Limpopo 400 post-event wrapup

FORD MOTORITE LIMPOPO 400 DELIVERS GOOD RESULTS National championship off road racing came to Limpopo Province for the first time with the running of the Ford Motorite Limpopo 400 this weekend. Overall winners of the 400-km two-day event, which...

FORD MOTORITE LIMPOPO 400 DELIVERS GOOD RESULTS

National championship off road racing came to Limpopo Province for the first time with the running of the Ford Motorite Limpopo 400 this weekend. Overall winners of the 400-km two-day event, which ended at the old Polokwane airport on Saturday afternoon, were Nissan's Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan in the production vehicle category and Gerhard du Plessis and brother-in-law Ferdi Seegers (Jimco) in the special vehicle category.

Reigning champion Grobler and Jordaan (Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody) finished 25 minutes ahead of team-mates Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford in the second 3,5-litre V6 Nissan Hardbody, who won Friday's 43-km prologue and led the event until just before the end of the second of three laps that made up Saturday's 345-km route. Fuel starvation problems slowed them to such an extent that they were forced to struggle to the finish using second and third gears for much of the route.

Third overall in the production vehicle category and first in class D were Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin in their Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i, a further 10 minutes in arrears. Close on their heels after a race-long battle were Manfred Schroder and Alec Harris in a Ford Racing Ranger.

Winner of a close-fought battle for honours in class E were Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux, who were fifth overall. Mark Cronje's brother Gavin and Robin Houghton (Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i) were sixth overall and third in class D and combined with Cronje/Birkin and Visser/Badenhorst to give Toyota the manufacturers' team prize for the day.

Class F honours went to brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat who were 12th overall in their Bosal Land Rover.

Special vehicle category winners Du Plessis and Seegers finished 18 minutes ahead of second-placed Terence Marsh and brother-in-law Michael Whitehouse (Nashua Mobile BAT), who in turn were six minutes ahead of Lesotho Sun 400 winners Nick and son Ryan Harper (BAT).

Fourth overall was the Polokwane pair of Naeem Moosajee and Naazim Moti in their Automoti/Tyre Rack Raceco, recording their first ever class S win in the vehicle's maiden off road event.

Evan Hutchison and Trevor Ormerod (Motorite Racing BAT) recorded their fourth class B win with a well-earned fifth overall. Sixth were Motorite team-mates Brandon Harcus and SA Sports Illustrated editor Steve Smith (having his first-ever off-road race) in their class A BAT.

The event, organised by the Koepel Club with the support of the Pietersburg 4x4 Club, was a great success and was voted by the majority of the competitors as one of the best events of the year so far.

Of the 50 entries received for the inaugural Polokwane event, 14 of the 21 production vehicles made it to the finish, while 11 of the 29 special vehicles crews earned their finisher's badges.

Toyota created something of a record by having all seven entries, four factory and three privateers complete the event and extend Toyota's lead in the manufacturers' championship.

2002 production vehicle champion Duncan Vos and Hennie ter Stege made a welcome return to the championship after an absence of a year (they won the Lesotho Sun 400 in their last race) to debut Nissan Motorsport's new 4-litre V6 Hardbody in the new class SP, which is to take the place of the existing class for 3,5 litre modified vehicles in 2006.

The new 4-litre Nissan impressed in its first national championship outing and, though less modified, managed to match the more powerful 3,5-litre versions in the early stages before succumbing to fuel starvation problems halfway through the event while lying third overall.

Prominent Polokwane businessman Arnold du Plessis and Johan Knox (Coca Cola BB Auto Nissan Hardbody) were involved in a close battle for class D honours with Mark Cronje's Toyota and Schroder's Ford early in the race and were second in class before being slowed by suspension problems and later stopped in their tracks in a dry river bed by a broken propshaft on the second of three 115-km laps of Saturday's route.

Other retirements included Deon Schoeman/Jan Sime (Topcar /Du Pont/ Autopage Nissan Hardbody) with a terminal misfire, Andre Botha/Richard Carolin (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chev) also with a terminal misfire, and father-and-son Dirk and Dirk van Reenen (Savannah Ford Ranger) with a broken tie-rod and wheel hub.

Will Battershill and Reg Sutton (Jimco) were unable to take advantage of their first pole position in the special vehicle category following Friday's prologue and had to settle for 11th position after

Clint Gibson and Marcelle Trethewey (Gibson Plant Hire BAT) also had a good prologue, with fifth fastest time, and were running in a strong second place for most of the event before becoming beached on a sand mound and burning out their clutch.

Potential race winners Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rosseau (Advansoft iBurst BAT) started an unaccustomed ninth after a puncture and overheating problems. The pair did well to get themselves up to third overall before a bolt broke on a front suspension upright, stranding them 25 km from the finish.

Class B contenders father-and-son Bez and Etienne Bezuidenhout were third quickest in class in the prologue and were pressuring reigning class B champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain (JRE) for second place when the alternator failed on their Adenco Sandmaster 60 km from the finish.

The next round of the Absa Off Road Championship is the Toyota Dealer 1000 in the Lydenburg area of Mpumalanga province on October 13, 14 and 15.

Results:

Production Vehicles:
1 H Grobler/F Jordaan (Nissan) 6h 59m 11s; 2 A Cox/Pitchford (Nissan) 7h 24m 13s; 3 M Cronje/C Birkin (Toyota) 7h 34m 06s; 4 M Schroder/A Harris (Ford ) 7h 38m 51s; 5 C Visser/J Badenhorst (Toyota) 7h 52m 43s; 6 G Cronje/R Houghton (Toyota) 7h 53m 57s; 7 H and J de Bruyn (Toyota) 7h 54m 37s; 8 P Piazza-Musso/O Fourie (Toyota) 7h 55m 05s; 9 H Zermatten/B Schwegler (Mitsubishi) 8h 17m 56s; 10 C Z Pearce/H Vosloo (Toyota) 8h 31m 22s.

Special Vehicles
1 G du Plessis/F Seegers (Jimco) 7h 06m 31s; 2 T Marsh/M Whitehouse (BAT) 7h 24m 56s; 3 Nic and Ryan Harper (BAT) 7h 31m 05s; 4 N Moosajee/N Moti (Mighty Mag)7h 43m 55s; 5 E Hutchison/T Ormerod (BAT) 7h 44m 55s; 6 B Harcus/S Smith (BAT) 7h 49m 51s; 7 B Bertholdt (BAT) 7h 59m 04s; 8 M Taylor/M de Chalain 8h 03m 34s; 9 G Nel/P Newbery (Truggy) 8h 53m 08s; 10 N Alberts/C Hunter (Aceco) 8h 05m 21s.

-msa-

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Steve Smith , Alfie Cox , Ralph Pitchford , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst