*Stage set for fierce action in Class T
After only three rounds out of seven, reigning Production Vehicle champions Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie have already stamped their authority on this year’s Donaldson Cross Country Motor Racing Championship.
Victory for the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA crew in both heats on the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race took their tally of wins to four out of four this season.
Poulter and Howie also won six out of seven races 2015, and have dominated the Production Vehicle category over two seasons.
The double victory in Botswana stretched the Poulter/Howie lead over former champions and team-mates, Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy, to 33 points in the overall championship.
The gap in a FIA Class is 16 points with Terence Marsh (Red-Lined Nissan Navara, who has used different navigators drawn from the entertainment, corporate and sports worlds, trailing Taylor by 40 points.
A 15 minute penalty in heat one dropped Taylor/Murphy down to fifth overall before the pair recovered to finish second in heat two.
However, the overall points situation means Poulter and Howie have a race in hand over their team-mates.
Three Class T cars, for vehicles over four litres with solid axle rear suspension and commercially available tyres, fill the next three places in the overall championship.
Chris Visser/Ward Huxtable (Neil Woolridge Motorsport/Ford Performance Ranger), Jason Venter/Vince van Allemann (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) and Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Red-Lined Nissan Navara) round out the top five – and it is Class T is shaping up for a dogfight.
Visser/Huxtable and Venter/van Allemann arrived in Botswana with two points separating them in third and fourth in the overall championship, with three points the difference at the top of Class T.
At the end of hostilities in the desert two points was still the difference in the overall championship, with just one point separating the crews in Class T.
Visser/Huxtable scored two second places and Venter/van Allemann a third and a win in Class T in the Desert Race heats, which meant a two point swing in favour of the Toyota crew.
Third placed van Staden and Lawrenson scored a win in the first heat but did not finish heat two, which leaves them 32 points behind Visser/Huxtable and 31 behind Venter/van Allemann.
The next event on the Donaldson Cross Country Championship calendar will be held in Lichtenburg on July 29 and 30.
It will be round four of the Donaldson series, and incorporates round five of the Northern Regions championship.