DRAMATIC FORD CARNIVAL 400 VICTORY FOR WOOLRIDGE/SKJOLDHAMMER Former South African champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, in a factory Ford Racing Ranger, scored a dramatic win on the Ford Carnival City 400 today to deny Nissan a clean...
DRAMATIC FORD CARNIVAL 400 VICTORY FOR WOOLRIDGE/SKJOLDHAMMER
Former South African champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, in a factory Ford Racing Ranger, scored a dramatic win on the Ford Carnival City 400 today to deny Nissan a clean sweep in the Production Vehicle category of the Absa Off Road Championship.
Provisional scoring saw Woolridge and Skjoldhammer come in ahead of Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan, in a works Nissan Navara, and Castrol Toyota Hilux factory pair Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin with just one minute and 43 seconds separating the three crews after 400 kilometres of tough racing. The Ford came in 50 seconds ahead of the Nissan with the Toyota a further 53 seconds in arrears.
The Woolridge/Skjoldhammer win put an end to a seven race winning streak by Nissan this season. The second place for Grobler and Jordaan, however, was enough for Jordaan to clinch this year's SA co-driver championship ahead of team-mate Ralph Pitchford.
Pitchford sits alongside Duncan Vos, who clinched the driver championship in the penultimate race of the season, and missed two events via overseas commitments. After a troubled event Vos and Pitchford eventually finished fifth to hand the championship to Jordaan.
Fourth place went to Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and VZ van Zyl in another factory Nissan. It was enough to place Tollefsen third in the driver championship behind Vos and Grobler.
A terrific race was won and lost in the last 10 kilometres. Cronje and Birkin were holding off Woolridge and Skjoldhammer when a windscreen washer bottle malfunctioned.
"We went through two mud holes and it was impossible to see out the windscreen," said Cronje. "We had to get out the car to clean the screen and the first time it happened the Ford went past us.
"When we stopped again Hannes and Francois passed us and for the third time this season a win went out the window."
For Woolridge and Skjoldhammer the win was not without its problems. A radio malfunction meant the pair could not communicate and they survived an overheating scare.
"If we could have chosen an event to win, this would have been it," said Woolridge. "It was a win we desperately needed and there were times when Kenny and I wondered if we would ever get it right."
Grobler and Jordaan also had problems. A disappointing prologue saw them start 21st and they also drove the last 80 kilometres with a broken gear lever.
The final event of the season also saw championship issued settled in Classes D and E. Arnold du Plessis and Johan Knox, in the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody took the Class D win ahead of rookies Ramon Bezuidenhout and Stefan Lock (Toyota Hilux), and the father and son team of Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the Bosal Toyota Hilux D4D.
Third was enough to give the title to the Weichelt's in a class where there were five or six potential championship winners. They went into the race with a five point lead over Henri and Maurice Zermatten (Ryobi Nissan Hardbody) who were among the race casualties.
The Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux pair of Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux took the Class E honours ahead of the factory Ford Ranger in the hands of Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro. It meant that Peckham took the driver championship ahead of Visser, while le Roux took the co-driver honours ahead of Santoro who lost points when he withdrew halfway through the Amathole 500 because of illness.
HUTCHISON/BERGMANN WIN SA SPECIAL VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP
The Motorite BAT pair of Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann scored an emphatic win on the Ford Carnival City 400 today to clinch the Special Vehicle title in a dramatic end to the Absa Off Road Championship.
Hutchison and Bergmann stormed home around six minutes ahead of Colin Matthews and Alan Smith, in the Century Racing BAT, for their third win in a row. It was a victory that wrapped up a championship that went all the way to the wire.
Hutchison and Bergman went into the race five points behind Nick and Ryan Harper, in the Atlas Copco BAT, in what was a winner takes all situation. A fired up Hutchison and Bergmann simply blitzed the opposition to give the Motorite team their second overall and Class A championship in a row.
Outgoing champions Alfie Cox and Hennie ter Stege, in a second Motorite BAT, were third in with the Atlas Copco Porter, in the hands of Gary Bertholdt and Geoff Minnitt, taking fourth place ahead of the Harpers. Straying off the course on the second of two 180 kilometre loops and getting stuck in a mud hole, did not help the Harper cause in what was a disappointing end to the season for the Atlas Copco team.
"Everything panned out nicely for us," said Hutchison. "We were a little unsettled on the first loop, but after that it went well.
"The last 50 kilometres were nerve wracking but this was a victory for the whole team."
Class B champions Hendrik and Jan Kraaij, in the Regent Racing BAT, ended their season in fine style with their sixth win in eight events. They came in eighth overall behind Regent Racing BAT team-mates Mike Whitehouse/Matthew Carlson and Terence Marsh/Pieter Groenewald who were sixth and seventh overall and in Class A.
A family battle for the runner-up spot in Class B went the way of Bez Bezuidenhout and Johann de Bruyn (Adenco BAT) ahead of Bezuidenhout's sons, Etienne and Johan, in a second Adenco BAT. Both teams went out with mechanical problems with Bezuidenhout senior and de Bruyn second in the championship by one point.
Veteran Richard Carolin and Nic Goslar, in the ageing Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco, took the Class S honours in a fine drive that saw them finish 12th overall. Carolin and Goslar, who normally does the driving, finished almost 15 minutes ahead of Glen Gibson and Mark Whitehurst in the Absolute Aceco.
The Raceco has an interesting history. The car was first raced in the United States in the 80s, and was imported into South Africa in 1994.
Veterans Richard Schilling and Chris Davies (Aceco) who won the Class S championship at the penultimate race of the season, gave this event a miss. Schilling is still feeling the after effects of a broken wrist.