Desert Race: Race summary

Nissan pair win Toyota 1000 Desert Race. Nissan scored their second victory of the season when veteran crew Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke won the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, round three of the Bankfin Off-Road Championship, which ended in...

Nissan pair win Toyota 1000 Desert Race.

Nissan scored their second victory of the season when veteran crew Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke won the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, round three of the Bankfin Off-Road Championship, which ended in Gaborone today.

Former South African champions Grobler and Leeke, in the factory Nissan Hardbody, dominated proceedings in the Production Vehicle category, and in the premier Class T almost from the start on Friday of the longest event on the Bankfin Off-Road Championship calendar. Grobler and Leeke qualified in third position on the grid on Friday, led at the overnight halt at Mamswabisi on Saturday night and cruised home on Sunday with around 12 minutes in hand.

Second in the Production Vehicle category and in Class T in the provisional results, were former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in the works Ford Racing Ranger. Keeping the Toyota flag flying were another set of former South African champions, Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton, who brought the new Team Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser home in third place.

The Special Vehicle category saw Greg Daus, partnered this time out by Andrew van Zyl, continue his dream start to the season. Daus and van Zyl, in the Nashua Mobile Raceco, won the Special Vehicle category with Daus increasing his lead in both the overall and Class S championships.

Second in the Special Vehicle category and Class S were veteran KwaZulu-Natal crew John Lambert and Steven Parker in the Digidoor. Lambert and Parker won the event in 1993 -- using the same car -- with Greg Harvey and Boy Stone, in the Castrol Queen Motor Spares Jimco the first of the hi-tech Class A cars.

The event turned into a copybook win for Grobler and Leeke. They were in charge from the moment team-mates and reigning South African champions Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan, winners of the Nissan Sugarbelt 400, went out of the race with a blown motor on the first racing section.

"We wanted to wrap it up on Saturday, and when we had a healthy lead at the overnight halt the hard work had been done," said Grobler. "After that it was a question of controlling matters from the front."

Woolridge and Skjoldhammer, looking for a repeat of their win last year, could make no impression on the Nissan on the final racing section. Reyneke and Houghton were in the same boat, and suspension problems late in the race forced the Barberspan 500 winners to slow the pace.

"We ran into suspension problems late on Saturday, and it got worse," said Reyneke. "We finally decided to settle for third and take the championship points.

"We half expected teething problems, but the new vehicle held out well and has a lot of potential when it comes to the rest of the season."

Among a long list of casualties were Cliff Weichelt and Johan Smalberger, in the N1 4x4 Ford Ranger, who were third in the Production Vehicle category and Class T at the overnight halt. They succumbed early on the final racing section with mechanical problems.

In an interesting Class D battle honours went to Nissan Hardbody factory crew Duncan Vos and Mike Griffiths after a tremendous performance. They started the first racing section way down in 81st position, and then simply carved their way through the field.

Vos and Griffiths ended up fourth overall in the Production Car category, and came in ahead of three other Class D challengers. Henry and Maurice Zermatten, in the Playstation Mitsubishi Pajero were second after edging out championship leaders Piet Haasbroek and Christo Bosch in the Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser.

Haasbroek and Bosch battled on the first racing section with differential problems, and were reduced to two wheel drive in the thick Botswana sand. Behind them Shumi van Vuuren and Hennie ter Stege were fourth in Class D and seventh overall in the Kwa Nokeng Lodge Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser.

Down in Class E the win went to reigning champions Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham in the Ford Racing Ranger. It gave the pair their second successive Class E win, with main challengers Kassie Coetzee and Ockie Fourie, in the Team Castrol Toyota Condor, among the non finishers.

Schroder and Peckham had around 20 minutes to spare over Class E championship leaders Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn in a Toyota Hilux. In third place behind the father and son combination were Hannes Steyn and Ferdi Seegers in another Toyota Hilux.

In Class F the husband and wife pair of Frank and Dalene de Greeff were the only finishers in a Toyota Hilux. Main challengers Paolo Piazza-Musso and Scott Abraham, in the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jeep, at one stage were running as high as second overall in the Production Vehicle category, but fell out on the first racing section with a ruptured fuel tank.

On the Special Vehicle front Daus and van Zyl were handed the overall lead in the Special Vehicle category at the Mamswabisi halt. Overnight and Class A leaders Brandon Harcus and track racer Regardt Roets, in another of the BAT Racing entries, did not start the final leg after running into a late engine problem.

Also among the non starters on the final leg were Nissan Sugarbelt 400 winners John Weir-Smith and Tony George in the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam BMW Jimco, with arch rivals Atang Makgekgenene and Alec Salley casualties on the final racing section. An engine problem forced Weir-Smith and George out of the running, and Daus and van Zyl were left with a handy lead over Greg Harvey and Boy Stone in the Castrol Queen Motor Spares Jimco, at the start of the final leg.

Daus has been in tremendous form this season, and proved he had the pace and the reliability to upstage the hi-tech Class A cars. It was much the same story with Lambert and Parker, and they steadily moved through the field on the run back to the finish at Gaborone.

Harvey and Stone took Class A and were third overall with an eight minute lead over the father and son combination of Bodo and Gary Bertholdt in the M and E Glass BAT. The Bertholdts edged out John Moore and Fred Werner in the Connix Chenowth, which, in Vee Motors livery, won the event last year in the hands of Franz Czepek senior and junior.

Third in Class S were Billy Bond and Anton Lombard in the Prolong Chenowth. Behind them Richard Carolin and Geoff Minnitt, in the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Superteam Raceco came home in fourth place after a steady haul.

Class B honours and a top 20 finish went to KwaZulu-Natal crew Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain in the Trucktime YSCO. Just 11 minutes behind them were East Rand veteran Giel Nel, in the LUK Afrika Truggy, with the reigning Class B champion again demonstrating his knack of consistently finishing high up in the points.

Once again the Toyota 1000 Desert Race took a heavy toll. Of the 86 starters only 36 made it to the finish and had to battle all the way.

-msa-

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Giniel de Villiers , Tony George , John Moore , Duncan Vos
Teams AT Racing