Mpumalanga 1000 final summary

COX/PITCHFORD WIN TOYOTA DEALER 1000 Lydenburg - The Nissan juggernaut continued here today when off road motorcycle legend Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford romped away with the Toyota Dealer 1000, penultimate round of the Absa off road ...

COX/PITCHFORD WIN TOYOTA DEALER 1000

Lydenburg - The Nissan juggernaut continued here today when off road motorcycle legend Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford romped away with the Toyota Dealer 1000, penultimate round of the Absa off road championship, in the Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody.

It was Nissan's seventh Production Vehicle category victory of the season, with Cox and Pitchford keeping the pressure on team-mates Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan in the overall championship. Provisional results saw the Nissan pair came in around 13 minutes ahead of Clint Gibson and Marcelle Trethewey, in a BAT Chev, who were second overall and first in the Special Vehicle category.

Third and fourth were also Special Vehicle entries with Gary Bertholdt/Siegfried Rousseau (Advansoft BAT Nissan) edging out the father and son combination of Nick and Ryan Harper in the BAT Audi. The top five were rounded out by a splendid performance from Manfred Schroeder and Alec Harris, in the factory Ford Ranger, who were second in the Production Vehicle category and first in Class D.

"That was a real off road race," said Cox afterwards of an event that was being observed by the FIA, the world controlling body for motorsport, for possible inclusion on the 2006 FIA Cross Country World Cup calendar. "The route was superb, the organisation great and the Nissan team again did a wonderful job.

"The last lap was a bit stressful when we lost reverse gear, but other than that we had a great run."

The Nissan pair took the lead early on day one on Thursday when Nissan team-mates Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan ran into suspension problems that saw them fail to finish the first day. Once they had their noses out in front Cox and Pitchford never put a wheel wrong, and marched inexorably towards a memorable win on a tough event - run in searing heat - that gradually wore down crews and machinery.

For their part Grobler and Jordaan, credited with a time of six hours for the first leg, reappeared on day two to fight their way from the back of the field to eventually finish 17th. It was a sterling effort on an event that produced a string of other brave efforts.

The Schroeder/Harris effort fell into that category as did sixth overall and the Class E win for Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux. Behind them in seventh place overall and second in Class D the Henri Zermatten/Bodo Schwegler combination, in the Master Craft Ryobi Mitsubishi Pajero, trotted out a trademark drive to score their 21st consecutive finish on Zermatten's 45th birthday.

The Schroeder/Harris, Visser/Badenhorst and Zermatten/Schwegler combinations, however, all benefited from a dreadful outing for Castrol Toyota Hilux 2,7i crews running in Classes D and E. Class D championship contenders Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin crashed out on day one with Cronje ending up in hospital in Nelspruit with concussion.

Day two saw the end of Class E championship leaders Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo with a broken rear axle, and day three saw the demise of Paolo Piazza-Musso/Ockie Fourie and Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton. Piazza-Musso and Fourie rolled and Cronje/Houghton went out with suspension problems to complete a miserable event for Toyota.

Reigning Class E champions Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn salvaged some sort of pride for the Castrol Toyota squad by finishing third in Class and 18th overall. They were nearly three hours behind Visser/Badenhorst and an hour behind the Ford of another father and son combination in Dirk van Reenen senior and junior.

A steady drive gave brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat the Class F honours. They were classified 13th overall and took control of the class when Andre Botha and Richard Carolin (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chev) retired on day two with a blown motor.

The Gibson/Trethewey challenge got off to a rocky start when Trethewey was constantly car sick on day one. After that, however, they produced a near faultless display in the Gibson Plant Hire BAT.

"This is a very special win," said Gibson. "It was a great event, but we never ran into any major problems and hardly got out of the car."

The demise of day one leaders Gerhard du Plessis and Ferdi Seegers (Jimco), Shameer Variawa/VZ van Zyl (Total Motorsport Porter), John Weir-Smith/Desmond Fouche (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco) and Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr in the Century Property Developments BAT made life a little easier for the frontrunners in the Special Vehicle category, but Gibson and Trethewey took advantage of little niggles that befell other crews and built up a 17 minute cushion.

Only two minutes separated Bertholdt/Rousseau and the Harpers with the father and son pair of Rob and Gareth Wark, eighth overall and fourth in Class A, also putting together a solid performance in the Superpave Raceco. The Warks held off a challenge from Evan Hutchison and Vincent Horn, in the Motorite BAT, who took Class B by a wide margin from Ernest Corbett and Warwick Goosen in the Century Property Developments BAT Audi.

The Hutchison/Horn success saw Hutchison wrap up the Class B drivers title. In his first season of off road racing Hutchison has hardly put a foot wrong and has been one of the revelations of the season.

Hutchison and Horn edged out overall championship leaders Terence Marsh and Mike Whitehouse in the Nashua Mobile BAT. Marsh, however, was quite happy with the result.

"It was a hard day to end a hard race," he said. "We had problems with a puncture and a broken odo, but took it carefully to make sure we got home and protected the championship lead."

Another steady drive saw Naeem Moosajee and Moti Naazim, in the Might Mag Nissan, score their second Class S win in a row. The final day took its toll of the likes of Nardus Alberts and Collin Hunter, in the Wrapsa Aceco, and left Moosajee and Naazim out on their own.

The final round of the Absa off road championship will be the Ford Carnival City 400 on November 18 and 19.

Provisional results:

Special vehicles
1 C Gibson / M Trethewey (BAT) 13h05m08s; 2 G Bertholdt / S Rousseau (BAT) 13h22m06s; 3 N Harper / R Harper (BAT) 13h24m46s; R Wark / G Wark (Chenowth) 13h58m07s; 4 E Hutchison / V Horn (BAT) 14h03m33s; 5 T Marsh / M Whitehouse (BAT) 14h12m38s; 6 E Corbett / W Goosen (BAT) 14h51m58s; 7 N Moosajee / M Naazim Mighty Mag 16h54;26; 8 R van Graan / M van Vuuren (Zarco) 17h48m48s;

Production vehicles:
1 A Cox / R Pitchford (Nissan) 12h42m56s; 2 M Schroder / A Harris (Ford) 13h30m04s; 3 C Visser / J Badenhorst (Toyota) 13H42M18S; 4 H Zermatten / B Schwegler (Pajero) 13h47m12s; 5 A du Plessis / J Knox (Nissan) 14h18m59s; 6 M Moffat / S Moffat (Land Rover 14h53m31s ; 7 D van Reenen senior and junior (Ford) 15h27m34s; 8 C Labuschagne / J Gerber (Nissan) 15h35m15s; 9 D Schoeman / J Sime (Nissan) 15h50m20s; 10 H Grobler / F Jordaan (Nissan) 15h51m31s.

-msa-

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Series Other rally
Drivers Alfie Cox , Ralph Pitchford , Gavin Cronje , Mark Corbett , Japie Badenhorst