Bertholdt/Vermeulen win Nissan Sugarbelt 400 Prologue
information supplied by: Cross Country Commission (Media)
15 May 2008
ESTON – Prologue specialist Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen, in the Atlas Copco Porter, took pole position today for the Nissan Sugarbelt 400, round three of the Absa Off Road Championship.
Provisional results saw Bertholdt and Vermeulen set the fastest time in the Special Vehicle category to win the prologue to determine grid positions for the race proper. Bertholdt and Vermeulen led a string of fancied Class A runners on a 65 kilometre sprint that was dominated by vehicles competing in the Production Vehicle category.
On the day the pair were eight overall with seven Production Vehicle entries coming in ahead of them on a tight and twisty route that provided for plenty of drama. Indications are, too, that the race proper will have a high attrition rate.
“It was hard going out there,” said Bertholdt. “It was very tricky and easy to make costly mistakes.
“We took a conservative approach which paid off, and now the main objective will be to see out the distance tomorrow and grab a win we badly need.”
Herman Sullwald and Paul Helberg (Sullwald Racing Zarco), reigning South African champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann (Motorite BAT) and Nardus Alberts and Collin Hunter (Wrapsa BAT) are all within two minutes of Bertholdt and Vermeulen. Also in the picture are Eastern Cape 500 winners Karl-Heinz Sullwald and son Quintin in a second Sullwald Racing Zarco.
Current championship leaders Terence Marsh and Pieter Groenewald (Regent Racing BAT) were in touch with the leading group but lost time after a near roll. “We almost rolled twice in what could have been a huge accident,” said Marsh.
Local crew Marcus Taylor and Derek Keith, in a JRE, were the quickest of the Class B brigade. They were nearly a minute ahead of reigning drivers champion Jan Kraaij and Tiddo Voogt in the Keymax BAT.
Another minute in arrears were Nissan Dealer 400 winners Bes Bezuidenhout and Johann de Bruyn in the Adenco BAT. There was a further boost for the Adenco team when Bezuidenhout’s sons, Johan and Etienne, set the second fastest time in Class P.
The Bezuidenhout brothers were behind another local crew, Don Thompson and Don Blakey in a Zarco. Third were another KwaZulu-Natal crew in Glenn Gibson and Warren Phipps in an Aceco.