The Mastercraft Ryobi Pajero off-road racing team of Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler will tackle the upcoming Sun City 400, the fourth round of the Absa Off-road Championship on 1 and 2 July, as the Class D leaders in the Production Vehicle Championship while they are third overall in this category.
Zermatten and Schwegler moved into the class lead after their first Class D victory at the recent Toyota 1000 Desert Race where they also achieved their best position to date finishing second overall in the Production Vehicle Category. And although it was their first national class victory and the first time they finished on the overall podium, their record of finishing 17 consecutive national races, can also be seen as a first as no other team in the recent history of national off-road racing could manage that.
The 2005 Toyota 1000 Desert Race was a nailbiting race from start to finish for Zermatten/Schwegler – from the start they were having a serious ding-dong-battle with the Toyota works team of Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton with the Hilux-team being only half a second slower than the Pajero-team after the time-trail. The Mitsubishi Pajero team experienced some minor problems. After a water splash, the reliable race-vehicle stopped and only after some fixing – and a few minutes gone by – could the team race again. Later on they experienced some brake problems as well and the close fight became even more tight – so much so that navigator Houghton waited for them at the finish with a stopwatch only to acknowledge the fact that the Toyota-team was being beaten by 6,5 seconds over 1 000km!
But there was not much time to revel in their Toyota 1000 Desert Race successes as the upcoming Sun City 400 has proven to be just as tough a race although a bit shorter. And as the Sun City 400 will be the halfway point in the 2005 championship, both the overall and the Class D championships are now at boiling point with only a few points – or even no points at all – separating Zermatten/Schwegler from their opposition.
In the overall Production Vehicle Championship, Zermatten and Schwegler are sharing their third position with fellow Class D competitors, Manfred Schröder and Alec Harris in the works-Ford Ranger who won this class already twice this year. The Pajero team is only one point behind another works-team, Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton (Toyota Hilux) who is also competing in Class D and who is second overall.
In the Class D championship, things are looking a bit different as Zermatten/Schwegler is leading this class by two points from Cronje/Houghton while they are three points ahead of Schröder/Harris.
The Mastercraft Ryobi Mitsubishi Team, also racing with the support from Playstation and Sasol, will tackle the Sun City 400 on 1 and 2 July the same way they did all the other races – with a victory as their main goal, but by keeping the consistency factor in mind to score points towards both championships. Last year they finished the Pilanesberg event on the Class D podium (third) while they were eighth overall.
The Champagne Story:
Zermatten has been racing with a bottle of champagne in his trusted Pajero for more than seventeen races! The team kept the bottle of bubbly just in case they had the chance to celebrate a victory and although this evaded them for some time, they kept the bottle between the oils and cloths in the racing car.
And at last it was time to celebrate and according the Zermatten, champagne has never tasted so good – yes, it smelled a bit like diff-oil, but it was worth it!