Marius and Jolinda Fourie lost the battle but won the war when they were crowned Special Vehicle overall and Class A champions at the final event of the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS), the Atlas Copco Gold 400.
On a dramatic final day of the season third place was enough to see the husband and wife team, in the PHB BAT, clinch both championships. The event was won by Stefan van Pletzen and Jaco Pieterse (Live Lesotho Chenowth) with Limpopo crew Naeem Moosajee and Rayhaan Bodhanya (Tyre Rack Stryker) second in what was their best result on a national championship event.
Van Pletzen closed out the season the same way he started it – with a victory. But it was not enough to overhaul Fourie in two desperately close championships.
Unofficial scoring saw Fourie take the overall and Class A drivers’ championships by five points and one point respectively. Ms Fourie had a slight easier passage to the navigators’ title with both she and Pieterse missing events earlier in the season.
To add to the drama reigning champions Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen (King Price Extreme BAT Viper) and championship leaders going in to the Atlas Copco event, retired on the second of two 152 kilometre loops that made up the race. The pair broke a control arm on the first lap – with the damage held together by a weld – but terminal engine failure on the second loop saw Hutchison and Stassen lose out on back to back championships.
In the end van Pletzen and Pieterse strolled to victory on an event which saw only six cars make it to the finish in the Special Vehicle category. Van Pletzen/Pieterse had more than 10 minutes to spare on Moosajee and Bodhanya and there was daylight between the Fouries in third place.
The new champions were more than two minutes ahead of Sandra Labuscagne and Jaco Jonk (4×4 Mega World Porter) but struggled with no brakes 25 kilometres into the second loop. Labuscagne, deputising for her father who is recovering from knee surgery, was making her debut as a driver with her husband calling the notes.
There was also drama in the Class P championship which finally went to John Telford and Victor Ntsekhe in the Calcamite Hellcat. Only four points separated Telford/Ntsekhe and Nic Goslar/Andrew Massey (SA Clinics Zarco) before the event, but the championship was decided within the first 50 kilometres of the race.
Goslar/Massey started from the back of the field after a disastrous qualifying event, and broke a side shaft which gifted the title to the Calcamite team. Telford and Ntsekhe, however, had their share of trouble and were the last of the classified finishers. Guy Henley, having his first outing of the season, and the experienced Juan Mohr won Class P in the Century Racing CR-2.
Henley/Mohr and Telford/Ntsekhe were the only finishers in Class P with Werner Kennedy/Thinus Venter (Live Lesotho Aceco) falling out with a broken gearbox. It was their second ‘did not finish’ in a row and a disappointing end to a season in which they were strong championship contenders.
Pictures: Nadia Jordaan