Pietermaritzburg, Saturday – Former South African champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie scored their second win in a row when they dominated the Production Vehicle category on the Atlas Copco Timbertrack 400, round three of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended in Richmond this afternoon.
Vos and Howie, in the Team Castrol Toyota Hilux, started behind team-mates Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin who lost a couple of places with an early puncture. That put Vos and Howie into a lead they were never to relinquish, and the win saw them tighten their hold on the overall and premier Class SP championships.
“It was a very difficult race with a tough route and tricky conditions,” said Vos. “We had no problems and were able to control matters from the front, but on this route you could not afford the slightest mistake.
“It was tight and slippery and the slightest lapse in concentration was going to cost you.”
In cold conditions with intermittent drizzle and mist making life difficult for competitors race officials cut out a large portion of the second of the two 175 kilometre loops that made up the race. “The drizzle and mist forced us to cut out a section of the route for safety reasons,” said clerk of the course Rex Boreham.
“A time factor that affected backmarkers and crews who ran into mechanical difficulties also influenced the decision.”
Vos and Howie finished 22 minutes ahead of Gary Bertholdt and Ralph Pitchford, in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux, who edged out local favourite Alfie Cox and German co-driver Jurgen Schroder in the PS Laser Nissan Navara. Cox and Schroder led the Atlas Copco crew at the end of the first lap, and were then delayed by a puncture on the second loop.
Taylor and Birkin eventually came home fourth ahead of the RFS BMW X3 of veteran former SA champion Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege. Taylor was not feeling well at the start of the race while Grobler and ter Stege produced another of their workmanlike performances to gather in valuable points.
Grobler and ter Stege were followed by RFS team-mates Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren who edged out reigning South African champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (International Truck Toyota Hilux) who scored their first points of the season. Next up were Free Staters Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling, in the Ruwacon Ford Ranger, who edged out former champions Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst in the Team Ford Ranger.
For the second race in a row the Ford pair had to mount a rearguard action to rescue championship points. Behind the top 10 was completed by Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson (Regent Racing Nissan Navara) who were having their second outing of the season.
There were surprises in Classes D and E where double winners this season both had to take a backseat. Class D went to Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser) who sneaked in ahead of Cliff Weichelt and Johan Smalberger in a N1 4×4 Toyota Land Cruiser.
A spate of punctures hampered Weichelt/Smalberger who finished nearly an hour behind the Horns. Third were reigning champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen (LMC Land Rover) who are again showing the sort of consistency that took them to last year’s Class D title.
Local crew Rowan Lamb and Lyle Parker (Ford Ranger) scored a maiden Class E win ahead of Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens (Toyota Hilux) who went into the race on the back of two wins. Second loop problems hit the Toyota crew with Johan Griffioen and Willem Marais (Force Fuel Toyota Hilux) scoring their first points of the