Reigning Production Vehicle category champions Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie made it two in a row with a come from behind win on the Vredefort Super Sprint, round two of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship.

Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie took their second win of the season

Image by Waldo van der Waal

Poulter and Howie led home Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy but the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team-mates had to fight rear-guard actions to hold off the Neil Woolridge Motorsport/ Ford Performance Ranger pair of Chris Visser and Ward Huxtable. Both Toyota crews compete in the FIA Class and Poulter and Howie finally had 40 seconds to spare over Taylor/Murphy, with the final podium place giving former South African champion Visser and Huxtable the win in a hotly contested Class T.

The event, a new innovation on the Donaldson calendar, was run over two 100 kilometre loops and drew massive crowd support. There was also a favourable reception for the format from the majority of crews.

“It is a great concept and there was a lot of inter action with cross country enthusiasts,” said Poulter. “We had a clean run and after we caught Chris and Ward on the second loop we just held our pace.”

Poulter/Howie, who won the opening event of the season, trailed the NWM/Ford Performance Ranger crew by 29 seconds after the first lap with Taylor and Murphy lagging behind in fifth place. But the two FIA Class cars, running to FIA Group T1 specifications applying to the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup, had too much firepower for the Class T cars which run with solid axle rear suspension and commercially available tyres.

Former South African champion Chris Visser and Ward Huxtable won the hotly contested Class T

Image by Waldo van der Waal

It was the Class T brigade who provided for most of the action. Visser and Huxtable had a slender 22 second advantage over Christiaan du Plooy/Henk Janse van Vuuren (RFS VW Amarok), who were only three seconds clear of youngsters Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer in a second NWM/Ford Performance Ranger. For both du Plooy and Janse van Vuuren and Woolridge and Dreyer it was a good comeback after disappointing outings on the opening event of the season.

“It was an awesome event and I think we need more of these races,” said Woolridge. “It was a real treat for the spectators, and from our point of view a good result after our disappointing start to the championship.”

A steady drive took Jason Venter and Vince van Allemann (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux), who won Class T in the opening event of the year, into the top five. It was a close shave with the pair only nine seconds ahead of Gary Bertholdt and former national rally champion Pierre Arries in the Atlas Copco VW Amarok.

“We never had any issues,” said Venter, “but I am one of those who prefer the longer races. For all that we are happy with the points scored.”

Brothers Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux), Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara) and Luke Botha and Andre Vermeulen in a second Red-Lined Nissan Navara completed the top 10. Van Staden is another who prefers the longer races, but was left scratching his head over a lack of pace.

Heine Strumpher and Henri Hugo in the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux took top honours in Class S

Image by Waldo van der Waal

No Class S crews, for cars up to four litres with solid axle rear suspension, managed to finish the opening event of the season and the points cupboard was left bare. That situation was corrected when Heine Strumpher and Henri Hugo (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux), after just missing out on last year’s championship, came in ahead of Otto Graven/Bobby Brewis and Ronald Graven/Lohan Faber in a pair of Graven Motorsport Toyota Hilux entries.

Strumpher/Hugo finished 32 seconds to the good but behind them there was an interesting situation. Ronald Graven and Faber led Otto Graven and Brewis after the first lap, but at the finish the crews were credited with identical times.

The next event on the calendar provides for a complete contrast and, after a one day 200 kilometre sprint, the Donaldson Cross Country Championship heads for Botswana for the only marathon event on the calendar. The Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race from June 24 to 26 will again be based in Jwaneng.