Gauteng 400 post-race notes

SOUTH AFRICAN OFF ROAD TITLE ADDS TO COX LEGEND Another chapter was added to the Alfie Cox legend at the Ford Carnival City 400, the final round of the Absa Off Road Championship, over the weekend. Second place in the Production Vehicle...

SOUTH AFRICAN OFF ROAD TITLE ADDS TO COX LEGEND

Another chapter was added to the Alfie Cox legend at the Ford Carnival City 400, the final round of the Absa Off Road Championship, over the weekend.

Second place in the Production Vehicle category was enough to see Cox and Ralph Pitchford, in a Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody, win the overall South African championship. The win at Carnival City went to Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan, in another of the factory Nissan Hardbody, but winning the final battle of the season wasn't enough to see the veteran pair win the war.

Cox and Pitchford went into the event nine points ahead of Grobler, who has shelved retirement plans for at least another year, and Jordaan. Although starting from the back of the field after rolling out of the prologue, Cox and Pitchford came storming through the field to do enough to take the championship.

Nissan made a clean sweep of the first three places at Carnival City when former champion Duncan Vos and Hennie ter Steege brought a third Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody home in third place to win the Super Production class. The event also saw Nissan clinch their fifth successive overall driver/co-driver championship.

Cox's triumph saw the KwaZulu-Natal superstar win an unprecedented 25th South African championship. Cox has now won 23 national titles on motorcycles and two national championships on two wheels.

"After the prologue hiccup Ralph and I were a little worried that the time we would have to make up would prove a little out of reach," said Cox. "As it was we had a clean run and everything fell into place.

"The technical crew did a great job on repairing the vehicle after the roll, and much of the credit goes their way."

Grobler and Jordaan also had a prologue hiccup and, after losing six minutes, started the race proper in sixth place. After heavy overnight rain early conditions were tricky, but the pair were soon firmly in control of proceedings and eventually finished around 11 minutes ahead of Cox and Pitchford.

Vos and ter Steege, who set the fastest time on the prologue, ran into niggly ptoblems that eventually dropped them behind the Grobler/Jordaan and Cox/Pitchford combinations. Windscreen wipers that would not work cost them valuable time early on, and this was compounded by an unscheduled stop to repair a leaking power steering oil pipe.

Behind the three Nissans former rally champion Paolo Piazza-Musso and Ockie Fourie produced their best performance of the season in a Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i to finish fourth overall and win Class D. They came in ahead of Manfred Schroder and Alec Harris, in a factory Ford Racing Ranger, who did enough to win the Class D title.

The Ford pair's only title challengers, Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler, in the Ryobi Mitsubishi Pajero, failed to see out the distance and that settled the championship issue. For Zermatten and Schwegler it was their first did not finish in more than 20 events.

Sixth overall and the Class E win went to outgoing class champions Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn in a Castrol Toyota Hilux. They edged out veteran pair Cliff Barker and Chris Birkin who gave the new Castrol Toyota Hilux, running in the Super Production class, an encouraging debut.

"The main aim was to finish and provide as much research and development feedback as possible," said Barker. "We learned a great deal, and the vehicle has huge potential."

Another championship issue was settled when Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst brought their Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux home in 10th place overall. They were the last of the classified finishers in the Production Vehicle category, but the result was enough to see Visser taken the Class E title by two points from Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo in a Castrol Toyota Hilux.

Pearce and Vosloo finished eighth overall. It was not enough, however, and provisional scoring saw then finish two points in arrears in the title chase.

The final title issue to be settled was in Class F where brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat, in the Bosal Land Rover, were sandwiched between Pearce/Vosloo and the Visser/Badenhorst in eighth position. With nearest title challengers Andre Botha and Richard Carolin, in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chev among those to fall by the wayside on an event that took a high toll on machinery, the Moffat's were home and dry.

-msa-

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Alfie Cox , Ralph Pitchford , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst