JWANENG, Botswana – Reigning South African Cross-Country champions Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy led a Toyota lock-out of the podium when the 2014 Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race ended on Sunday.
It was Round 4 of the South African Cross-Country championship.
Taylor and Murphy’s Hilux finished 32 seconds clear of Hilux team mates Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howie with privateers Johan Horn/Werner Horn in another Hilux continuing their dream start to their premier Class T career with a third podium from three races.
SECOND WIN IN A ROW
The Horn brothers were around 10 minutes behind Poulter and Howie but never dropped out of the top three throughout the only marathon event on the Cross Country calendar.
The win for Taylor/Murphy, their second in a row in Botswana, also took them to the top of the Production Vehicle championship. The race counted for double points with Taylor/Murphy moving clear of Ford Racing crew Manfred Schroder/Japie Badenhorst, with the two teams tied at the top of the ladder going into the Desert Race.
Taylor said: “It was just about the perfect weekend. We had no major issues but there is always a little extra pressure on the factory team on the Desert Race. A clean sweep was reward for plenty of hard work from the entire team.”
The Ford Rangers of Gary Bertholdt/Siegfried Rousseau and Manfred Schroder/Japie Badenhorst completed the top five. There was a bonus for Bertholdt/Rousseau who won the Dakar Challenge for a free entry to the 2014 Dakar Rally.
Schroder and Badenhorst fought back from a five-minute penalty incurred during the first race section on Saturday, dropped them from fourth to sevent to claim a top-five finish – their fifth also did some championship damage control.
GOOD FIGHT BACK
There was also a good fight-back by Brazilian pair Reinaldo Varela/Gustavo Gugelmin (Hilux). After winning the qualifying race to determine start positions they hit a tree on Saturday and dropped to 10th at the overnight halt.
They gradually fought their way through the field on Sunday to finish sixth ahead of Class S winners Jannie Visser /Joks le Roux in (Hilux). The former South African champions revelled in the conditions and finished well clear of Hennie de Klerk/Johann Smalberger (BMW X3) and Terence Marsh/Springbok rugby legend Stefan Terblanche (Nissan Navara).
Louw de Bruin/Riaan Greyling (Ranger) completed the top 10 and were second in Class S ahead of Deon VenterIan Palmer (Hilux). It was also a brave fight-back from Venter/Palmer after Saturday woes but the result saw them surrender the Class S championship lead back to De Bruin/Greyling who have been models of consistency so far in 2014.
The new Class G was in the Desert Race for the first time and a comfortable win went to Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer (Polaris). They were well clear of Daniel van Rooyen/Thys Greyvensteyn (another Polaris( with Leander Pienaar and Jaco Swart completing the podium in a Can-Am Maverick.
STING IN TAIL FROM SPECIAL VEHICLES
The Desert Race, as we reported on Sunday, invariably produces a sting in its tail but nobody was prepared on Sunday for the drama that surrounded the finish of the Special Vehicle category.
History, with a little twist, repeated itself with Wichard and Hermann Sullwald (Stryker) winning the only marathon event on the Cross-Country for the second year in a row. Only this time it was Wichard driving with father Hermann navigating in a race that counts double championship points.
There was, however, a dollop of fortune involved, as it did last year, brings the Sullwald crew solidly back into the championship picture. The uncertainty that is motor racing played a cruel trick on reigning South African champions Evan Hutchison/Danie Stassen (BAT) when the car caught fire two kilometres from the finish.
DREAM RESULT FOR KZN PAIR
Hutchiso/Stassen started the final 225km loop in second place behind Quintin and Kallie Sullwald (BAT). There was a gap of 1min46 between the two crews but when the Sullwalds ran into trouble Hutchison/Stassen moved into the lead and looked certain to revive their back-to-back championship hopes.
“What can I say, I’m devastated,” said Hutchison. “This certainly hasn’t been our year.”
The second 450km racing section on Sunday wreaked havoc among the Special vehicles and only five cars – three of them Class P entries – made it to the finish. In a dream result KwaZulu-Natal pair Arthur Barnes/Anthony Usher (BAT) finished second on their Desert Race debut and leaped up the championship ladder.
Another KZN crew, James Watson/John Thompson (BAT), completed the podium and clinched Class P after late race problems for Colin Matthews/Rodney Burke (CR3) and reigning champions John Thomson/Maurice Zermatten (Zarco).
In their best career finishe Keith Makenete/Moaliso Borotho (Zarco) and Sean Reitz and Michael Abramson (Jimco) completed the top five and were the last of the finishers.
The day also started off on a dramatic note with overnight leaders Laurence du Plessis/Gielie le Roux (Zarco) failing to start. With Du Plessis’s brother Gerhard and his son Hardus, leading the championship before this weekend, excluded from the results on Saturday, the overall championship has been given a severe shake-up with the Sullwalds and Barnes/Usher the major beneficiaries.