Nissan teams Lesotho 400 final summary

FOUR OUT OF FIVE FOR NISSAN ON LESOTHO SUN 400 The Proudly South African Nissan team scored their fourth Production Vehicle category win of the season in a dramatic Lesotho Sun 400, round five of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended at ...

FOUR OUT OF FIVE FOR NISSAN ON LESOTHO SUN 400

The Proudly South African Nissan team scored their fourth Production Vehicle category win of the season in a dramatic Lesotho Sun 400, round five of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended at Matsieng, near Maseru, today.

Off Road races in the Mountain Kingdom, dating back to the legendary Roof of Africa Rally, have a reputation for producing tough events and exciting racing. The win by former South African champions Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan had a bit of both, with the Nissan Navara crew taking both overall Production Car and Super Production Class honours.

"This race reminded me so much of the old Roof," said a delighted Grobler after coming in ahead of the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux 4.0 of Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin, and the works Ford Racing Ranger of Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer. Only seven minutes separated the three crews in the tightest finish of the season in the SP Class.

"It was a tough day at the office, and our service crew probably won it for us by keeping the vehicle going," said Grobler. "In the end we had to chase hard to catch the Toyota, and this is a win that didn't come easily."

Apart from running into mechanical gremlins Grobler and Jordaan lost time when they stopped to help team-mates Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford who had deposited the second Navara in a mud hole. It placed extra pressure on Grobler and Jordaan with both Cronje/Birkin and Woolridge/Skjoldhammer in the lead at one stage or another.

A puncture on the last of three tough 100 kilometre laps finally put Cronje and Birkin out of the running. Their first finish of the season, however, was a boost for a team that has not enjoyed the best of luck this season.

Ford's chance of winning the three-way fight at the front of the field evaporated at the end of the second loop when time was lost repairing a rear suspension strap. Steering damage on the last lap finally decided Woolridge and Skjoldhammer, who both won the old Roof of Africa on motorcycles to settle for third and valuable championship points.

Fourth overall and in class went to Bevan Bertholdt and Ockie Fourie, standing in for the injured Robin Houghton, in the second Castrol Toyota Hilux 4.0. It was a good recovery for the pair who had to start from the back of the field after suspension damage on the prologue, and saw both Toyotas finish the same race for the first time this season.

Vos/Pitchford, via their lengthy sojourn in the mud hole, had to be content with fifth place. For the winners of the recent Ford Motorite 400 it was a disappointing finish to a race that promised much more.

A tough route with plenty of wet patches after unseasonal Lesotho rains saw to it that the race turned into a long day for vehicles in Classes D and E. Reigning Class E champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux) won the Class D battle after simply outstaying the rest of the opposition.

Early class leaders Cliff and Louis Weichelt, in the Bosal Toyota Hilux, finally succumbed to a seized front brake caliper and broken wheel. That handed a second successive win to Visser/Badenhorst, and elevated Jurie and Arnold du Plessis, in the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody, into second in their best finish of the season.

With category leaders Manfred Schroder and Ward Huxtable having a miserable event in the works Ford Racing Ranger, the Class E honours went to Bosal Toyota crew Mark and Stuart Moffat. A string of mechanical maladies finally saw Schroder/Huxtable time barred, and the Moffat's cruised in over half an hour ahead of Thomas Rundle and Brian Roberts in the Baden Tyre Services Nissan Hardbody.

It was their best result of the season with the pair coming in eight minutes ahead of Brian Martin and Hennie Vosloo in the Castrol Toyota Hilux. Martin and Vosloo also had an adventurous time of it and their race included pulling team-mates Bertholdt and Fourie out of a mud hole.

-credit: nissan

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