Mooi River, Saturday – A combination of experience and youthful exuberance combined to score a stunning Special Vehicle category victory on the Toyota Dealer 450, round two of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, which ended here today.
The experience came from Gerhard du Plessis, a seasoned campaigner, and the youthful exuberance was supplied by his 17-year-old son Hardus – with the pair campaigning an ageing Jimco which first raced in South Africa in 2000. All the maths added up to a comprehensive victory for the North West pair, who took complete charge of the Special Vehicle category on the second of the two loops that made up the route.
The winning margin was a whopping 29 minutes and 25 seconds with the du Plessis pair coming in ahead of KwaZulu-Natal crew Daniel Brookes and Gavan Gray in the Ducatis BAT, who scored their best finish on a national event. On a challenging route that took its toll on the Special Vehicles there was a gap of around 30 minutes between Brookes/Gray, and third placed Derick du Toit and Craig Gray (CRC BAT) who started from the back of the field after a disastrous qualifying race that determined start positions.
“It was a difficult route with plenty of places where you could run into trouble,” said du Plessis senior. “We hit a few rocks with no damage so luck was on our side, and the youngster also did a great job.”
The youngster, in only his second event, found himself on the podium for the second race in a row and was totally casual about it all.
“The GPS worked and we never got lost,” he shrugged. “I enjoyed myself while my dad did most of the work.”
The du Plessis family was back in business when brother and uncle Laurence, sharing a Zarco with teenager Adriaan Roets, came home in fourth place. The next three cars were all Class P runners with reigning champions John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten, in a Zarco Magnum, bouncing back to win the category after a disappointing fourth on the opening event of the season.
Thomson/Zermatten were followed home by KwaZulu-Natal pair James Watson and John Thompson (BAT) who won the qualifying race that determined grid positions. Next up were Jeremy Wood and Greg Higgins (K9 Racing Aceco) who also started from the back of the field after qualifying race woes.
The last of the 10 Special Vehicle crews classified as finishers were Class A pair Brett Parker and VJ van Zyl who survived a roll in the Sizanani Plastics Jimco, veteran Nic Goslar/Gerhard Niemandt (SA Clinics Zarco) and Coetzee and Sandra Labuscagne in the Chemsystems Zarco. Goslar/Niemandt and the Labuscagnes were also out in Class P machinery.
It was not a happy event for some of the more fancied Special Vehicle and Class A championship contenders. RFS 450 winners Quintin and Kallie Sullwald (Elegant Fuel BAT Venom) were sidelined with a broken gearbox, and a run of poor results continued for Hermann and Wichard Sullwald (Elegant Fuel Stryker) and saw them go out with drive shaft problems.
A broken gearbox also put paid to reigning South African champions Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen (Motorite BAT Viper) who went out on the first of the two loops. Two KZN teams who were in the hunt at the half way point – Clint Gibson/Gary Campbell (Dirt Sport Component Porter) and Lance Trethewey/Geoff Minnitt (LTE BAT Venom) were hit by second loop problems and neither crew saw out the distance.
The next event on the Donaldson Cross Country Championship calendar is the Nkomazi 450, in Malalane Mpumalanga, on May 16 and 17.