SIX OUT OF SIX FOR NISSAN Polokwane, Saturday -- Nissan made it six out of six when reigning South African champions Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan, in a works Nissan Navara, completely dominated the Production Vehicle category on the Ford...
SIX OUT OF SIX FOR NISSAN
Polokwane, Saturday -- Nissan made it six out of six when reigning South African champions Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan, in a works Nissan Navara, completely dominated the Production Vehicle category on the Ford Motorite 400 which ended here today.
The event was round six of the Absa Off Road Championship with a third victory this season for Grobler and Jordaan giving Nissan a perfect six wins out of six events so far this season. The other three wins have gone to Duncan Vos who has won twice with Ralph Pitchford doing the co-driving and once with Richard Leeke in the hot seat.
There was further happiness in the Nissan camp when Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and Briton Quin Evans, in another factory Nissan Navara, finished second overall and in the Super Production Class. Tollefsen and Evans won the recent African Heritage FIA World Cup event in the Eastern Cape, but were around 12 minutes adrift of Grobler and Jordaan who were in irresistible form.
Third went to former South African champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in a factory Ford Racing Ranger. They were around seven minutes adrift of Tollefsen and Quinn with Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton, in a Castrol Toyota Hilux, scoring their first point of the season with a hard earned fourth place.
"That was hard work," said Grobler. "We really had to concentrate to keep it all together and Francois did a great job on a route where it was easy to get lost or fall into a donga."
The win also put Grobler and Jordaan firmly back in the championship race with the pressure on Vos and Pitchford with two events left on the calendar. Vos, again paired with Leeke this time out, had a tough weekend and had to be content with a disappointing fifth place.
There was also disappointment for Brandon Harcus/Marcelle Trethewey in another factory Ford Racing Ranger, Mark/Cronje/Chris Birkin and Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst in Castrol Toyota Hilux and Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux. Harcus and Trethewey failed to start because of engine problems that developed on the Friday prologue, while Cronje/Birkin were running strongly when they lost a wheel in a huge ditch.
Visser and Badenhorst, surprise winners of the prologue, and the de Bruyn's ran into shock absorber and differential problems. Both teams lost wads of time and dropped out of contention.
Further down the field Cliff and Louis Weichelt, in the Bosal Toyota Hilux 4D4, bounced back to form with a narrow Class D win. They edged out local crew Arnold du Plessis and Johan Knox, in a BB Auto Nissan Hardbody, with Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber third in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody.
There wasn't much between the three crews after the first of two 200 kilometre loops. On the final loop, however, the Weichelt's took five minutes off du Plessis and Knox and eight minutes off Labuscagne/Gerber.
Fourth went to Ramon Bezuidenhout and Stefan Lock in a Toyota Hilux. They lost time when the sportingly stopped to help the de Bruyn's and Vos/Leeke and were eventually more than 15 minutes off the pace.
There was also a good scrap in Class E where drivers championship leader Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro, in the Ford Racing Ranger, held off a late challenge from George and Sharon Barkhuizen in the Ruwacon Toyota Hilux. The Barkhuizen's took five minutes off the Ford pair on the final loop, but 28 seconds adrift at the finish.
Third went to Mark and Stuart Moffat, in the Bosal Toyota Hilux, who picked up their best result of the season. They were 23 minutes adrift of the Barkhuizen's while Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie (Castrol Toyota Hilux) had a weekend to forget with a myriad of problems descending on the pair.
HUTCHISON/BERGMANN TRIUMPH ON FORD MOTORITE 400
Motorite BAT pair Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann struck a blow for their sponsor when they won the Special Vehicle category on the Ford Motorite 400, round six of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended here today.
In the process Hutchison and Bergmann became the first two-time overall and Class A winners this season. The pair won the opening event of the championship, the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape, with the next four events producing different winners.
Second were Colin Matthews and Allan Smith, in the Century Property Development BAT, who trailed in just over five minutes behind the winners. It was their best result on a national event and beat their third place last time out on the Amathole 500 in the Eastern Cape.
Provisional results saw championship leaders Nick and Ryan Harper, in the Atlas Copco BAT, grab the final place on the podium and they were only 22 seconds behind Matthews and Smith. The Harpers said before the race a good haul of points was more important than a win, and they got exactly what they wanted.
Another steady performance saw Clint Gibson and Gary Campbell, in the Absolute BAT, finish fourth with the top five rounded out by Mike Whitehouse and Pieter Groenewald in the Regent Racing BAT. Whitehouse is a former SA co-drivers champion and this was his best result as a driver.
"A couple of punctures were the only hassles we had out there," said Bergmann. "We had fun."
But while Hutchison and Bergmann were having fun in was a stressful day for other top crews. Nardus Alberts and Collin Hunter (Wrapsa BAT), winners of the prologue and the recent Amathole 500, went out with a broken fuel line while Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter) suffered suspension damage.
Reigning champions Alfie Cox and Hennie ter Stege, in the second Motorite BAT, were in the lead shortly after the start of the second of two 200 kilometre loops, when they ground to a halt with mechanical problems. It was their third non finish of the season and has put them out of this year's championship stakes.
An impressive sixth place overall saw Hendrik and Jan Kraaij, in the Regent Racing BAT, back to their winning ways in Class B. It was their fifth win in six outings and virtually wraps up the championship for the father and son pairing.
Such was the domination the Kraaij's enjoyed that they finished almost an hour ahead of next placed Bez Bezuidenhout and Johan de Bruyn in the Adenco BAT. Veteran Giel Nel and Sandra Labuscagne (LUK ATE Truggy) were third and had it been a boxing match Class B would have been declared 'no contest.'
"We never even had to get out of the car," said Jan Kraaij afterwards. "It was the perfect race and made up for our disappointing result on the Amathole 500."
Down in Class S an interesting battle saw former SA champion Richard Schilling and Chris Davies return to winning ways in the Plasotech Aceco. In the process they beat arch rivals Nic Goslar/Richard Carolin (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco) by around three minutes.
It was a good recovery from Schilling and Davies who, plagued by a power steering failure, were around a minute behind Goslar/Carolin after the prologue. Despite Schilling suffering from a sore back, the pair pulled out the stops on the second loop to take nearly 10 minutes off the Kopanong car.