points one After the first round of the SA Off Road Championship - presented by Bankfin, the specialist vehicle finance division of ABSA, Ford, Nissan and Toyota - the Nissan Dealer 400 that took place during March in the Darling area in the ...
After the first round of the SA Off Road Championship - presented by Bankfin, the specialist vehicle finance division of ABSA, Ford, Nissan and Toyota - the Nissan Dealer 400 that took place during March in the Darling area in the Western Cape, the points situation is wide open.
Veterans Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke won the race in their Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody and are leading the SA Off Road Championship for Production Vehicles while Atang Makgekgenene and navigator Mike Stangl were victorious in their SAM Racing Jimco and have taken an early lead in the Special Vehicle championship.
But reading down the list, it is interesting to notice the name of the World Rotax Max Karting Champion, Mark Cronje, with his navigator, off-road veteran Chris Birkin, in second place followed by relative newcomers Johan and Marthinus van der Merwe in third position.
Cronje, known for his successes on the track and in kart racing and a newcomer to the off-road fraternity, took his first Class E victory together with Birkin in their Castrol-backed Toyota Hilux 2,7i and is currently lying higher up on the points ladder than familiar names in off- road racing. The same applies to the Van der Merwe team after they won Class D in their Chavani Mitsubishi Colt Rodeo in the Cape.
Although Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton (Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser) finished second in Class T, they had to settle for the fourth place on the overall points ladder and they are five points behind the leaders.
Another well-known name in motorsport circles, Kassie Coetzee together with navigator, Ockie Fourie, swapped their off-road Toyota Condor for a turbo diesel powered Castrol Hilux KZ-TE and only a few seconds separated them from their teammates at the end of a grueling event. Coetzee and Fourie are fifth on overall points in the Production Vehicle category.
The names at the bottom of the points ladder also make for interesting reading. While waiting for their Ford Racing Ranger, which was still being repaired in France after a high speed crash at the end of the 2002 season, multiple off-road champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer participated in the Nissan Dealer 400 with a Class E Ranger in Class T for Supertrucks. This was the same vehicle that they campaigned in the 2000 Roof of Africa and the same workhorse their teammates, Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham used to win the 2001 Class E championship. Their aim was to score some points and that is what they did - their fourth place in Class T saw them bagging some points although they are currently last on the points ladder.
With Class F for two-wheel drive vehicles not yet having taken off Scott Abraham and Richard Carolin decided to enter the two-wheel drive O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jeep in Class T and chalked up another finish. Abraham (22) made his debut as a driver and Carolin (54) his as a navigator and they finished third in the extremely competitive Class T and are 3rd in the Class T championship.
Those teams that did not participate with their Special Vehicles in the Nissan Dealer 400, still stand a good chance of picking up some valuable points for the rest of the season seeing that only four drivers and two navigators finished this event and scored points.
While Makgekgenene is one point ahead of the former Class B champion, Giel Nel in his single-seater Luk Africa Truggy, his navigator, Stangl, is leading the navigators championship by 10 points from the 2002-Class B navigator's champion, Marc de Chalain. Andrew Birkin, brother of Chris who teamed up with Mark Cronje and won Class E, decided to race alone and scored a third place overall in his Wingfoot. The 2002-Class B driver's champion, Marcus Taylor, occupies the fourth and last position in this championship.
Those competitors who did not make the trip to the Western Cape will have to play catch up on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400, which takes place on 9/10 May in the Eston area near Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal.