• Sterling performance from Van Staden/Lawrenson in Class T
• Two Class E cars made it to the finish on Saturday…
•…but Class S took a total pounding in the Kalahari
in Jwaneng, Botswana
Gazoo Racing SA crew Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howe comfortably won Heat 1 of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, Round 3 of the 2016 Southern African Cross-Country Motor Racing championship on Saturday (June 25).
They came home ahead of another team mates Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz to preserve Toyota’s unbeaten record, which has stood since 2012, on the iconic event.
More than 20 minutes separated to two crews with Poulter/Howie taking their second Desert Race win and, in the process, increasing their lead in the Production Vehicle championship.
The two lead cars were running in the FIA Class that allows teams competing in the championship to run cars to FIA Group T1 specifications that apply to the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup and the Dakar Rally.
15-MINUTE PENALTY FOR VAN STADEN/LAWRENSON
Behind them there was a terrific result for Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Nissan Navara) who were on the podium in the first of the Class T cars (vehicles over four litres with solid-axle rear suspension and commercially available tyres).
Van Staden/Lawrenson moved up from eighth on the grid despite an altercation with a Special Vehicle. Their charge took them ahead of Anthony Taylor/Dennis Murphy, in a third Toyota entry, who won the qualifying race to determine grid positions, but were penalised 15 minutes for deviating from the route.
That took Taylor/Murphy ahead of former winners Chris Visser/Ward Huxtable in a Ford Performance Ranger who didn’t have the happiest of days. A broken side-shaft reduced them to two-wheel drive on the second of two loops that made up the race and they had to rely on the handbrake for stopping power.
Behind the Ford young North West crew Jason Venter/ Vince van Allemann (Hilux) it was a much better day. They trailed Visser/Huxtable by two points in the Class T championship going into the event but a charge through the field took them to sixth from 12th on the grid.
A third FIA Class car, a Rally X Ford Ranger in the hands of Cristian Baumgart/Beco Andreotti Neto, picked up a 10-minute penalty and dropped two places to seventh after starting fifth on the grid.
It was tough going for the Brazilian crew who afterwards said it was the toughest event they had ever entered.
PLAGUED BY PUNCTURES
The drive of the day, however, belonged to youngsters Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer in the second NWM/Ford Ranger. They rolled the Ford on the qualifying race and started 19th on the grid but their tremendous performance took them to eighth at the finish.
It was a day of trial and tribulation for Christiaan du Plooy and former winner Japie Badenhorst in their VW Amarok. They started and finished ninth after being plagued by punctures, one of which severed a brake pipe, but soldiered on to finish 56sec ahead of Luke Botha/Andre Vermeulen who rounded out the top 10 in their Nissan Navara.
It was also a tough day for Class S for vehicles (under four litres, solid-axle rear suspension) and there were no finishers. Two Class E cars, however, made it to the finish – David Huddy/Mike Fehrsen (Nissan) led Andries Mynhardt/Deon Steyn (Ford Ranger) with Mynhardt/Steyn tackling the Desert Race for the first time.
Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service point are again located at the Jwaneng Sports Club and adjoining showground. Public access to these areas is controlled but there is free entry to spectator points along the route.
Sunday’s race was scheduled to start at 8.30am.