumped off the podium after being penalised 10 minutes for not stopping at a road crossing.
That dropped the Congo pair down to sixth place and robbed them of their best finish ever in the Donaldson Cross Country Championship. With a host of more fancied championship challengers falling by the wayside it also elevated Neil Meyer and Phillip Smith (Maxxis/LiquiMoly/Rockstar Zarco Challenger) into second place for their best ever finish.
The Argazzi relegation also moved Philip de Vries and Johan Viljoen (Conqueror Porter) into a maiden podium finish and saw them join what is going to be a tense championship finish at the final event of the year. KwaZulu-Natal pair Daniel Brookes and Gavan Grey (Ducatus Properties BAT) and brothers Daniel and Louw Zeelie (Maxxis/LiquiMoly/Rockstar Porter) also moved ahead of the unfortunate Argazzis.
Three of the crews who started the day level or ahead of Hutchison/Stassen in the overall and Class A championships fell by the wayside. Championship leaders Clint Gibson/Gary Campbell (Dirt Sport Components Porter), Hermann and Wichard Sullwald (Elegant Fuel Stryker) and Quintin and Kallie Sullwald (Elegant Fuel BAT) all dropped out of the race with problems of one kind or another on a tight, technical and very rocky route.
“This championship has taken some crazy turns,” said Hutchison. “Last time out on the Vryburg 400 it was us who were in a group of non finishers, and now the wheel has turned.“It was a tough event and we are in for a nervous finish to the season.”
Hutchison and Stassen totally dominated throughout the weekend. They won a shortened qualifying race and eventually came home with six minutes to spare over Meyer and Smith, with de Vries and Viljoen around three minutes further back with the pair quietly working their way into championship contention.
A trademark steady run saw Brookes and Gray finally finish 38 seconds adrift of de Vries and Viljoen with Brookes/Gray enjoying a 16 second cushion ahead of the Zeelie brothers. They were followed in the results by the Argazzis and former Class B champion Derick du Toit, in his first start in three years, and teenager Sean van Staden in a BAT.
Completing the top eight were Coetzee Labuscagne and daughter Sandra (Chem Systems Zarco) who also took the Class P honours. Second and third in class were the father/son combination of Tony and Michael Gouveia (Force Fuel BAT) and Colin Matthews and Rodney Burke in the Century Racing CR3.
For Matthews 11th overall and third in class was an important result, and kept alive a mathematical chance in the overall driver’s championship and helped him close the gap on John Thomson in the Class P stakes. Class title leaders Thomson and Maurice Zermatten (Zarco) were among the non finishers and will also approach the final event with a degree of nervous tension.
KwaZulu-Natal crew James Watson and John Thompson (BAT), who earned a free entry into this event, took full advantage of their good fortune. They won Class B ahead of fellow KZN crew Grant Watkins and Jeffrey Guscott in a Zarco.
The final event of the season will be the Atlas Copco 400 in Westonaria on November 22 and 23.