Darling: Post-event news 2008-03-07

NISSAN CREWS LEAD PRODUCTION VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP After only one event in this year's Absa Off Road Championship, the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape, the overall and premier Class SP championships already have a familiar look about ...


After only one event in this year's Absa Off Road Championship, the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape, the overall and premier Class SP championships already have a familiar look about them.

Nissan have dominated the championship in recent seasons and victory in the opening event has taken reigning drivers champion Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford, in the factory Sasol Nissan Navara, to the top of the overall and Class SP championships. Second are veteran former champion Hannes Grobler and new co-driver Juan Mohr.

Nissan were heading for a clean sweep of the podium positions with Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and Briton Quin Evans running strongly in third place. They were then forced to retire and third went to former SA champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in the factory Ford Racing Ranger.

Fourth place went to Castrol Toyota Hilux crew Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst. Like Woolridge and Skjoldhammer, the Toyota team lost time when they stopped to help when Special Vehicle competitors Evan Hutchison/Achim Bergmann and Naeem Moosajee/Rayhaan Bodhanya were involved in a massive accident.

When Castrol Toyota Hilux pair Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin were excluded from the results for deviating from the route, it moved Alfie Cox and Hennie ter Stege (Motorite SP) into fifth in the overall and SP Class standings. The Motorite pair were having their first Production Car outing after campaigning last year in the Special Vehicle category.

Off road stalwarts Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber were the only classified finishers in Class D to take the early lead in the class standings. They were home and dry when Ramon Bezuidenhout and Stefan Lock (Toyota Hilux) lost brakes and hit a tree.

Two other Class D crews joined Cronje/Birkin among those excluded for deviating from the route. It was a disappointing end to the event for drivers champion Cliff Weichelt/Jimmy Goch (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D) and the Zermatten brothers, Henri and Maurice, in the Ryobi Nissan Hardbody.

A solid performance in the Western Cape has taken Jannie Visser and reigning co-drivers champion Joks le Roux, in the Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux, to the top of the Class E standings. Second were Thomas Rundle and Brian Roberts (Barden Tyre Services Nissan Hardbody) who got their season off to an encouraging start.

Third are KwaZulu-Natal team Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro in the factory Ford Racing Ranger. Peckham is the reigning Class E drivers champion.


There are some high profile names missing from the top of the championship log in this yea's Absa Off Road Championship.

Fancied teams not yet among the points after the opening event of the season, the Nissan Dealer 400, include reigning champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann (Motorite BAT), Brandon Harcus/Richard Leeke (Motorite BAT), Nick and Ryan Harper (Atlas Copco BAT), Mark Corbett/Rudi Balzer (Century Racing CR1) and Nardus Alberts/Collin Hunter in the Wrapsa BAT. Crashes and a variety of mechanical gremlins put paid to them with the win finally going to former drivers champion Terence Marsh and Pieter Groenewald in the Regent Racing BAT.

The victory puts Marsh and Groenewald in the lead in both the overall and Class A championships. While Marsh has loads of experience and is renowned for reliability, Groenewald is in only his second season of national championship racing.

They are closely followed by surprise package Pieter Ruthven and Dewaal Boshoff in the Ruwacon BAT. The Freestaters were ecstatic after scoring their best ever result in two seasons of racing in Class A.

Karl-Heinz Sullwald and son Quintin are third in the overall and Class A standings with Herman Sullwald and Paul Helberg fourth. The Sullwald brothers are also former SA champions and both campaign Sullwald Transport Zarcos.

The top five in the overall championship are Cape crew Bes Bezuidenhout and Johann de Bruyn, in the Adenco BAT, who were a creditable fifth on home territory. Bezuidenhout and de Bruyn also lead Class B.

Second in Class B are veteran former champion Giel Nel, now partnered by Deon de Kock, in the LUK Africa Truggy. Alistair Stubbs and former champion Marc de Chalain are third in the Stafix AM/PM Racing Viper.

Brothers David and Gary White, in the Ruwacon BAT, have snatched an early lead in the new Class P category. Second are former Class S drivers champion Nic Goslar and Richard Carolin in the Mens Health Raceco.

Among the Class P casualties in Darling were reigning Class S champions Richard Schilling and Chris Davies in the Raceco. There were no Class S entries in Darling with the category to be phased out at the end of the season.

-credit: absa/mweb.co.za

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Ralph Pitchford , Quin Evans , Duncan Vos