Following non-finishes in each of the first two rounds of the championship, in the Western Cape in March and the Eastern Cape in April, it was a make-or-break event for the Motorite pair.
‘’We had no points going into the Sugarbelt and there was a lot of pressure on us just to finish and get on the scoreboard,” said Hutchison, who is also the manager of the Motorite Racing ‘Team of Champions’. “It was a tough event and we had our fair share of problems, but Achim and I are delighted to have finished on the podium.
“After Friday’s (66-km) prologue (that determines the start order for Saturday’s 350-km race) we were not all that confident,” said Hutchison. “Although we finished fourth among the special vehicles, we were unable to get into a good rhythm and were slowed by a couple of wrong slots. It was a tricky prologue and didn’t suit the special vehicles as much as the production vehicles (who run together with the specials, but in their own competition). As a result, we started quite far back on Saturday (in 12th place) behind eight production vehicles and three specials.”
Brandon Harcus and Richard Leeke had an eventful weekend in the Motorite Racing BAT Spec 2. After rolling on the prologue and having to start in the massed bunch some 29 minutes behind the first car, the experienced pair rolled again on the first of Saturday’s two loops, but still managed to complete the event in 12th place and score four championship points.
“We had a puncture on the prologue and it appears the handbrake didn’t release completely when we got going again,” explained Leeke. “The first time Brandon braked hard, approaching a T-junction, the car swung sideways and, because of the camber of the road, it gently upended itself and deposited us in the sugar cane. It’s what we call a ‘soft roll’! The Motorite BAT was not damaged at all, but we couldn’t get it back on its wheels and complete the prologue.”
Harcus experienced problems with the car’s front brakes on Saturday and was forced to take evasive action when he came up behind another competitor and tried to overtake. The BAT hit a series of ruts in the road and capsized, rolling into the sugar cane for a second time.
“We didn’t lose a lot of time; in fact, I didn’t even get out of the car,” said the unflappable Leeke. The car they were trying to overtake came back and pulled them out of the sugar cane and they continued without further incident to the designated service point. “A top 10 result was about all we could have expected after starting so far back,” said Leeke, “so we can’t really complain.”
Motorite Racing team-mates Alfie Cox and co-driver Hennie ter Stege looked headed for a comfortable fourth overall in the production vehicle category in their Motorite Racing Ford Ranger, when a tie-rod end bolt came out followed by the driveshaft. “It was a very disappointing result after all the team’s hard work. We were having a great run – two of the best loops Hennie and I have had for some time – when it all fell apart just 40 km from the finish. We had a good fourth place in the bag and had worked hard all day for it. It was a tough event, with a very tight route in the sugar cane and not a lot of overtaking opportunities. It was nice to be back in the sugar cane – the Nissan Sugarbelt is a great event and it’s nice to have it back in the championship. As always, it was a very well run.”
Motorite Racing is the motor sport division of Motorite Insurance Administrators, the largest independent mechanical breakdown insurance and full maintenance plan service provider and administrator in South Africa.