Matthews and Smith set pace on Dakar Challenge
information supplied by: Cross Country Commission (Media)
22 June 2012
MATTHEWS/SMITH SET THE PACE ON DAKAR CHALLENGE
Gaborone, Friday – Special Vehicle pair Colin Matthews and Alan Smith struck the first blow on the Dakar Challenge which started here today.
The Dakar Challenge is a race within a race and is being run in conjunction with the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race which is round four of the Absa Off Road Championship. The winners will earn a free entry into next year’s Dakar Rally in South America, with the Botswana event one of four races worldwide counting towards the Dakar Challenge.
In a departure from the norm in the Absa series Special Vehicle competitors will be racing against their Production Vehicle counterparts. In the Absa championship the Special and Production Vehicle categories are scored separately.
After today’s Donaldson Prologue to decide grid positions for racing section one of the Toyota 1000 Desert Race tomorrow, Matthews and Smith, in the Century Racing CR3, eked out a nine second advantage over former South African champion Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen in the Motorite BAT Venom. Both Matthews/Smith and Hutchison/Stassen compete in the Special Vehicle category in the Absa series.
Pretoria crew Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren (RFS BMW X3) were the first of the Production Vehicle entrants. They were 28 second behind Hutchison/Stassen but had only four seconds to spare over fellow Production Vehicle competitors Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr in the Barden Tyre Services Nissan Navara.
“With high stakes in the Absa series and a rich reward in the Dakar Challenge crews are faced with interesting choices,” said Hutchison. “The most important factor is to make it to the finish on Sunday.
“There are two racing sections tomorrow and two more on Sunday, so we will be taking it stage by stage.”
The top five were completed by the husband and wife team of Marius and Jolinda Fourie in the PHB BAT. The Special Vehicle crew were only 12 seconds behind Rundle and Mohr, and with less than a minute separating the top five crews some interesting duels are likely to unfold as racing section one wears on.
Tomorrow’s first racing section starts at Kumakwane, on the outskirts of Gaborone, at 08:00. The section will be run over two laps with a compulsory 20-minute stop at Kumakwane at the end of the first loop.
For a pair of fancied crews the Dakar Rally dream ended in disappointment. Both Gary Bertholdt/Siegfried Rousseau (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) and Malcolm Kock/Johann Burger (Kock and Sons Toyota Hilux) were blown out of the water via mechanical gremlins that saw them fail to finish the 60 kilometre prologue.
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