Hluhluwe 400 final summary

HARPERS TAKE NARROW VICTORY ON NISSAN HLUHLUWE 400 The father and son team of Nick and Ryan Harper scored a narrow victory in the Special Vehicle category on the Nissan Hluhluwe 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended in ...

HARPERS TAKE NARROW VICTORY ON NISSAN HLUHLUWE 400

The father and son team of Nick and Ryan Harper scored a narrow victory in the Special Vehicle category on the Nissan Hluhluwe 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended in Hluhluwe today.

Provisional results gave the Harpers, in the Atlas Copco BAT, a slender 14 second win over former champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau in the Total Motorsport Porter. A further 13 minutes behind were Nardus Alberts and Collin Hunter in the Wrapsa BAT.

Local crew Clint Gibson and Mike Brown were a good fourth in the Absolute BAT with Class B winners Hendrik and Jan Kraaij, in the Keymax BAT, completing the top five. It was a great drive by the Kraaij's who scored their second win of the season.

The Harpers hardly put a foot wrong but were aided and abetted by the retirement of some of the Class A big guns, including Atlas Copco Porter team-mates Gary Bertholdt and Henry Kirstein who retired with overheating problems. Also sidelined were current SA champions Alfie Cox and Hennie ter Steege and Motorite BAT team-mates Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergman.

Both teams suffered from gearbox maladies in what was a disappointing outing for the Motorite team. Hutchison and Bergman won the opening round of the series, with Cox/ter Steege second, and the team was looking for a repeat in KwaZulu-Natal.

"We had a perfect weekend," said Harper senior. "We had no problems on the prologue or in the race."

The Kraaij's dominated Class B and were comfortably ahead of Bez Bezuidenhout and Johann de Bruyn in the Adenco BAT. Just to keep matters within the family Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout rounded out the top three.

The Kraaij's had nearly half and hour to spare over Bezuidenhout/de Bruyn and had a clear run. After two wins they have taken a firm early season hold on Class B.

Down in Class S Richard Schilling and Chris Davies, in the Plastotech Aceco, also made it two wins in a row. They were the only Class S finishers in the opening round, and today had plenty of time to spare over second placed Nic Goslar and Richard Carolin in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco.

Run in hot and humid conditions the race produced a high rate of attrition. There was, however, nothing but praise for a route that "sorted the men from the boys" with the Nissan Hluhluwe event breaking new ground.

GROBLER/JORDAAN MAKE IT TWO IN A ROW

South African champions Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan made it two in a row today when they won the Production Vehicle category on the Nissan Hluhluwe 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended in Hluhluwe today.

Provisional results saw the veteran pair, in the Nissan Navara, take their second win of the season by a comfortable margin of just over three minutes. But they had to nurse the Navara home on three wheels over the last eight kilometers to also take the Super Production Class honours.

Second were Swedish driver Ivar Tollefson and Welsh co-driver Qui Evans in another Nissan Navara, with Brandon Harcus/Juan Mohr coming up with a good result for Ford by taking the other podium position in the works Ford Racing Ranger.

Fourth were yet another factory Nissan crew in former SA champions Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford who ran into a string of niggly problems that cost them around 15 minutes. A great drive by Class E winners George and Sharon Barkhuizen, in the Ruwacon Toyota Hilux, saw them round out the top five.

"We hade a few problems here and there with overheating and a starter motor that wouldn't function properly," said Grobler. "Then eight kilometers from the finish we though we had a flat.

"We were a bit surprised to find we had lost the entire wheel and had to nurse the car home."

High profile non finishers included both Castrol Toyota Hilux entries in the hands of Mark Cronje/Chris Birkin and Bevan Bertholdt/Robin Houghton, and the second factory Ford Racing Ranger in the hands of former SA champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer. A broken ball joint and clutch failure put Bertholdt/Houghton out, a broken steering rack sidelined the other Toyota and the Ford retired with suspension damage after twice being hit from behind by Special Vehicles.

Class D produced surprise package winners in Ramon Bezuidenhout and Stefan Knox who were having their second outing in a Toyota Hilux. They held off Harold and Tiaan Coen, in a Land Rover, with Jurie and Andre du Plessis picking up third place in the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody.

Among the casualties were Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody, and brothers Henri and Maurice Zermatten in the Ryobi Nissan Hardbody. Like Woolridge and Skjoldhammer they were forced into retirement when clobbered by a Special Vehicle.

The Barkhuizen husband and wife team, in the Ruwacon Toyota Hilux, had around 40 minutes to spare over factory crew Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie in the Castrol Toyota Hilux. Third place in the ageing Unifreight Mitsubishi Pajero was a great result for Kobus van Tonder and Riaan Guelpa who outlasted some highly fancied crews.

-credit: msa

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Series Other rally
Drivers Mike Brown , Alfie Cox , Ralph Pitchford , Duncan Vos