The Lesotho Sun 400, round five of the Absa Off Road Championship, got underway in Maseru today and quickly sorted the men from the boys, with many of the competitors proclaiming the 40 kilometre Prologue to determine starting positions for tomorrows main event to be the toughest they have had to endure in their off road racing careers.
The Prologue started in Roma and finished in Matsieng, south east of Maseru, and included a couple of major river crossings and mountain passes, which will also form part of tomorrows main event, which comprises 2 laps of a 170 kilometer route.
The Proudly South African Nissan Off Road Team gave notice that they will once again be the team to beat when they grabbed the top three qualifying positions in the Production Vehicle category.
Former champions Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan posted a time of 56m 09s, which was 1m 40s faster than team mates and Production Vehicle Championship leaders Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke who in turn were 18s ahead of Duncan Vos and Hennie Ter Stege.
Team Ford Racing’s Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer, the only South Africans to have won the Roof of Africa Rally on a motorcycle and in a car, qualified fourth behind the leading Nissan.
Nine times winner of the Roof of Africa Rally on a motorcycle and current Class D championship leader Alfie Cox and fellow biker Ralph Pitchford qualified fifth and first in Class D in the Arnold Chatz Nissan Hardbody with Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton in a Castrol Toyota Hilux in sixth position and first in Class E.
Arnold Du Plessis and George Barker in the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody were seventh with reigning Class E champions Marc Cronje and Chris Birkin (Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.71) placed eighth.
Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham in the Class D Team Ford Racing Ranger qualified ninth with Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo rounding out the top 10 in the Class E Castrol Toyota Hilux KZ-TE.
In the Special Vehicle category 2000 Roof of Africa winners Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr posted the fastest time in the Century Property Developments BAT followed almost 5 minutes later by John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco and John Moore and Graham Maclachlan in the Connix Chenowth.
Special Vehicle championship Leaders Atang Makgekgenene and Buks Carolin took it easy and were quite happy to qualify fourth in the Total Jimco which has won three of the last four races.
Veteran Nardus Alberts, a former winner of the Roof of Africa Rally, and Collin Hunter qualified fifth ahead of multiple Roof winner Richard Schilling and stand-in co-driver Chris Davies in the Plasothech Raceco with Arnold and Annie Pistorius finishing seventh.
Brandon Harcus, who recently competed in the Spanish Baja, and Claudia Bevilacqua were followed home by Nic Harper and Andrew Chalupsky in another BAT with Collin Mathews (WPP Dragonfly) rounding out the top 10.
The Lesotho Sun 400 starts from Matsieng at 07:00 tomorrow with the first competitors expected at the finish at 14:00.