Lydenburg: Series event summary

PRODUCTION VEHICLE HAT-TRICK FOR GROBLER/MOHR ON TOYOTA DEALER 400 Lydenburg, Saturday -- Veteran former South African champion Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr scored a hat-trick of wins this season and gave Nissan their sixth successive win on the...

PRODUCTION VEHICLE HAT-TRICK FOR GROBLER/MOHR ON TOYOTA DEALER 400

Lydenburg, Saturday -- Veteran former South African champion Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr scored a hat-trick of wins this season and gave Nissan their sixth successive win on the Toyota Dealer 400.

Grobler and Mohr, in the Sasol Nissan Navara, dominated the entire weekend. They set the fastest time in the Friday prologue to determine grid positions, and then controlled the race from start to finish.

Unofficial scoring saw the pair come in just over five minutes ahead of the factory Ford Racing Ranger in the hands of Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer. Third, after a tremendous drive, were Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the Castrol Toyota Hilux in what was their first podium finish of the season.

The factory Castrol Toyota Hilux of Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin, which lost wads of time through an electrical fault, limped home in fourth place with reigning South African driver's champion, Duncan Vos, and Ralph Pitchford fifth in a second factory Sasol Nissan Navara. Vos and Pitchford, after a disastrous prologue, set off from the mass start at the back of the field and had to fight their way through the dust to salvage precious points.

The result sets up a tremendous finale to the season in November with Woolridge/Skjoldhammer, Grobler/Mohr and Vos/Pitchford all in with a chance of taking the overall and SP Class titles. Unofficial scoring sees Woolridge and Skjoldhammer leading Grobler/Mohr by just three points with Vos and Pitchford also very much in the mix.

"It looks as though it is going to be winner takes all at the final race," said Vos who, for the second time in three outings, had to fight his way through the pack from the back of the field. "It is tough on the crews but good for the sport, and the final race is going to be a cracker."

Grobler/Mohr had a clear run, Woolridge/Skjoldhammer were slowed by an intermittent misfire and Visser/Badenhorst lost power steering midway through the second of the two loops that made up the event. The electrical fault saw Cronje/Birkin drop behind the Ford crew and, although they had a clean run, Vos and Pitchford were hampered throughout the day by thick dust and a tough route which often made overtaking impossible.

"Midway through the season we knew we would have to win four races in a row to give ourselves a realistic chance of winning the championship," said Grobler. "It is three down and one to go."

A win in Class D saw brothers Henri and Maurice, in the Ryobi Nissan Hardbody, wrap up the Class D championship. Closest challengers Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber, in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody, fell by the wayside and that put paid to their championship hopes.

Second in class, around 40 minutes in arrears, were reigning drivers champion Cliff Weichelt and Nico Els in the N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D who were also part of the mass start at the back of the field. The husband and wife pair of Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout (Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux) were in the same boat and were 18 minutes further back in third place.

After a lean spell reigning Class E drivers champion Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro, in the factory Ford Racing Ranger, grabbed a win that adds some respectability to their season. Despite a steering problem over the last 30 kilometres, the Ford crew were around 15 minutes ahead of Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux, in the Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux, who tightened their hold on the championship.

Thomas Rundle and Rob Howie, in the Barden Tyre Services Nissan Hardbody, also came up with their best result in a long time. They picked up third place to edge out rookies Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit, in the Potch Plastics Toyota Hilux.

CHAMPIONS SCORE FIRST SPECIAL VEHICLE VICTORY ON TOYOTA DEALER 400

Lydenburg, Saturday -- Reigning South African champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann scored their first win of the season when they won the Special Vehicle category on the Toyota Dealer 400, which ended here yesterday.

Hutchison and Bergmann, in the Motorite BAT, put an end to a dreadful run of non finishes to score a win that restores a little pride for the team. The pair are not a factor in terms of the championship -- but the overall and Class A title chases look like going all the way to the wire at the final event of the season in November.

Former South African champion Karl-Heinz Sullwald and son Quintin, in the Sullwald Racing BAT, were second overall and in Class A with a magnificent performance taking KwaZulu-Natal crew Don Thomson and Gary Campbell to third overall and first in Class P. Mike Whitehouse/Mathew Carlson were fourth with the top five completed by Hendrik Kraaij and Tiddo Voogt, in the Keymax BAT.

At the start of the event, the penultimate round of the championship, four crews were in with a chance of taking the titles. A second place for the Sullwald's did their title hopes no harm but the same could not be said for former champions Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau, and Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen in the Atlas Copco Porter.

Variawa and Rousseau (Total Porter) and Terrence Marsh and Pieter Groenewald (Regent Racing BAT) had an unhappy time on the Friday prologue that determines start positions for the race proper. Both crews had to start towards the back of the field, with further woes awaiting Variawa and Rousseau.

The Total crew were non finishers while Marsh and Groenewald battled their way to ninth overall and fifth in class. Marsh and Groenewald were also among the back of the field starters and their race was one of damage control.

Bertholdt and Vermeulen were in the lead at the end of the first of two loops that made up the event. The Porter, however, had suffered suspension damage and despite some rapid welding repairs they pulled out before the start of the final leg.

The Kraaij/Voogt result in Class B gives Voogt, who this season has sat alongside Hendrik and his father Jan, a tight hold on the co-drivers championship. Second were the Free State crew Louw de Bruin and Rudi Britz, in the Ruwacon BAT, who were six minutes in arrears.

De Bruin leads the driver's champion but Britz missed an event earlier in the season, which cost him in the co-driver stakes. Third in class, and also still in the championship mix, were veterans Giel Nel and Deon de Kock in the Luk Afrika Zarco Truggy.

Thomson's win in Class P brings him back into the picture in the driver's championship. Also still in the frame going into the last event are brothers Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout, in the Adenco BAT, who were 11 minutes behind the KZN crew.

Another set of brothers, David and Gary White (Ruwacon BAT) were also confined to damage control. An electrical problem slowed them on the prologue and they salvaged third in class after also starting from the back of the field.

-credit: saorc

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Series Other rally
Drivers Ralph Pitchford , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst