Dullstroom, Friday – Live Lesotho Chenowth pair Stefan van Pletzen and Jaco Pieterse made a solid start to this year’s Special Vehicle championship when they took the honours here today in the qualifying race for the Mpumalanga 400.
The first skirmishes in the opening round of this year’s South African Cross Country Series saw van Pletzen and Pieterse take a comfortable win over the father/daughter combination of Coetzee Labuscagne and Sandra Labuscagne-Jonk in the 4×4 Mega World ARB Porter. Van Pletzen finished runner-up in the overall and Class A championships last season with Pieterse third in the co-driver championships.
It was not all plain sailing for van Pletzen and Pieterse who have a reputation for consistency. The pair ran into brake problems in the qualifying dash to determine grid positions for tomorrow’s race.
“The brakes were overheating but we’ll look at the problem overnight,” said van Pletzen. “The route was also technical and twisty and made you work all the time.”
The Labuscagnes never ran into mechanical issues but also found the route tight and technical. The 4×4 Mega World ARB crew also have a reputation for grinding out results, but were comfortably ahead of brothers Keith and Andrew Makenete who completed the podium and took the honours in Class P.
Reigning Class P champions John Telford and Victor Ntsekhe (BAT Warbird) have moved into Class A this season and came home a steady fourth after being held up by a car competing in the Production Vehicle category. Telford and Ntsekhe were comfortably ahead of Nic Goslar and Andrew Massey (SA Clinics Zarco) who were the only other crew in Class P.
Limpopo crew Talha and Taahir Moosajee (Tyre Rack Jimco) continued their apprenticeship with a steady sixth, while former Class P champions John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten continue to have a tough time of it after moving into the Class A ranks last season. They had a gearbox problem on the start line, and later in the route rolled the car which landed back on its wheels.
“The car landed back on its wheels and we have a little panel beating to do,” said Thomson. “The route was awesome.”
Tomorrow’s race will be run over a 170 kilometre loop that will be repeated twice, with a compulsory 20 minute service break and regroup after the first lap. The second lap will start at 12.45.