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28 May, 2012
Matthews & Smith make history in off-road championship
The Atlas Copco Timbertrack 400 off-road race in KwaZulu-Natal has precipitated a slice of South African motorsport history, with Colin Matthews and Alan Smith the first Class P team to take the overall lead in the Special Vehicle category in the Absa Off-Road Car Racing Championship.
Victory, on what was round three of the Absa series, also saw Matthews and Smith become the first Class P crew to score two overall wins in the national championship. The pair now hold a 3-point lead over reigning South African champions Hermann and Wichard Sullwald (Elegant BAT) in the overall standings, with Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson third in the Atlas Copco BAT.
Only four points separate the three crews but the Class A results on the Toyota Dealer 400 are still under appeal and could alter the situation. Van Staden and Lawrenson have appealed against a penalty that relegated them to fourth place behind the Sullwalds, Nardus and Louis Alberts (Wrapsa BAT) and Laurence and Gerhard du Plessis (Zarco) at the Mpumalanga race.
The du Plessis brothers and former champion Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen (Motorite BAT Venom) are locked together in fourth place in the overall championship with Marius and Jolinda Fourie, second overall and Class A winners in KZN, completing the top five. Only 16 points separate Matthews and Smith and the Fourie husband-and-wife team.
In the Class A stakes only one point separates the Sullwalds (42) and van Staden/Lawrenson who had an unhappy race in KwaZulu-Natal. The du Plessis brothers (39) are a further two points in arrears and are followed by Hutchison/Stassen (37) and the Fouries with 35 points.
As is to be expected after three straight category wins, Matthews and Smith lead the Class P championship. The Century Racing pair are 12 points clear of John Telford and Jaco Swart, in the Calcamite BAT, who have picked up three second places in a row. Third in the Class P title race are the father/daughter combination of Coetzee and Sandra Labuschagne in the Raysonics Zarco. They are trailing Telford/Swart by 22 points and have some ground to make up.
For Matthews and Smith, however, this season has brought a complete about face in fortunes. Regarded in off-road circles as prologue specialists, the pair finished only one event last year - which they won. This season they have an unblemished record. It doesn't get much better than three finishes that have gathered in three Class P wins, an overall win and two trips to the podium.
The season reaches the halfway mark at the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, the only marathon event on the calendar, which takes place in Botswana from June 22 to 24. The race carries points-and-a-half and could muddy the waters in the overall and class championship title chases.
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