Early championship lead for Evan Hutchison/Danie Stassen

Motorite Racing could hardly have scripted a better opening to their Special Vehicle campaign in this year’s Donaldson Cross Country Motor Racing Championship.

Reigning champions Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen won the qualifying event for the RFS Endurance Race, cruised home in the race and then saw the squad voted Team of the Event. The outcome leaves Hutchison and Stassen with an early lead at the top of the standings in the overall and Class A championships, and provides the perfect platform from which to launch a quest for back to back national titles.

A potential gearbox problem at the end of the qualifying race gave the Motorite team a scare. The problem was quickly sorted out, and Hutchison and Stassen finished the race around 12 minutes clear of Sarel van Biljon and Philip Herselman in the Atlas Copco BAT.

It was an encouraging start for van Biljon and Herselman, with third place Keith Makenete and Greg Godrich (BAT) also off to a flyer. For Makenete and Godrich, better known in rally circles, it was their first podium finish and the result will have given them a boost in confidence.

There were also solid starts for Jimmy Zahos and Zaheer Bodhanya (Cobalt Racing Stryker) and Botswana crew Keith du Toit and Robbie Coetzee in the White Star Racing BAT. Zahos and Bodhanya last season picked up a maiden national victory, and if they steer clear of reliability problems could emerge as real threats over the remainder of the season.

Much the same applies to former champions Quintin and Kallie Sullwald in a second Motorite entry, a BAT Venom. The pair sat out the whole of last season and returned to action in Vryburg with a sixth place – despite a 10 minute penalty and a litany of punctures.

With their proven pedigree the Sullwalds, once they have shaken off the cobwebs, will pose a major threat at the front of the field. Head to head battles between the Motorite team-mates is a prospect to be relished.

Behind the top Class A crews there was a slight surprise in Vryburg with newcomers Willem du Toit and Bertus Goussard, in a CR-T, eking out a narrow Class P win over multiple champions John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten in a Zarco Magnum. The battle lines have been drawn with the two crews seventh and eighth in the overall standings, and first and second in Class P.

John Telford/Victor Ntsekhe (Calcamite Hellcat), veteran Nic Goslar and Andrew Massey (SA Clinics Zarco) and Grant Watkins and Paul Mare, in another Zarco, were next up in Class P and all picked up useful points.

A new experience awaits the Special Vehicle brigade next time out with crews heading to Vredefort, in the Free State, for a one day Super Sprint race on May 7. The one day event is a new innovation, and will be run over two 100 kilometre loops with the start order determined by the national seeding list.