Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen have won the opening round of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship – the RFS Endurance’s Special Vehicle category on Saturday.
Only seven Special Vehicle entries made it to the finish as mud, slush and mechanical failures took the toll. It was a tough start to the season with any amount of hard luck stories and stuck in the mud tales up and down the pits.
“That was hard work,” said Hutchison at the finish. “but we’ll take the win. We had a good day with one major scare 140 kilometres in the second loop.”
“We feared for the worst when the car suddenly stopped with no warning. It was a relief when we got going again and luckily we ran into no further trouble.”
Hutchison and Stassen started the day second behind the Century Racing CR3 of Colin Matthews and Rodney Burke who romped away with the qualifying race to determine grid positions.
With Matthews and Burke again running into reliability problems the Motorite crew were in the lead at the compulsory 20 minute service halt at the end of the first lap.
Coetzee Labuscagne and daughter Sandra, who started third in the ChemSystems Porter, also fell by the wayside and Lance Trethewey and Geoff Minnitt, in the LTE BAT Venom, also moving ahead of Matthews and Burke. Trethewey and Minnitt reported a clean run, but could make no impression on Hutchison and Stassen with around six minutes the final gap between two crews.
Problem after problem sent Matthews/Burke into free-fall and Jimmy Zahos and Zaheer Bodhanya picked up their best result to date by taking the final podium position in the Cobalt Stryker. Zahos had a tough time of it, however, suffering from nausea as a result of a bout of food poisoning.
Brett Parker and VZ van Zyl spent time pulling a pair of Production Vehicle category competitors out of mud holes, but in between managed to put together a solid race to finish fifth in the Sizanani Jimco. They finished around six minutes clear of Class P winners James Watson and John Thompson who also came up with a solid performance.
In a close finish Watson and Thompson sneaked in six seconds ahead of Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr (Century Racing CR5) who were looking at a podium finish when they had the misfortune to break a tie rod end 20 kilometres from the finish.
The unfortunate Matthews and Burke dropped off the radar but kept plugging away and were the last of the classified finishers and were rewarded with second in Class P.
The next race on the calendar is the Sugarbelt 450 sprint race in Eston, outside Pietermaritzburg, on May 8 and 9.