document : Factory Teams Flex Their Muscles On Atlas Copco 400 Prologue

Factory Teams Flex Their Muscles On Atlas Copco 400 Prologue
information supplied by: Cross Country Commission (Media) 20 May 2011


Dundee, Friday – Production Vehicle category factory crews flexed their muscles today on the Donaldson Prologue to determine grid positions for tomorrow’s Atlas Copco 400, round three of the Absa Off Road Championship, in a region dominated by coal mines and historic battlegrounds.

The experienced Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin gave the Team Castrol Toyota Hilux works team an early boost by winning the 72 kilometre prologue by a healthy 51 second margin. Taylor and Birkin reported a clean run when the first shots were fired in anger on an event that has this year switched from the Eston area, near Pietermaritzburg, to Biggarsberg region with its historic battlefields.

Taylor and Birkin were followed by reigning South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, in the Team Ford Ranger, and former SA champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie in the second of the Team Castrol Toyota entries. Just two seconds separated Visser/Badenhorst and Vos/Howie setting up an interesting confrontation in the opening stages of the race.

“No one knew what to expect out there and it was an interesting route,” said Birkin. “The fast sections were fast, the rocky sections rocky and the tight sections were tight.

“We did not have any problems, we pushed when we could and we slowed down when we had to. No one held us up and the race is going to be interesting.”

Veteran former champions Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege were fourth fastest in the diesel powered RFS BMW X3 with the pair 72 seconds ahead of the Rustenburg based father and son pairing of Willem and Dana Vos in the Vossies Toyota Hilux. The Toyota crew lost time near the end of the prologue when they got stuck in a mud hole.

The top eight was completed by North West crew Malcolm Kock and Johan Burger (Toyota Hilux), Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen, who carry sponsor hopes in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux, and Toyota Dealer 400 winners Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson in the Regent Racing Nissan Navara. Kock/Burger and Whitehouse/Carlson reported clean runs with the Atlas Copco pair hampered when they lost communications between driver and co-driver.

The prologue was unkind to a couple of the more fancied runners including championship leaders Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr in the Barden Tyre Services Nissan Navara. The lost the fly by wire throttle system in a river crossing five kilometres from the finish, and lost 45 minutes while they fixed the problem.

A broken differential just three kilometres into the prologue forced Terence Marsh and George Smalberger, in the second Regent Racing Nissan Navara, to call it a day. They will be part of the mass start tomorrow and face an uphill battle to work their way through the field.

Reigning champions Deon Venter and Ian Palmer, in the 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux, led the Class D brigade with 26 seconds in hand over Louis Weichelt and Francis Boersma (N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser). Weichelt and Boersma are having their first outing of the season and came in ahead of Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn (Malelane Toyota Land Cruiser) and championship leaders Sarel and Jack Oosthuizen in a Land Rover.

The Transcor Toyota Hilux in the hands of Diederik Hattingh and Kristo Bosman was the only Class E finisher. Championship leaders Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens (Toyota Hilux) and Gene/Boshoff/Lotter Klein and Ian Boshoff/Douw Grobler, in the LG Toyota Hilux entries, will be among the mass starters.

The race starts at 08:30 tomorrow at the Battlefields Lodge on the outskirts of Dundee. Public entrance to the start/finish, the designated serviced point and spectator points along the route is free of charge.
Factory Teams Flex Their Muscles On Atlas Copco 400 Prologue.pdf (250kB)

2011 Atlas Copco 400 - Prologue Results & Racing Section Start Order.pdf (26kB)

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