Five Manufacturers represented in top ten championship positions After two rounds of the SA Off Road Championship - presented by Bankfin, Absa's specialist vehicle finance division - the battle in the Production Vehicle category sees five ...
Five Manufacturers represented in top ten championship positions
After two rounds of the SA Off Road Championship - presented by Bankfin, Absa's specialist vehicle finance division - the battle in the Production Vehicle category sees five manufacturers, represented by factory and privately entered teams, fighting it out for championship honours.
Victory in the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape and the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 in KwaZulu Natal places Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke in the Class T (Unlimited Super Trucks) Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody at the top of the championship log with 70 points.
The veteran pair notched up their fifth consecutive overall victory on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 to equal the record held since 1986 by Grobler and Piet Swanepoel when they won five consecutive events in a Nissan Safari and have a nine point lead over mark Cronje and Chris Birkin in the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2700i.
Cronje and Birkin finished third overall and first in the hotly contested Class E (near standard 2 litre pickups) on the season opening Nissan Dealer 400 and went on to finish second in class and fourth overall in the Production Vehicle category on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400. The reigning Rotax Max World Karting Champion has taken to off road racing like a duck to water and much is expected of the talented youngster in the future.
Veteran Kassie Coetzee and co-driver Ockie Fourie are third, nine points adrift of Castrol Toyota team mates Cronje and Birkin. Coetzee and Fourie finished fourth overall and second in Class E in the Western Cape and fifth overall and third in class in KwaZulu Natal in the Castrol Toyota Hilux KZ-TE.
2001 Class E champions Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham in the Class E diesel powered Team Ford Racing Ranger picked up the Class E win last time out. While they trail Coetzee and Fourie by a mere three points in the overall championship standings, they are four points behind Cronje and Birkin and three points ahead of Coetzee and Fourie in the Class E championship battle.
Father and son, Johan and 16 year old Marthinus van der Merwe from Harrismith won Class D in the privately Chavani Mitsubishi Colt Rodeo in the Western Cape and finished 4th in Class D in Kwa Zulu Natal and are fifth overall and the Class D championship leaders.
Consistent performances by former Class D champions Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo in the Class D (near standard 6 cylinder pickups) GBS Nissan Hardbody sees the Klerksdorp based crew second in Class D, only two points behind the van der Merwe's, and sixth in the overall standings.
While Marthinus van der Merwe has the distinction, at 16, of being the youngest co-driver in the field Scott Abraham has the distinction, at 22, of being the youngest driver in the championship. Abraham, who made his debut as a driver this year after co-driving for father Arthur, race and rally legend Sarel van de Merwe, Stratford Voogt and Paolo Piazza-Musso over the past five years, and former Special Vehicle driver Richard Carolin share driving and co-driving duties in the 5,9 litre V8 powered Atlas Copco/Chicago Pneumatic Jeep Cherokee. Both have adapted well to their new roles and currently occupy seventh place in the overall standings and are joint second with Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer in the Class T championship.
Woolridge and Skjoldhammer were forced to compete in Class T in a Class E vehicle on the Nissan Dealer 400 when the newly rebuilt Class T Team Ford Racing Ranger failed to arrive from France in time for the race. They finished 15th overall and fourth in Class T in the diesel powered Class E Team Ford Racing Ranger. For the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 they were behind the wheel of the Class T vehicle, which was fitted with a 3,2 litre V6 engine and was 200kg lighter than the vehicle destroyed in a high-speed crash on last year's Carnival City Casino 400. They were second for much of the race until the power steering on the Team Ford Racing Ranger failed, which slowed their pace, and they had to be satisfied with eighth overall and fourth in Class T. The former champions are eighth in the overall standings and joint second in the Class T championship.
Two Class E Nissan Hardbodys share ninth place in the overall championship.
Neels van der Walt, whose brother Tjaart is the well known rally driver, and wife Zelda have performed consistently in their Nissan Hardbody and are locked in battle with two times former Production Vehicle champion Alfred van Vuuren and son Tommy in a single cab Nissan Hardbody.
Three top rated crews share 11th place in the championship and will have their work cut out if they hope to catch championship leaders Grobler and Leeke.
Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton finished second overall on the Nissan Dealer 400 but failed to start the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 when they destroyed the front axle on the Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser in the Prologue.
Reigning Production Vehicle Champions Duncan Vos and Mike Griffith didn't see the finish line in the Western Cape when the Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody picked up mechanical problems but made up for their disappointment by finishing second overall on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400, despite Vos being plagued my severe motion sickness throughout the race.
Multiple off road motorcycle and Enduro champion Alfie Cox made his debut on four wheels in the season opening race but he and co-driver Hennie ter Stege were robbed of a Class D win when the clutch disintegrated on the Arnold Chatz Cars Nissan Hardbody only 8km from the finish. Cox and ter Steege had to wait until the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 to score a maiden Class D win.
Former Production Vehicle champion Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Francois Jordaan have had a dismal start to the season and failed to finish both events in the Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody. Given Grobler and Leeke's current form the odds of the Dakar 2003 star making up the 70-point deficit are rather slim.
Class B (2 litre powered space framed vehicles) crews dominate the top three places in the Special Vehicle category.
Former Class B champion Giel Nel's consistency, smooth driving style and the reliability of his immaculately prepared single-seater Luk Africa Truggy once again sees him at the top of the championship standings. A class win in the Western Cape and a second in class in KwaZulu Natal gives a four-point advantage over his closest rival.
Reigning Class B drivers champion Marcus Taylor from Kwa Zulu Natal finished third and second respectively in Class B in the first two rounds of the championship and occupies second place. However, co-driver Marcus Taylor is the leading co-driver in the Special Vehicle championship.
Newcomer to the Special Vehicle category Andrew Birkin finished third overall and second in Class B in the Wingfoot in the Western Cape and backed that up with a third in class in KwaZulu Natal and trails Nel by 12 points in the overall placing.
2002 Special Vehicle Championship runner-up Atang Makgekgenene and Mike Stangl were the overall Special Vehicle category winners on the Nissan Dealer 400 but their bid for back-to-back wins failed when the SAM Racing Jimco completed only 300 metres of the Nissan Sugarbelt 400.
They share fourth place in the overall championship and the Class A championship lead with KwaZulu Natal crew Gerald Mundell and Billy Bond who won the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 in the Nissan V6 powered Prolong BAT. Mundell and Bond managed to stave off a last gasp charge by Greg Daus and Archie Rutherford in the Mitsubishi V6 powered Nashua Mobile Racing Chenowth. Daus and Rutherford are third in Class A, four points behind the championship co-leaders.
Nic Goslar and Glen Steyn are joint sixth with Daus and Rutherford in the overall championship and the leaders in Class S after picking up the Class S win in the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco in KwaZulu Natal.
Gerhard du Plessis and wife Kobie are eighth in the overall championship and fourth in Class A after finishing third overall on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400. Gerhard and brother Lawrence who are diamond prospectors in the Wolmaransstad area won four of the eight events overall in 2002 and the husband and wife team can be expected to mount a charge over the remaining six events in the championship.
Winners of two events in 2002 John Weir-Smith and co-driver Geoff Minnitt have had a dismal start to the 2003 season. Engine failure on both events has robbed the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam pair of a finish and valuable points. Like de Villiers and Jordaan, they too have some catching up to do.