The final event of the Absa Off Road Championship lived up to its reputation as a rainmaker, with intermittent rain throughout the weekend turning the route into a mudbath. But Bertholdt and Houghton brushed aside the treacherous conditions to give Toyota their first win since the Barberspan 500 in 2002.
Provisional scoring saw the Bertholdt/Houghton success also provide the spearhead for Toyota to clinch the prestige South African Manufacturers Championship ahead of arch rivals Nissan. For Houghton it was a special moment in that he was also part of the 2002 win with Apie Reyneke in a Toyota Land Cruiser.
Two punctures at the start of the second of two 180 kilometre loops provided Bertholdt and Houghton with a nervous finish to the race. “We did not have another spare,” said Houghton, “and it provided us with a few anxious moments.”
Second were Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, in the works Ford Racing Ranger, with victory enough to see them win the Super Production Class ahead of overall SA champions Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan in the Proudly South African Nissan Navara. Both Grobler/Jordaan and team-mates Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford were casualties today via steering problems, with the Nissan team suffering its first double non finish since the Ford Carnival City 400 in 2003.
A broken propshaft put paid to any hopes Woolridge and Skjoldhammer had of winning their own event. “It was tough work in these conditions with only front wheel drive,” said Woolridge, “and we were just happy to make it to the finish.”
Third overall were Arnold du Plessis and Johan Knox, in the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody, who won Class D. It was a win which put an end to a seven race winning streak by Toyota with champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux) among the casualties.
Fourth overall and Class E winners were Jack Peckham and Ward Huxtable in the Ford Racing Ranger. Peckham was standing in for recently crowned Class E champion Manfred Schroder, and today’s victory took Ford’s tally this season to six wins in eight outings.
Peckham and Huxtable came in eight minutes ahead of brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat in the Bosal Toyota Hilux. The Moffat’s, in turn, were 15 minutes ahead of the father and son combination of Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn, in the Castrol Toyota Hilux, who were sixth overall and second in Class D.
Class E crews Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (Toyota Hilux) and George and Sharon Bezuidenhout (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux), winners of the recent Toyota Dealer 400, were third and fourth in Class E. It put the finishing touches to Toyota’s triumph in the SA Manufacturers Championship.