Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400 off-road race report

Woolridge And Skjoldhammer Head Production Vehicles Sixth Straight Special Vehicles Success For Czepek SNR Reigning champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer gave their brand new Ford Ranger V8 a debut overall win in the Production ...


Woolridge And Skjoldhammer Head Production Vehicles
Sixth Straight Special Vehicles Success For Czepek SNR

Reigning champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer gave their brand new Ford Ranger V8 a debut overall win in the Production Vehicle category and in class T in round six of the 2001 MSA Off-Road Car Championship, run in the Tarkastad area of the Border on Saturday.

Woolridge was pushed all the way by the Nissan Hardbody V6 Double Cab of Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan, which finished four minutes behind the Ford after 400 km of tough racing. The Ford had an untroubled run while the Nissan pair lost around 12 minutes as a result of two punctures and, although they finished the second 200-km loop of the route some six minutes' quicker than the winners in actual racing time, they were unable to close the gap.

It was a bitter disappointment for the former national touring car champion, who has threatened to dominate the Production Vehicle category in his first year in off-road racing and was looking like scoring his third win in six races. Third overall and in class T was the Mitsubishi Pajero of current championship leaders Buks Carolin and Hennie ter Stege, some 24 minutes behind the Nissan.

The provisional overall Production Vehicle and class T results, announced at the prize-giving in Tarkastad on Saturday night, are subject to an MSA enquiry regarding the eligibility of the Ford, which has not passed a technical inspection by the MSA Off Road Car Commission.

While the Production Vehicle contest was close at the front the Special Vehicle category remained the comfortable preserve of Franz Czepek senior (class A Vee Motors Chenowth), who won his sixth successive race and assured himself of the drivers' championship. He and co-driver Steven Parker (standing in for Frans Czepek junior, who has an injured back) were not seriously challenged throughout the event and finished nearly 18 minutes ahead of second-placed Terence Marsh and Trevor Ahier (class A Comutanet Raceco). Third were Greg Harvey and Boy Stone (class A Queen Motor Spares Jimco).

Event sponsor Harvey's was a brave performance. He experienced sharp chest pains during the first loop and was taken to a doctor by a spectator for a Voltaren injection while co-driver Boy Stone took over the driving and navigating. Harvey was taken back to the race by the friendly spectator and rejoined his team-mate some 50 km further into the route.

Woolridge's and De Villiers' jobs were made easier by the early retirement of former off-road champions Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke (Nissan Hardbody V6 Double Cab), who went out with a broken gear selector lever after only 36 km, and a host of problems experienced by former champions Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton (Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser). Despite being slowed by two punctures and the power steering belt coming off in the first half of the race, they finished seventh overall and fifth in class T.

Stratford Voogt and Scott Abraham (Vacation Vans Jeep Cherokee V8) looked good in the early stages only to retire 28km into the second loop when a ball joint pulled out of the right front hub.

Class D was won for the third event in a row by Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr (Petronas Syntium Isuzu KB), who finished an impressive fourth overall. Piet Haasbroek and Christo Bosch (Castrol Toyota) were second, 2 min 35 sec in arrears and sixth overall behind the class T N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser of Cliff Weichelt and Johan Smalberger.

Third in class D after a clean run was the Sony Play Station Mitsubishi Pajero of Henri Zermatten and Maurice.

Current class D championship leader Shumie van Vuuren and co-driver Fanie Kotze (Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser) remain in the lead despite enduring a miserable event in which they suffered a flat wheel in the time trial, brake pipe problems and a cracked diff in the first loop and the loss of first their power steering and then four-wheel drive in the second loop. They soldiered on and managed to finish 14th overall and sixth in class (over an hour behind class winners Corbett and Mohr) to score valuable championship points.

Notable class D retirements included the Valid Value Nissan Hardbodies of reigning champions Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo (broken shock absorber in the first loop and broken rear leaf spring in the second) and Duncan Vos/Donovan Brown (broken wishbone just 30 km from the finish). Grobler had led the class on the first loop until his problem and Vos was chasing eventual class winners Corbett and Mohr after starting 34th in the 47-car field of Special and Production Vehicles thanks to a puncture in the time trial.

Class E honours went to Manfred Schroeder and Jack Peckham (Ford Ranger) ahead of Kassie Coetzee and Ockie Fourie (Castrol Toyota Condor) and reigning class E champions Andrew and Chris Birkin (Castrol Toyota Hilux).

The Special Vehicle race was marked by another meritorious performance by reigning class B champion Giel Nel in his single-seater Luk Africa Truggy. He finished fifth overall and was the sole survivor of a depleted class of just four vehicles who contested the event.

The category was hit by many retirements, notable among these being the O'Hagan's Kopanong Hotel Jimco of John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt, the M&E Glass Dirtco of Gary and father Bodo Bertholdt (broken crank sensor wire) and the JRE of Gavan Gray/Graham Cunningham.

-MSA/SAORC-

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Giniel de Villiers , Mark Corbett , Duncan Vos