Mpumalanga 400 final summary

TOYOTA DEALER 400 CLEAN SWEEP FOR NISSAN Nissan scored a clean sweep of the Toyota Dealer 400, penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, in Mpumalanga over the weekend. The factory Proudly South African Nissan Navara entries, crewed...

TOYOTA DEALER 400 CLEAN SWEEP FOR NISSAN

Nissan scored a clean sweep of the Toyota Dealer 400, penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, in Mpumalanga over the weekend.

The factory Proudly South African Nissan Navara entries, crewed by Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford and Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan, took first and second in the Production Vehicle category and in the Super Production Class to give Nissan their fifth win in seven events this year. Nissan's cup was filled to the brim when Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr, in the Century Property Development Nissan Navara, came in third behind the works entries.

The Nissan cup then overflowed when the factory Ford Racing Ranger crew of Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer failed to make it into the top six in the Production Vehicle stakes. That gave Grobler and Jordaan an unassailable lead in both the overall and Class SP championships.

>From a Grobler/Jordaan perspective it was a case of losing a skirmish to their team-mates but winning the war. For ebullient Grobler it was his fourth national off road championship to go with a South African rally title and a string of circuit racing championships.

Grobler and Jordaan finished 18 seconds behind Vos and Pitchford but were quite content to play second fiddle to their team-mates after Woolridge and Skjoldhammer, who led the SP Class championship going into this event, ran into early problems. A broken sideshaft on the first of three loops reduced the Ford Ranger to having to struggle along in two-wheel drive, and effectively ended any chance Woolridge and Skjoldhammer had of winning the overall or SP Class titles.

"Over the last few seasons we have won or lost the championship on the last two events of the season," said Jordaan. "It is a relief to know that this season we can go to the final race, the Ford Carnival City 400, knowing the championship is in the bag."

Fourth overall and in the SP Class after a solid performance were the Castrol Toyota Hilux pair of Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton. The were forced to carry the Toyota flag after Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin dropped out after the first loop with steering problems.

The second Ford Racing Ranger, driven by Rob Gurney and Graham Stainbank, came in behind the Toyota. Both Bertholdt/Houghton and Gurney/Stainbank never seriously challenged for top three places with the Nissan crews always in control of proceedings.

The Class D honours went to Jaap and Hugo de Bruyn, in the Castrol Toyota Hilux, after a close battle with the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody pair of Arnold du Plessis and John Knox. For the de Bruyn's it was their second win of the season and their second in a row.

Third in class, however, was enough to see Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, in the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux, take the Class D championship. With four wins for Visser and Badenhorst, two for the de Bruyn's and a sole success for Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the Bosal entry, Toyota crews have won all seven events run so far this season.

Another championship issue was settled when Manfred Schroder and Ward Huxtable (Ford Racing Ranger) finished second in Class E. It was enough to wrap up matters for the KwaZulu-Natal crew with the win going to a delighted George and Sharon Barkhuizen, in the Ruwacon Toyota Hilux, who scored their first ever national championship victory.

Third were Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie in the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux with Toyota crews also taking the next three places. Fabio Tafani/Mike Baron (Club Refrigeration Toyota Hilux), Mark and Stuart Moffat (Bosal Toyota Hilux) and Jaco Swanepoel and Grayham Bishop (IDM Cement Toyota Hilux) filled the minor placings.

COX/TER STEGE WIN SPECIAL VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP

Off road legend Alfie Cox and Hennie Ter Stege, from the Motorite BAT team, wrapped up the Special Vehicle and Class A championships in controversial circumstances at the Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga over the weekend.

In a dramatic finish Cox and Ter Stege and their Motorite BAT team-mates Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann came in behind the Atlas Copco Porter driven by Gary Bertholdt and Henry Kirstein. Race officials, however, penalised the Atlas Copco crew for an incorrect start time on the third and final loop of the race, and dropped them to third behind the two Motorite BAT crews.

Bertholdt and Kirstein protested the decision and were reinstated as winners of the event by the stewards of the meeting. The Motorite team then appealed against the decision by the stewards, and the Class A results are provisional pending a Motorsport South Africa appeal hearing.

The outcome of the appeal, however, won't affect the result of the Special Vehicle or Class A championships. Whether they are placed first or second on the event Cox and Ter Stege, with one event still to be run this season, cannot be caught in either championship.

For Cox it is his 26th South African title and caps a remarkable career on two and four wheels. A multiple SA off road motorcycle champion, Cox has now also won the Production Vehicle and Special Vehicle championships on four wheels.

There was never more than a minute or two between Bertholdt/Kirstein and the two Motorite BAT cars. There were only 13 seconds between Cox/Ter Stege and Hutchison/Bergmann and the turning point came when Bertholdt and Kirstein, after arriving at the designated service point behind Cox and Ter Stege, started the third and final loop of the race ahead of the Motorite crew.

Fourth was former SA champion Shameer Variawa and Andrew van Zyl, in the Total Motorsport Porter, after a steady drive. Fifth in their best result of the season were the father and son combination of Rob and Gareth Wark who shared the driving in the singleseater Superpave BAT.

The Class B honours went to Johann and Etienne Bezuidenhout, in the Adenco BAT, in a commanding performance that saw them finish more than 20 minutes ahead of veterans Ernest Corbett and Warwick Goosen in the Century Property Development BAT. Third were another veteran crew in Giel Nel and Johan Smalberger, in the Bosal LUK Truggy, but the demise of Jan Kraaij and son Jan Jnr, in the Keymax BAT, has left Class B wide open with one event left.

Kraaij led the drivers championship prior to this event, with father and son lucky enough to both be out of the car when it plunged down a steep ravine. Going into the Ford Carnival City 400 in mid November, any one of three or four crews could now win Class B.

The Class S driver's championship is also heading for an exciting climax at the Ford Carnival City 400 after a hard earned win for reigning champions Richard Schilling and Chris Davies in the Plastotech Aceco. The result sees Schilling close to within a couple of points of Nic Goslar who, along with co-driver Richard Carolin, in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco, were among the non finishers.

Botswana pair Gary Gillingham and Peter van Vuuren, in the Shell Raceco, were second with Archie Rutherford and Craig Doubtfire (Nashua Mobile Raceco) a distant third. The result saw Davies cement his hold on the co-drivers championship, but the Ford Carnival City 400 will settle the drivers championship.

-credit: msa

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