NISSAN WIN SA OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP FOR FIFTH YEAR IN A ROW Ford Carnival City 400 -- November 18/19, 2005 -- When the final shots were fired today in the Absa Off Road Championship, provisional results saw overall championships in the...
NISSAN WIN SA OFF ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP FOR FIFTH YEAR IN A ROW
Ford Carnival City 400 -- November 18/19, 2005 -- When the final shots were fired today in the Absa Off Road Championship, provisional results saw overall championships in the Production Car and Special Vehicle title races won and lost in dramatic fashion on the Ford Carnival City 400.
On the Production Car front multiple South African champion Hannes Grobler and Francois Grobler won the final battle but lost the war. Grobler, a national off road, rally and circuit racing champion, and Jordaan won the Production Vehicle category on what was the final event of the year, but it wasn't enough to give them overall honours in this year's championship.
Grobler and Jordaan were pipped at the post by Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody team-mates Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford who finished second. Cox and Pitchford started the event nine points ahead of Grobler and Jordaan, and fought their way from the back of the field to clinch the title.
Matters in the Special Vehicle category, won overall by Gerhard du Plessis and Ferdi Seegers (Jimco) ahead of Clint Gibson and Marcelle Trethewey (Gibson Plant Hire BAT), were much more dramatic. Nashua Mobile BAT pair Terence Marsh and Mike Whitehouse went into the event eight points ahead of BAT Audi crew Nick and Ryan Harper.
Fourth place among the Special Vehicles and in Class A -- one place behind the Harper father and son combination -- looked to be enough to give Marsh and Whitehouse the championship. And then came the bombshell.
Marsh and Whitehouse were excluded from the results for missing a control point during one of the two loops of a figure of eight route. With exclusion went their title hopes, and the Harpers appeared to have sneaked in via the back door.
Then came another twist. Marsh and Whitehouse were adamant they had legally completed the whole course and after a series of behind closed doors meetings with clerk of the course Piet Swanepoel were reinstated -- with their championship intact.
Also excluded for the same offence were Evan Hutchinson and Trevor Ormerod in the Motorite BAT. Hutchinson and Ormerod, however, were in the happy position of having clinched the Class B championship on the Toyota Dealer 1000, the penultimate round of the Absa series.
With Hutchison and Ormerod excluded, the Class B win went to Rudi and Pierre van Graan in a Zarco. The pair finished sixth in the Special Vehicle category.
The drama, however, did not end there. Shameer Variawa and VZ van Zyl, third across the line in the Total Motorsport Porter, were also penalised for a technical infringement. They were docked an hour, and that dropped them down to fifth overall in the Special vehicle category.
Another South African title, however, has added to the Cox legend. The KwaZulu-Natal superstar has now won an unprecedented 25 South African championships -- 23 of them on motorcycles and two of them on four wheels.
The Cox/Pitchford triumph also saw Nissan clinch the Production Vehicle overall championship for the fifth year in a row. Cox and Pitchford follow in the footsteps of Giniel de Villiers/Jordaan, Duncan Vos/Mike Griffith and Grobler/Richard Leeke (2) on the Nissan roll of honour.
At one stage, however, it looked as though Cox and Pitchford had blown their title chances. They rolled the Nissan Hardbody during the prologue, and had to start from the back of the field.
"We were worried that climbing through the field would be too big a task for us," said Cox. "Fortunately we had a clean run and made up the time we needed.
The Proudly South African Nissan squad made a clean sweep of the first three places when former champion Duncan Vos and Hennie ter Steege brought a Nissan Hardbody, running in the Super Production Class, home in third place. The pair set the fastest time on the prologue, but during the race ran into niggly problems that cost them valuable time -- including windscreen wipers that did not work on a muddy first loop.
A clean run saw Paolo Piazza-Musso and Ockie Fourie, in a Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i, finish fourth overall and take Class D ahead of Manfred Schroeder and Alec Harris in the factory Ford Racing Ranger. Second place in class, however, was enough to see Schroeder and Harris take the Class D championship.
Sixth place overall went to outgoing Class E champions Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn, in a Castrol Toyota Hilux. They came in ahead of veterans Cliff Barker and Chris Birkin who were giving the new Castrol Toyota Hilux, running in the Super Production class, its first outing.
Right behind them were Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo, in a Castrol Toyota Hilux, who were second in Class E. Third in Class E, however, was enough to give Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, the Class E championship.
The Class F title chase was also settled when brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat, in the Bosal Land Rover, finished ninth overall in the Production Vehicle category. Title rivals Andre Botha and Richard Carolin, in the Kopanong Superteam Chev, failed to see out the distance and lost out in the title stakes.
Failure to see out the distance also settled matters in Class S among the Special Vehicles. Championship leaders Richard Schilling and Chris Davies (Plastotech Raceco) and nearest challengers Naeem Moosajee and Naazim Moti (Chev) both fell by the wayside with veterans Schilling and Davies taking the championship.