Brian Joss –
Current Donaldson Cross-Country Championship leaders, Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie, extended their lead at the top of the table with a win on the Nkomazi 450, round four of the six-round championship. The pair have so far dominated the 2015 season, having now won three of the season’s four races, as well as the first heat of the grueling Toyota 1,000 Desert Race.
“Leeroy and Rob have really stepped up and taken charge of this season,” beamed Team Principal Glyn Hall after the race finished at the Riverview Preparatory School in the Mpumalanga town of Malalane. “The win here in Malalane puts them in a very strong position for the championship.”
Poulter/Howie are now well clear of teammates Anthony Taylor and navigator Dennis Murphy, who retain their second place in the championship despite not finishing the Nkomazi 450. The pair suffered damage to the steering of the Castrol Team Toyota Hilux after swerving to avoid a stricken fellow competitor and hitting a rock.
“It was a disappointing weekend for Anthony and Dennis, especially considering that they qualified in such a strong position, and were all but matching Leeroy and Rob’s pace during the race,” continued Hall.
The two Castrol Team Toyota Hilux race vehicles qualified in first and second place during the prologue of the Nkomazi 450 – a qualifying race over a distance of 100km, used to determine the starting order for the main event.
Poulter/Howie went fastest of all on the day, and as a result pulled away 1:32 ahead of Taylor/Murphy. Defending champions Taylor/Murphy initially lost a bit of time to the flying Poulter/Howie, but then managed to stabilize that gap to roughly five minutes for the bulk of the race. Disaster struck during the second loop of the 350 km-long race, and the Taylor/Murphy were forced to retire.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Poulter/Howie either, despite winning by nearly 20 minutes over Jurgen Schröder and navigator Max Schröder (Nissan Navara). On the second loop of the race, the pair picked up a length of barbed wire fencing, together with four steel droppers, that became entangled around the left rear wheel of their vehicle. They suffered a puncture as a result, and struggled to get the new tyre onto the wheel hub, as the barbed wire was in the way.
“The wire was so tightly wrapped around the wheel and drive shaft that we couldn’t get it untangled. We just managed to replace the tyre and off we went – hoping for the best. As it turned out our lead was big enough to allow us to slow down somewhat, and make sure we got home safely.”
The next round in the Donaldson Cross-Country Championship is the Vryburg Enduro, which takes place on 11 and 12 September around the North West.