Nissan Motorsport's domination of the Bankfin Off-Road Championship continued today with a double triumph on the Carnival City Casino 400, the final event of the series, on the East Rand. Veteran former South African champions Hannes Grobler and...
Nissan Motorsport's domination of the Bankfin Off-Road Championship continued today with a double triumph on the Carnival City Casino 400, the final event of the series, on the East Rand.
Veteran former South African champions Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke, in a factory Nissan Hardbody, took overall honours in the Production Vehicle category and won Class T to give Nissan their seventh win in eight outings this season. The Nissan cup then overflowed when Class D champions Duncan Vos and Mike Griffith, in another Nissan Hardbody, came in second in the Production Vehicle category to clinch the overall drivers and co-drivers championships.
"This has been a real team effort," said Vos. "After Touring Cars there was nowhere for me to go in motorsport, and I am grateful that Nissan offered me a new career.
"Winning this championship has been hard work."
First across the line in the Special Vehicle category and in Class A were brothers Gerhard and Lawrence du Plessis, who scored their fourth win of the season in the Mobil Jimco. The Wolmaransstad pair was followed home by the father and son combination of Bodo and Gary Bertholdt in the Comutanet BAT Racing entry.
As was the case last year the Carnival City Casino 400 was the decider in a number of Production and Special Vehicle championship categories, and by the end of the day there were stories of triumph and tears. One of the first championship issues to be decided saw tears for the Ford Racing Ranger pair of Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, co-leaders at the start of the day with Vos and Griffiths in the overall Production Vehicle championship.
A lower control arm broke on the Ford Ranger within an hour of the start, with Woolridge and Skjoldhammer lucky to escape with bumps and bruises from a series of end over end rolls. That left the outcome of the overall championship in the hands of Grobler/Leeke and Vos/Griffiths, with the latter finishing high enough in the overall standings to edge out their Nissan team-mates.
There were more tears for the factory Ford Racing squad when Class E reigning champions and championship leaders Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham limped home 19th overall and fourth in class. That saw the pair, just four points clear at the start of the day, lose out in the championship stakes to Toyota Hilux pair Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn who turned in a sterling performance to finish 10th overall and first in Class E.
Six of the first 10 cars across the line were Special Vehicles and among them were Greg Harvey and Boy Stone, in the Castrol Queen Motor Spares Lexus Jimco. The Eastern Cape pair were fifth overall and fourth in Class A, and that saw them wrap up both the Special Vehicle and Class A drivers and co-drivers championships - with the pair also maintaining a 100 percent finish record for the season.
"We were monitoring the progress of Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain, and when they dropped out we decided to play it safe," said Stone. "We also wanted to protest that 100 percent finish record."
There was also a desperately close finish in the Class B championship in the Special Vehicle category. Going into the Carnival City Casino 400 shootout Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain, in the Truck Time JRE, were contenders for the overall championship, with Taylor leading the drivers championship and de Chalain already crowned co-drivers champion.
Classified among the non-finishers, Taylor and de Chalain had an event they would like to forget and Class B was won by the impressive JRE driven by Rob Gurney and Reg Sutton, with the pair coming in seventh overall. They were followed home in Class B by local drivers Francois Smit (Sandmaster) and defending drivers champion Giel Nel in the Luk Africa Truggy -- with Nel failing by just one point to catch Taylor in the drivers championship.
Class S drivers championship leader Greg Daus and Archie Rutherford, in the Nashua Mobile Racing Raceco, were also among the non-finishers with a broken gearbox. Rookies Nick Goslar and Glen Steyn, in the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco, were surprise winners of the class -- picking up their first national triumph -- with Daus winning the drivers championship and Anton Lombard the co-drivers title.
Production Vehicles -- Overall: 1H Grobler/R Leeke (Nissan Hardbody) -- Class T); 2 D Vos/M Griffith (Nissan Hardbody -- Class D); 3 C Weichelt/L Weichelt (Ford).
Class T -- H Grobler/R Leeke (Nissan Hardbody); Class D -- D Vos/M Griffiths (Nissan Hardbody); Class E -- H de Bruyn/J de Bruyn (Toyota Hilux); Class F -- no finishers.
SA Championship Overall Drivers -- D Vos (Nissan Hardbody); Class T -- H Grobler (Nissan Hardbody); Class D -- D Vos (Nissan Hardbody); Class E -- H de Bruyn (Toyota Hilux).
SA Championship Overall Co-drivers: M Griffith (Nissan Hardbody); Class T -- R Leeke (Nissan Hardbody); Class D M Griffith (Nissan Hardbody); Class E -- J de Bruyn (Toyota Hilux).
Special Vehicles -- Overall: 1 G du Plessis/L du Plessis (Jimco); 2 G Bertholdt/B Bertholdt (BAT); 3 T Marsh/T Ahier (Raceco).
SA Championship Overall Drivers: G Harvey (Jimco); Class A -- G Harvey (Jimco); Class B -- M Taylor (Ysko); Class S - G Daus (Raceco).
SA Championship Overall Co-drivers: B Stone (Jimco); Class A -- B Stone (Jimco); Class B -- M de Chalain (JRE); Class S -- A Lombard (Raceco).