GREAT YEAR FOR OFF ROAD RACING With all but one of the titles on offer going all the way to the wire, this year's Absa Off Road Championship proved to be one of the closest fought series on the South African motorsport calendar. The tight ...
GREAT YEAR FOR OFF ROAD RACING
With all but one of the titles on offer going all the way to the wire, this year's Absa Off Road Championship proved to be one of the closest fought series on the South African motorsport calendar.
The tight battles that emerged in both the Production Vehicle and Special Vehicle categories made sure that interest was maintained to the very last in what has turned out to be a memorable year for off road racing. On top of a hugely competitive championship, off road racing in this country also went up a notch or two after being included on the calendar for next year's FIA Cross Country World Cup.
Following the recent Ford Carnival City 400, the final round of the Absa off Road championship, all championship issues have been resolved. The Ford Carnival City 400 saw Nissan put the finishing touches to another hugely successful season.
Nissan wrapped up the prestige South African Manufacturers Championship with Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford also making sure of the overall championship in the Production Vehicle category. For motorcycle legend Cox it was his 25th South African championship on two and four wheels.
The Cox/Pitchford combination edged out - by three points - their Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody team-mates Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan. Grobler, a multiple off road, rally and circuit racing champion, was expected to call it a day at the end of this season but has shelved retirement plans.
It was also the fifth year in a row that a Nissan crew had taken the title. A Nissan clean sweep at the top of the Production Vehicle leader board was halted by Ford factory pair Manfred Schroder and Alec Harris.
In winning the Class D championship, after a tight battle with runners-up Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler (Master Craft Ryobi Pajero), the Ford Ranger crew clinched third place in the overall championship. Zermatten and Schwegler led the Class D championship for most of the year but fell at the last hurdle with their first 'did not finish' in more than 20 outings.
Third in Class D were former Class E champions Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin (Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i) with Cronje missing the final event. Cronje was still suffering the after effects of concussion after a major accident on the Toyota Dealer 1000, and sat out the Ford Carnival City on medical advice.
The Class E title saw another close finish with Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, in the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux, scraping home in the drivers and co-drivers title race. Visser took the drivers title ahead of Zane Pearce (Castrol Toyota Hilux) and Badenhorst the co-drivers title ahead of outgoing champion Jaap de Bruyn.
The decision by brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat to move from Class D to Class F earlier in the season proved to be the right one. The Moffat's (Bosal Land Rover) ended up taking the Class F title ahead of Kopanong Hotel Superteam pair Andre Botha and Richard Carolin.
The final Production Vehicle title on offer also went to Nissan with SA champion Duncan Vos and Hennie ter Steege winning the Super Production category. The Nissan joined the fray late in the season with the Castrol Toyota Hilux entry making its debut on the final event of the year.
Special Vehicle and Class A winners Terence Marsh and Mike Whitehouse (Nashua Mobile BAT) had to go through a last 'hiccup' before being crowned champions ahead of the father and son team of Nick and Ryan Harper. The Nashua crew were initially excluded from the results of the Ford Carnival City 400 for missing a check point on the figure of eight course, but were able to convince race officials they had in fact completed the full race distance.
Not so lucky were Class B champions Evan Hutchison and Trevor Ormerod. The Motorite BAT crew were excluded for the same offence but, in their case the championship was already in the bag with Hutchison /Ormerod winning the title ahead of brothers Rudi and Pierre van Graan and 2004 champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain.
The final title on offer went to veterans Richard Schilling, a multiple national champion, and Chris Davies. The ageing pair, in the Plastotech Aceco, edged out Naeem Moosajee and Naazim Moti, with both crews failing to finish the Ford Carnival City 400, and Kopanong Superteam pair Nic Goslar and Collin Hunter.