Consistency and winning races are key ingredients to winning motor racing titles, and proved to be major factors in the Special Vehicle category success Motorite Racing enjoyed in this year’s Donaldson Cross Country Championship. Evan Hutchison and stand-in navigator Rodney Burke won the Atlas Copco Gold 450, the final round of the championship, in convincing fashion to cap a season in which the Motorite squad was always the dominant factor. Hutchison and regular co-driver Danie Stassen, who was on paternity leave at the final event, wrapped up the overall and Class A championships with an event in hand, with Hutchison ending up with two outright wins and victories in both the heats that made up the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana.
A lone non finish on the Nkomazi 450 in Mpumalanga was the only blot on the copybook, with Hutchison finishing on the podium in every other race on the six event championship calendar. Two other crews – Mark Corbett/Juan Mohr (Century Racing CR5) and Lance Trethewey/Geoff Minnitt (LTE BAT Venom) – matched Hutchison/Stassen for consistency but fell short when it came to picking up race victories. Corbett/Mohr and Trethewey/Minnitt won one event apiece with a win on the Vryburg Endurance lifting Corbett and Mohr into second place in the championship ahead of Trethewey and Minnitt.
Both crews missed the final event, but had enough points in hand to make sure of the minor championship places. Behind the top three the Atlas Cop Gold 450 provided a late change. Second overall for Class P champions John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten, in a Zarco Magnum, saw them jump three places from seventh to fourth in the final overall standings.
Thomson/Zermatten leapfrogged Brett Parker/VZ Van Zyl (Sizanani Plastics Jimco), Coetzee/Sandra Labuscagne (Chem Systems Porter) and Jimmy Zahos and Zaheer Bodhanya in the Cobalt Racing Stryker. The Sizanani team missed the season finale through an injury to Parker. The Labuscagnes were victims of the high attrition rate among Special Vehicle crews, while Zahos and Bodhanya failed to start the final race of the season. In the end the difference between the two crews was only four points.
Zahos and Bodhanya scored a maiden victory on the Nkomazi 450 but there were too many retirements. Parker and van Zyl faded after a bright start, with the Labuscagnes and Sarel Van Biljon/Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco BAT) also unable to match the top teams in terms of pace and reliability. Reliability also played a major role in the outcome of the Class P championship where Swaziland based driver Thomson and Zermatten finally ended up comfortable winners.
The championship issue was settled when Dakar Rally car preparation saw Century Racing pair Colin Matthews and Rodney Burke withdraw from the final event. Matthews and Burke finished a comfortable second in both the driver and co-driver championships, but third place respectively for veteran Richard Carolin and Andrew Massey was indicative of the reliability problems that plagued Class P runners throughout the season. A win and a fourth place in the two Toyota 1000 Desert Race heats saw Carolin and Massey accumulate enough points from one event to keep everyone else at bay.
The Donaldson championship mix of three 450 kilometre sprint races along with two 700 kilometre endurance events and the Botswana marathon provided teams with some interesting challenges. At the end of the day it was the Motorite Racing team and Thomson/Zermatten who played all the right cards at the right time.
Photo credit: Keino & Belinda Snaps Photography