Western Cape race summary

Grobler and Leeke make it five wins in a row on the Nissan Dealer 400. Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke (Class T Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody) chalked up their fifth consecutive SA Off Road Championship win in the season opening Nissan...

Grobler and Leeke make it five wins in a row on the Nissan Dealer 400.

Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke (Class T Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody) chalked up their fifth consecutive SA Off Road Championship win in the season opening Nissan Dealer 400 in Darling in the Western Cape on Saturday.

The veteran pair dominated proceedings over the weekend when they won the 68km Prologue to determine starting positions on Friday and then romped to a three and a half minute victory over former multiple off road champions Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton in the Class T Castrol Toyota Landcruiser.

Grobler and Leeke's margin of victory would have been greater had they not had to wait 4 minutes for a passing train at a railway crossing and had they not been forced to stop three times at farm dams on the last lap to take on water for the overheating Nissan engine.

Third overall and first in the Special Vehicle Category were Atang Makgekgenene and Mike Stangl in the SAM Racing Jimco who finished 15 minutes behind the race winners. They were the only Class A finishers in an event that proved to be deceptively tough and which wiped out all but four of the 19 Special Vehicles entered.

In a giant-killing performance reigning Rotax World Max Challenge Champion Mark Cronje, who was making his off road racing debut, and Chris Birkin, finished 4th overall and third in the Production Vehicle Category in their Class E Castrol Toyota Hilux 2700i.

Veteran Kassie Coetzee and Ockie Fourie crossed the line 29 seconds after Cronje and Birkin in the Class E Castrol Toyota Hilux 3.0 KZ-TE.

Johan and Martinhus vd Merwe from Harrismith drove consistently, finished 6th overall and took home the Class D win in their Chavant Mitsubishi Colt, which completed the event with a broken front differential.

Scott Abraham, making his debut as a driver, and Richard Carolin, making his debut as a navigator, finished 7th overall, 6th in the Production Vehicle Category and 3rd in Class T in the O'Hagan's / Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jeep. The pair, along with half the field, got stuck in thick sand on lap one, lost 45 minutes while digging their way out and also had to contend with an under-bonnet fire on their way to the finish.

The newly formed GBS Nissan Team had a successful debut on the Nissan Dealer 400 with JP and Linda Augustin finishing 8th overall and 2nd in Class D. They were followed across the line by Neels and Zelda vd Walt in the Class E Nissan Hardbody who had a clean run.

Former Class D champions Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo, who were forced to complete the last lap in two wheel drive, rounded out the top 10 and finished 3rd in Class D in their GBS Nissan Hardbody, just over a minute ahead of team mates Coetzee Labuschagne and Johan Gerber in another Class D GBS Nissan Hardbody.

Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham had a torrid time in their Class E Ford Racing Ranger 2.5 Turbo Diesel. The KZN cane farmers had fuel feed problems and also picked up a puncture on their way to a 12th place finish.

'Mr. Consistency' Giel Nel finished 13th overall, 2nd in the Special Vehicle Category and 1st in Class B in the LUK Afrika Truggy with Andrew Birkin, making his Special Vehicle debut, 3rd in the category and 2nd in Class B in the WPP Wingfoot.

Reigning Class B Special Vehicle champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain broke a shockabsorber in the Prologue, had ignition problems and got stuck in the sand twice during the main event and was the last of four Special Vehicles that managed to complete the event.

JP Joubert and Errol Hodgson's early charge in the Class E N1 4x4 Kia Sportage came to a grinding halt when they were forced to complete the last 124km lap in low range and had to be content with 16th overall and 5th in Class E.

Father and son Alfred and Tommy van Vuuren finished 17th overall and 6th in Class E in their Nissan Hardbody and were followed across the line by Deon Schoeman and Jan Sime in the Class D Topcar Nissan Hardbody.

Former Production Vehicle Champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer were the last place finishers and 4th in Class T in the Class E Ford Racing Ranger 2.5 Turbo Diesel. The pair were forced to compete in the top Production Vehicle class with a Class E vehicle when their French-built Class T Ford Ranger, which was all but destroyed in a high-speed accident during the Carnival City Casino 400 last year, was not completed in time for the race. They struggled to the finish after the front drive train failed resulting in them repeatedly getting stuck in the thick sand.

Notable retirements from the Nissan Dealer 400 included Dakar star Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan in the Class T Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody, reigning Production Vehicle champions Duncan Vos and Mike Griffiths also in a Class T Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody and off road motorcycle star Alfie Cox and Hennie ter Steege in the ex-Duncan Vos Class D Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody.

De Villiers and Jordaan held down second place for much of the race but were finally sidelined on the last lap when the rear suspension failed while Vos and Griffiths retired with gearbox problems.

Cox, who was making his off road car racing debut, and ter Steege put on a polished performance and led Class D until 8km from the finish when the clutch failed.

The second round of the SA Off Road Championship, the Nissan Sugarbelt 400, takes place in Eston, KwaZulu Natal on 9-10 May.

-msa-

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Alfie Cox , Duncan Vos