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28 May, 2012
Vos & Howie tighten hold on production vehicle championship
Victory on the Atlas Copco Timbertrack 400 off-road race in KwaZulu-Natal has given former South African champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie a tight hold on the Production Vehicle title race as the Absa Off-Road Car Racing Championship approaches the halfway mark.
A second victory in a row in KZN has given Vos and Howie (Castrol Toyota Hilux) a commanding 21-point lead over former champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Ford Ranger) as the championship heads for the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana. The Botswana event is the only marathon race on the series calendar and represents the halfway mark in the season.
Vos and Howie won the Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga and followed that up with a commanding performance on what was a new event based in Richmond in KZN. For the second time in a row Visser and Badenhorst had to fight a rearguard action to gather in valuable championship points, and the advantage now clearly lies with Vos and Howie.
Only four points now separate Visser/Badenhorst and Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin, in the second Castrol Toyota Hilux, with former SA champions Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege (RFS BMW X3) a further point in arrears. Terrence Marsh and George Smalberger (Regent Nissan Navara) stay fifth in the overall championship but are now only one point clear of Gary Bertholdt and Ralph Pitchford (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) who were second overall in the Richmond event.
In the premier SP Class the Vos/Howie combination enjoys a 15-point advantage over Visser and Badenhorst. However, only two points separate Visser/Badenhorst, Taylor/Birkin and Grobler and ter Stege.
Second place on the Timbertrack race kept Cliff Weichelt and Johan Smalberger (N1 Toyota Land Cruiser) at the top of the Class D championship. The win went to Mpumalanga-based brothers Johan and Werner Horn (Malelane Toyota Land Cruiser) but it was not enough to lift them above reigning champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen in the LMC Land Rover.
Consistency is again proving to be a major weapon for the Oosthuizens, but for Weichelt the status quo in the Class D championship is proving incentive enough to keep him commuting between Perth and South Africa.
Down in Class E the Elite Toyota Hilux pair of Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens still leads the championship, but an act of sportsmanship in KZN cost them the opportunity of increasing their advantage. Putter and Claasens stopped to help Special Vehicle crew Quintin and Kallie Sullwald (Elegant BAT) who ran into alternator problems and were blocking the road.
The time lost eventually saw Putter finish 25 seconds behind local crew Rowan Lamb and Lyle Parker who claimed their first national win in the diesel-powered, ex-factory Ford Ranger. Only two points now separate Putter/Claasens, who were looking for their third straight win, and the KZN team.
The Toyota 1000 Desert Race carries points-and-a-half and could see overall and class positions take dramatic turns. For the Castrol Toyota team, however, the focus will be on scoring their first win on the event since 1999.
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