Sullwalds make solid start to Special Vehicle Championship
It was a victory that might have had a touch of good fortune about it, but for Quintin Sullwald and father Kallie the Special Vehicle category victory on the RFS 450, round one of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, was just the start to the season for which they would have hoped.
The Elegant Fuel BAT Venom pair edged out reigning South African champions Evan Hutchison (Motorite BAT Venom) and an exciting duel that stretched across both the qualifying race and the main event. A puncture 40 kilometres from the finish eventually handed the win to the Sullwalds, who were also a little worried about an alternator warning light that started flashing shortly before the end of the race.
Both teams were happy with results that represent a solid start to the season. Early indications are that the Sullwalds and Hutchison/Stassen will be there or thereabouts come time to tot up points at the end of the season.
A fine performance saw veteran Gerhard du Plessis and his 17-year-old son, Gerhardus, on his debut, complete the podium and move into third in the overall and Class A championships in an ageing Jimco. Du Plessis senior did not race last season, and for many it might have represented a surprise result.
That view was scotched afterwards by Hutchison.
“No way was that a surprise,” he said. “Gerhard is a dynamite driver and the Jimco might be an old car, but all the bits and pieces work and it is always well prepared.
“If they race regularly they will be factor in the championship.”
The other standout Class A performance came from newcomers Arthur Barnes and Anthony Usher in another of the BAT Venom entries. The KwaZulu-Natal crew came up with an impressive display that took them into fourth place, and it was a result that provides them with plenty of confidence for the remainder of the campaign.
It was also a solid start to the season for the husband and wife pairing of Marius and Jolinda Fourie (PHB BAT), and a second KZN crew in Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell in the Dirt Sport Components Porter. Gibson and Campbell were among the championship frontrunners throughout last season, and there was nothing to suggest they and the Fouries will be left out in the cold this time around.
The colourful Jimmy Zahos and Alan Smith again showed there is plenty of potential to come from the Cobalt Racing Stryker. After a troubled qualifying race they fought back well, and could in future trouble the more fancied teams.
Another workmanlike performance gave John Telford and Andrew Makenete (Calcamite/Rhino tanks BAT) the early lead in the Class P championship. Also in recovery mode were veteran Rob Wark, who will share driving duties with Jeremy Woods throughout the season, and Ashley Thorn who finished second in the K9 Racing Aceco after a traumatic qualifying race.
Newcomers Frikkie Botha and Koos Visser, in a BAT, made a solid start to national championship racing by finishing on the podium ahead of reigning champions John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten in a Zarco Magnum. For Swaziland based Thomson and Zermatten it was a troubled start to the season and they will be looking to bounce back in round two of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship.
After the RFS 450 switched from outside Krugersdorp to Harrismith, the second race in the series will also break new ground for Donaldson competitors. The Toyota Dealer 450 moves to Mooi River in KwaZulu-Natal on April 4 and 5, and for the second time competitors will have to deal with virgin territory.