Mpumalanga 1000 leg one notes

COX/PITCHFORD TAKE EARLY TOYOTA DEALER 1000 LEAD Motorcycle legend Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford, in a Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody, took the early lead after day one of the Toyota Dealer 1000 - penultimate round of the Absa Off Road...

COX/PITCHFORD TAKE EARLY TOYOTA DEALER 1000 LEAD

Motorcycle legend Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford, in a Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody, took the early lead after day one of the Toyota Dealer 1000 - penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship - which started in Lydenburg today.

On a day of drama provisional results gave Cox and Pitchford a comfortable cushion of over 30 minutes on Ford Racing pair Manfred Schroeder and Alec Harris in the Production Vehicle category. In the Special Vehicle category the overnight lead was held by Gerhard du Plessis and Ferdi Seegers, in a Jimco, with the pair holding a three-minute lead over Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Roseau in a BAT Nissan.

On an event that is being observed by the FIA, the world controlling body for motorsport, for possible inclusion on the 2006 FIA Cross Country World Cup calendar, there was plenty of opening day drama. Most of it revolved around Cox and Pitchford's team-mates, Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan, in a second Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody and Class D title contenders Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin in a Castrol Toyota Hilux.

Grobler and Jordaan simply streaked off into the distance, and within the first 100 kilometres had built up a lead of more than 10 minutes. The disaster struck when a wheel hub disintegrated and, despite heroic attempts by the crew to get the Nissan mobile again, Grobler and Jordaan failed to complete the first leg.

The pair will, however, rejoin the fray tomorrow - but face a massive penalty. They will be given a time of five hours for today's leg, plus a one hour additional penalty, and will have mount a charge of epic proportions if they are to challenge Cox and Pitchford who, apart from losing five minutes in early mist, had a trouble free run.

Cronje and Birkin were early casualties when they rolled down a mountain and destroyed the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i. Cronje was later taken to hospital in Nelspruit for treatment for concussion, with the incident a severe blow to his Class D championship hopes.

Third overall in the Production Vehicle category were Cronje's younger brother Gavin and Robin Houghton, in a Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i, with the pair trailing Class D leaders Schroeder and Harris by just over 10 minutes. Fourth overall, and leading Class E after a scintillating day one, were Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux.

The top five in the Production Vehicle category were rounded out by Paolo Piazza-Musso and Ockie Fourie, another Castrol Toyota Hilux crew running in Class D. Leading Class F were brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat, in a Land Rover, who had a healthy cushion over Andre Botha/Richard Carolin in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chevy.

On the Special Vehicle front du Plessis and Seegers fought a day long battle with Bertholdt and Roseau who jumped into an early lead. Simultaneous rear tyre punctures then slowed the Bertholdt/Roseau charge, and du Plessis and Seegers moved into the lead.

Third in the Special vehicle category and in Class A were Shameer Variawa and VZ van Zyl, in the Total Motorsport Porter, who trail Bertholdt/Roseau by around seven minutes. Fourth were Clint Gibson and a car sick Marcelle Trethewey in a BAT Chevy with Class B leaders Evan Hutchinson and Vincent Horn fifth in the Motorite BAT. Nardus Alberts and Collin Hunter, in an Aceco Nissan, led Class S.

Among those also in the wars were Production Vehicle frontrunners Duncan Vos/Hennie ter Steege in another factory Nissan Hardbody who ran into suspension problems, and fancied Special Vehicle crews John Weir-Smith/Desmond Fouche (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco), Mark Corbett/Juan Mohr (Century Property BAT) and Class B champions Marcus Taylor and Mark de Chalain (JRE BAT) who retired with gearbox problems.

The second leg of the event starts in Lydenburg at 07h00 tomorrow, and will cover a distance of around 560 kilometres. The race ends on Saturday.

-msa-

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