Factory Teams throw down the gauntlet
information supplied by: Cross Country Commission (Media)
01 March 2014
FACTORY TEAMS THROW DOWN PRODUCTION VEHICLE GAUNTLET
Harrismith, Friday – It did not take the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux and Atlas Copco Ford Ranger teams long to throw down the gauntlet in the Production Vehicle category of this year’s Donaldson Cross Country Championship.
The two teams won seven of last season’s eight events, and filled three of the first five places in today’s qualifying race for the RFS 450, the opening round of the national series, here tomorrow. Reigning champions Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy, in the first of the Castrol Toyota Hilux runners, eked out a 19 second margin over veteran former South African champion Manfred Schroder and Japie Badenhorst in the lead Atlas Copco Ford Ranger.
It was a sterling effort from Ford stalwart Schroder who has not raced nationally for a number of seasons. Schroder was also making his debut in one of the Dakar Rally spec cars with V8 power and independent rear suspension.
The premier Class SP category has this season been split into two classes. Class T caters for cars of over four litres with solid axle or independent rear suspension, while Class S is for vehicles under four litres with solid axle rear suspension.
Schroder and Badenhorst were 20 seconds ahead of new Atlas Copco Ford Ranger works pair Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau. With backing from Atlas Copco for both Ford Racing works cars, Bertholdt and Rousseau replace Lance Woolridge, who is out for the season after back surgery, and Ward Huxtable.
With the RFS 450 based near Krugersdorp in recent seasons the move to Harrismith left competitors with little idea of what the 100 kilometre route had to offer. At the end of the day most competitors were full of praise for a course that had a little of everything.
“No one knew what to expect but it turned out to be a tough and interesting route,” said Taylor. “It was difficult for the navigators and we made too many mistakes, but if you had offered us a 19 second cushion before the race we would probably have taken it.”
Behind the leading trio there was plenty to shout about for local businessman Kobus van Tonder and son-in-law Freddie Kriel in the UniFreight Ford Ranger. They pulled something special out of the bag to come home fourth ahead of Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie in the second of the works Castrol Toyota Hilux entries.
Next up were Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson in a debut for the Atlas Copco Nissan Navara, former champions Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (RFS Toyota Hilux) and Regent Racing Nissan Navara pair Mike Whitehouse and debutant George Myburgh. Visser and le Roux lost time and damaged the Toyota while trying to help Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux pair Sarel van Biljon and Phillip Herselman out of a mud hole.
Piet Kotze and Salomon Victor (Toyota Hilux) were the first of the Class S contingent in 10th overall among the Production vehicle runners. They were followed by Ruwacon Racing crews Pieter Ruthven/Hansie Rheeder (Toyota Hilux) and Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling in a Ford Ranger.
There were no finishers in Class D with Douglas Fear and Kurt de Villiers (Brytons Removals Toyota Hilux) taking Class E ahead of veterans Henri Zermatten and Johan Gerber in a Ford Ranger.
The new Class G or Side by Side category was dominated by Leander Pienaar and Carl Swane in a Can-Am Maverick. They were comfortably ahead of Gareth Woolridge/Simon Harrison (Polaris Razor) and Brian Capper and Jaco Swart in the Regent Racing Polaris.
The RFS 450 is based at the La La Nathi resort on the outskirts of Harrismith with the race starting at 8:30.
Crews will complete two laps of a 175 kilometre route with a 15 minute halt after the first loop.
Factory Teams throw down the gauntlet.pdf (236kB)
2014 RFS 450 - Qualifying Results & RS Start Order Rev1.pdf (128kB)