Western Cape 400 summary

NISSAN PAIR DOMINATE OPENING ROUND OF ABSA OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP Reigning South African champions Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan, for the second time in a row, dominated the Production Vehicle category on the Nissan Dealer 400, the opening...

NISSAN PAIR DOMINATE OPENING ROUND OF ABSA OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP

Reigning South African champions Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan, for the second time in a row, dominated the Production Vehicle category on the Nissan Dealer 400, the opening round of the Absa Off Road Championship, which was run in the Darling area.

A trouble free run saw the veteran Grobler and Jordaan, in the Proudly South African Nissan Navara, get their season off to a dream start with overall victory and a win in the premier Super Production Class. Such was the domination Grobler and Jordaan exercised over the rest of the field that at the finish they were around 10 minutes clear of Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin in the works Castrol Toyota Hilux.

After a disappointing 2006 campaign Cronje and Birkin delighted. They overcame an encounter with a fence -- which led to a puncture and brake problem -- to finish 70 seconds ahead of former SA Champions Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford in the second factory Nissan Navara.

Vos and Pitchford found themselves embroiled in a terrific scrap with the factory Ford Ranger in the hands of Brandon Harcus and Juan Mohr, and the Absolute/Barloworld Ford Ranger of reigning Class E champions Manfred Schroeder and Ward Huxtable. Only 52 seconds separated the three crews with Harcus winning the Special vehicle category last year.

Among the high profile retirements were Class SP champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in the factory Ford Ranger, Norwegian driver Ivar Tollefsen and British co-driver Quin Evans in a third factory Nissan Navara, and Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton in the second factory Castrol Toyota Hilux. Woolridge/Skjoldhammer and Tollefsen/Evans went out with clutch problems, and a fractured brake pipe put an end to Bertholdt and Houghton.

Nissan also took the win in Class D where Jurie and Andre du Plessis, in the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody, edged out Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber in the new Raysonics Nissan Hardbody. Fuel starvation, the loss of four-wheel drive, a broken sideshaft and a puncture saw to it that Labuscagne and Gerber had a busy day, but they managed to see off third placed Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the Bosal Toyota Hilux.

Toyota picked up a win in Class E via the consistent Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in a Toyota Hilux. They had a clean run to come in comfortably ahead of Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro in the factory Ford Ranger.

It was also a tough day at the office for third placed Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie, in the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux, who won the class last year. They lost power steering about 40 kilometres into the event and after that it was hard going, but at the finish they had plenty in hand over Thomas Rundle and Brian Roberts in the Barden Tyres Nissan Hardbody.

DOUBLE TRIUMPH FOR MOTORITE BAT TEAM ON NISSAN DEALER 400

The Motorite BAT team got their season off to a perfect start with a one/two triumph in the Special Vehicle category on the Nissan Dealer 400, the opening event of the season, in the Darling area in the Western Cape.

Team leader Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergman came home around three minutes ahead of team-mates and reigning South African champions Alfie Cox and Hennie ter Steege. With arch rivals Gay Bertholdt and Henry Kirstein, in the Atlas Copco Porter, failing to see out the distance for the second year in a row, the two Motorite crews were in dominant form -- despite Cox and ter Steege running out of fuel within kilometres of the finish of the second of the three legs that made up the event.

It was just the sort of start Hutchison would have wanted for a team that has made a huge impact on the Absa series in the last three seasons. The final place on the podium went to the father and son combination of Nick and Ryan Harper who provided some compensation for the Atlas Copco team with a solid third place in the Atlas Copco BAT.

Fourth place went to former South African champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau in the Total Porter. The pair were without rear brakes for most of the event but "had a lot of fun."

Karl-Heinz Sullwald and Mannetjies Helberg, in a Sullwald Transport Zarco, also produced some solid early season form to round out the top five. Sullwald is also a former SA champion and a result like this will be an early boost for the Limpopo based team.

The Class B battle saw Jan and Hendrik Kraaij, in the Keymax BAT, come in around three minutes ahead of Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout in the Adenco BAT. The Kraaij's were one of the 2006 success stories in their first season of off road racing, and have already emerged as potential champions this time around.

Third went to Bes Bezuidenhout and Johan de Bruyn, in a second Adenco BAT, who held off veteran Giel Nel and Sandra Labuscagne in the Bosal Zarco. For Bezuidenhout, who recently underwent a major shoulder operation, it was a difficult event but, as he remarked, "cowboys don't cry."

Only one Class S crew made it to the finish with former SA champion Richard Schilling and Chris Davies seeing off the opposition in the Plastotech Aceco. It was a good fight back from the pair after a disappointing performance in the prologue to decide grid positions.

It was the first time Schilling and Davies made it to the finish of this event. In the process they saw off reigning SA drivers champion Nic Goslar and Richard Carolin in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco, and Glen Gibson and Mark Whitehurst in the Absolute Aceco.

-credit: msa

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Series Other rally
Drivers Mark White , Alfie Cox , Ralph Pitchford , Quin Evans , Duncan Vos