Nissan domination continues

Nissan domination continues in Bankfin Off Road Championship. Nissan's domination of the Bankfin Off-Road Championship continued over the weekend when veterans Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke won the Caledon 400, round six of the series, in the...

Nissan domination continues in Bankfin Off Road Championship.

Nissan's domination of the Bankfin Off-Road Championship continued over the weekend when veterans Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke won the Caledon 400, round six of the series, in the Eastern Free State.

The Grobler/Leeke triumph gave the former national champions their second win of the season with the Nissan Hardbody factory squad picking up their fifth win in six outings. Grobler and Leeke had five minutes in hand over another set of former champions, Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, in the works Ford Racing Ranger, to also win the Production Vehicle category and Class T for Super Trucks.

Third overall and winners of the Special Vehicle category and Class A were brothers Laurence and Gerhard du Plessis in the Mobil Jimco. The Schweizer Reinecke pair outlasted Eastern Cape crew Greg Harvey and Boy Stone, in the Castrol Queen Motor Spares Jimco, who maintained their 100 percent finish record this season.

Grobler and Leeke and Woolridge Skjoldhammer had troublefree runs, but the Ford Ranger duo could not match the Nissan for pace. Although they have yet to win an event this season, sheer consistency has kept Woolridge and Skjoldhammer in the hunt in both the overall and Class T championship standings.

Third in the Production Vehicle category and fourth overall were yet another pair of former champions in Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton in the Team Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser. It was a welcome return to form for the Toyota pair, winners of the Barberspan 500 early in the season, with Cliff Weichelt and Johan Smalberger fourth in class in the N1 4x4 Ford Ranger after starting in 53rd place.

While Grobler and Leeke kept the Nissan flag flying, there was disappointment for reigning champions Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan in the second factory Nissan Hardbody. Looking for their fourth win of the season the pair were forced out by clutch problems after an earlier electrical short started an onboard fire and robbed them of a comfortable lead.

The overall Production Vehicle and Class D championships were thrown wide open by the demise of Duncan Vos and Mike Griffiths in the factory Nissan Hardbody. They were in control of matters when hit by suspension problems, and the pair picked up their first non-finish of the season.

Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr, in the Century Property Developments Isuzu nipped in to pick up the class win ahead of early season pacesetters Piet Haasbroek and Christo Bosch in the Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser who ran into a string of problems that included a persistent engine misfire. Unofficial scoring now puts Vos and Griffiths level with Woolridge and Skjoldhammer in the overall championship, with the Nissan crew now locked in a struggle in Class D with Haasbroek/Bosch and Corbett and Mohr.

The Class E championship race is also heading for an interesting finale after a win on the Caledon for reigning champions Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham in the works Ford Ranger. They overcame a few problems via a puncture and a broken jack to come in ahead of Neels and Zelda van der Walt (Nissan Hardbody) and Hannes Steyn and Ferdi Seegers in the Toyota Hilux KZ-TE and made up ground on championship pacesetters Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn who finished fifth in class.

Hot and dusty conditions took a toll on competitors with only 30 of the 66 starters seeing out the distance. For the du Plessis brothers it was their third win in a row and lifts them into contention in the Class A championship where Harvey and Stone still have to drop a result.

There was a nice touch when Gert and Lucille du Plessis, parents of overall winners Laurence and Gerhard, picked up third place in Class A. The elder du Plessis' have a combined age of 113 but have not yet given up hope of beating their youngsters this season!

Third overall in the Special Vehicle category and another Class S win kept alive overall and class championship hopes for Greg Daus. Last year's Caledon 400 gave Daus his first national overall win but this time he and Archie Rutherford, in the Nashua Mobile Raceco, ran into the same setback that hit Schroder and Peckham.

Another Class B win for Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain in the Truck Time JRE has also lifted the KwaZulu-Natal crew into contention in the Special Vehicle overall championship. The pair also eased away from reigning Class B champion Giel Nel, in the Luk Africa Truggy with the East Rand veteran having to be content with second in class.

The high attrition rate, particularly among the Special Vehicle runners, saw a few championship hopes dented. Among those to suffer were John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt (O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam BMW Jimco) and Atang Makgekgenene and Alec Salley in the SAM Racing Jimco. Weir-Smith/Minnitt damaged a crankshaft seal in what was not a happy event for the Superteam, and Makgekgenene and Salley also found themselves in among those classified as non finishers..

Rob Wark, in the O'Hagan's / Kopanong Hotel Superteam Mighty Mag, broke a gearbox while running second in Class B and Nick Goslar and Glen Steyn, in the O'Hagan's / Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco, were sidelined with a blown motor. In the Production Vehicle category Paolo Piazza-Musso and Scott Abraham (O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jeep) started 8th, made up a couple of places, picked up a puncture and then stopped when a broken A-arm ripped off the propshaft.

The next event on the calendar is the Tarka 400, which replaces the cancelled Lichtenburg 400, with the Eastern Cape race likely to throw up some more championship puzzles. Once again the championship, sponsored by Bankfin, the specialist vehicle finance division of ABSA Bank, is set to produce championship issues that go all the way to the wire, with the off-road contingent these days providing for some of the more interesting motor racing in this country.


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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Giniel de Villiers , Mark Corbett , Duncan Vos