Evan Hutchison and Trevor Ormerod, driving their Motorite Racing BAT Nissan, comfortably won their Special Vehicle class in the Absa Off Road Car Championship season-opening Nissan Sugarbelt 400, which ended in Eston near Pietermaritzburg, on Saturday.

Competing in their first national championship off-road race together, with support from Motorite, the largest independent mechanical breakdown insurance and full maintenance plan service provider and administrator in South Africa, the pair gave notice that they are now serious contenders for the class B (limited to 2-litre engines) Special Vehicle title. Based on their outstanding performance in KwaZulu Natal over the weekend, they will give many of the more powerful class A cars a good run for their money.

They gave clear notice of their intentions during Friday’s prologue (a 31-km time trial to establish the starting order for Saturday’s 420-km race) when they clocked the fastest time of the class B specials and the third-fastest time of all the specials, beating many of the bigger-engined established front runners.

“The time trial set us up,” said Hutchison, a former leading quad racer and special vehicle navigator who was competing as a driver for the first time. “Dust is always a problem in off road racing and passing opportunities are few and far between. It’s key to a good result to start as close to the front as you can.

“We started the race well and held our third place behind the two Bertholdt brothers in their class A BAT specials for most of the morning before second-placed Bevan rolled. We stopped to assist and lent him our tow rope.”

At this stage Hutchison and Ormerod were some six minutes ahead of the next class B car, the JRE Sandmaster of reigning class B champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain who had started 33 seconds behind the Motorite BAT.

“By now Trevor and I realised we had the pace to not only comfortably win our class but also to take on the class A cars,” said Hutchison. At the compulsory halfway stop at the Designated Service Point at the Beaumont-Eston Farmers’ Club, they were second overall in the special vehicle class and the talk of the off-road racing establishment.

“We even led briefly for about 10 minutes when Gary Bertholdt in the leading BAT stopped to replace a flat wheel. We were having a very comfortable run and just pacing ourselves to the finish. I guess I lost concentration a little, because I made a mistake going through a particularly muddy section and we got stuck.

Off road racing is a sport characterised by exceptional camaraderie and acts of good sportsmanship, but it was some 15 minutes before someone would stop and assist the stranded Motorite BAT (“I don’t blame the class A specials for not stopping – they didn’t want to be beaten by a class B car!” said Hutchison.

The good Samaritan turned out to be no less that Bevan Bertholdt, returning Hutchison’s earlier friendly gesture. He retrieved his towrope and Bertholdt pulled him out. Now they had dropped back to fifth in the special vehicle class where they finished, but still a comfortable 28 min 29 sec ahead of the second-placed reigning champions Taylor and de Chalain.

“We’re very happy with our performance,” said a delighted Hutchison at the finish. “Before we got stuck in the mud we were looking at a very unlikely second place finish. “We know we have a very, very good car. Trevor is an exceptional navigator and, thanks to our generous sponsor, Motorite, we have the equipment and the back-up to do really well this year.”

Original article from Car