document : A race of mixed fortunes for Atlas Copco in off road season finale

A race of mixed fortunes for Atlas Copco in off road season finale
information supplied by: Cross Country Commission (Media) 14 November 2011

A race of mixed fortunes for Atlas Copco in off road season finale

The final round of the Absa Off Road Championship, the RFS Magalies 400 near Krugersdorp on Friday and Saturday, was a race of mixed fortunes for the three-car Atlas Copco team.
Outgoing class P champions, Johan van Staden and James Rossouw, contesting class A of the Special Vehicle category in an Atlas Copco BAT Spec 5, came from seventh at the start of Saturday’s 340 kilometre race following Friday’s 60 kilometre Donaldson Prologue to finish a fine third after a hot and dusty contest that saw many cars delayed by punctures.  They were less than a minute off second place and it was their second podium finish of the year after they also finished third in the 1 000 kilometre Toyota Desert Race in Botswana in June.
Richard Fuller, driving the ex-Van Staden BAT Spec 2 that won the 2010 class P championship, teamed up with Denis Murphy in the absence of his regular co-driver Geoff Minnitt, who is still recovering from back injuries sustained in a crash in the previous race. 
Competing in his first year of off road racing, Fuller finished a hard-earned and remarkable second in class and eighth overall after starting from 50th place in the combined field of special and production vehicles.  He and Murphy were unable to finish Friday’s prologue that determines the start order for the race after their jack failed when they stopped to replace a flat wheel.
Fuller has impressed all with his press-on style and dogged determination – a feature of the members of the Atlas Copco team – and this was no more evident than on Saturday.
“We lost the silencer 30 km into the first of Saturday’s two 170 kilometre loops and then the manifold broke on the second loop, causing the engine to drop about 40 horsepower,” said Fuller.  “We also lost a bit of time when we couldn’t find a way around another competitor who was blocking the route on a steep hill.
“It was a rough ride and the dust was incredible, but we managed to make good progress.  Under the circumstances, we were not unhappy with the result.”
Atlas Copco’s lone representatives in the Production Vehicle category, Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen in a class SP Toyota Hilux V8, reached the compulsory service stop at the halfway point on Saturday in an impressive fifth place after starting 28th on the road in the combined field and 12th among the production vehicles.
Their low starting position was the result of a slow prologue, with Bertholdt having to short shift the Toyota when the engine temperature went up.
It had been a typically gritty performance from Bertholdt, who thrives on a challenge, but his and Vermeulen’s efforts were to prove in vain.  “Just as we were about to leave the service area to start the final loop we noticed that oil was leaking from a loose gearbox pipe,” reported Bertholdt.  The technicians fixed the pipe and topped up the oil, but the damage was done and the Toyota ground to a halt with a seized gearbox just 40 km into the loop.
“It was a major disappointment,” lamented Bertholdt, “especially after all the hard work in the first loop, where we were managed to get past so many slower cars in the dust.  The conditions were really bad.  We gave it our best shot and we live to fight another day.”
Atlas Copco is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, and has more than 130 years of experience.  The group’s global span reaches more than 160 markets with 34 000 employees. The company is a world leader with products and services ranging from compressed air and gas equipment to generators, construction and mining equipment, industrial tools and assembly systems.
“There is a close relationship between the technology of Atlas Copco products and that of the vehicles used in the Absa Off Road Championship," said Bernie Hanaray, general manager Atlas Copco South Africa Compressor Technique Division.  “We see sponsorship of the team as well as the Atlas Copco round of the championship as an extension of our marketing strategy, particularly in relation to the automotive and mining sectors.  The event and the success of our team in the series have enabled us to build and maintain awareness of Atlas Copco and our products.”

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