Series 2008 season review

NISSAN AGAIN DOMINATE PRODUCTION CAR CATEGORY IN ABSA SERIES The tightest title race in the history of off road racing and another year of domination for the factory Sasol Nissan Navara team were the standout features of the Production Car ...


The tightest title race in the history of off road racing and another year of domination for the factory Sasol Nissan Navara team were the standout features of the Production Car category in this year's Absa Off Road Championship.

By winning the RFS Magalies 400, the final event of the season, Duncan Vos sneaked a second successive driver's championship from under the nose of veteran former champion Hannes Grobler. The Nissan team-mates ended up locked together on points with Vos taking the overall title and the premier Class SP championship on a count out - with four wins to three the deciding factor.

There was some consolation for Grobler in that Juan Mohr, who sat alongside him throughout the season, won the co-driver's championship. Mohr finished ahead of Kenny Skjoldhammer, who was again paired with Neil Woolridge in the factory Ford Racing Ranger, and Ralph Pitchford who partnered Vos for most of the season.

Pitchford, however, missed two events through overseas commitments. That hurt his championship chances and also helped stand-in navigator Louis Weichelt pick up a win on the Toyota 1 000 Desert Race.

The final points positions also show that with seven wins split between Vos and Grobler, the factory Nissan team was again the dominant force. In the prestige South African Manufacturer's Championship, however, sheer weight of numbers saw Toyota edge out their arch rivals with the two heavyweights separated by just 52 points.

The other SP Class win went to Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin, in the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux, who won the Eastern Cape 400 and finished fourth in the championship. Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst, in the privateer Castrol Toyota Hilux, and Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Excel Toyota Hilux) had their moments and were next up with the SP Class growing in size and competitiveness with almost every event.

Five wins and a second amply illustrate the hold brothers Henri and Maurice Zermatten, in the Ryobi Nissan Hardbody, exercised over Class D. After a dodgy start to the season the pair came into their own and at the end of the season there was only one team in it.

By contrast Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber, in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody, started brightly and then faded away. Outgoing driver's champion Cliff Weichelt (N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D) had a disappointing season by his standards, while Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout (Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux) also overcame early season hiccups to produce some good results in the latter half of the championship.

Three wins and a level of consistency that no other team could match took veterans Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux, in the Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux, to the Class E title. Five crews took Class E wins over the course of the season with rookies Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit, in the Potch Plastics Toyota Hilux, taking two victories in an impressive first year at national level.

Outgoing driver's champion Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro, in the factory Ford Racing Ranger, had a disappointing year and one win was mixed with indifferent results. The other wins went to Deon Venter and Ian Palmer, in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux, who had an up and down season and newcomers Diederik and Danie Hattingh (Toyota Hilux) who won first time out at the RFS Magalies 400.

"The growth of the SP Class has been phenomenal and we are probably looking at 25 cars in 2009," said Motorsport SA Off Road Racing Commission president Richard Schilling. "The level of competition is also fierce and that augurs well for the future."


Sheer consistency proved to be the most important factor in a dream season for Karl-Heinz and Quinton Sullwald in the Special vehicle category of the Absa Off Road Championship.

In taking the overall and Class A championships the Sullwald father and son combination, in the Sullwald Racing BAT, were the only team with a 100 percent finish record. And, adding a little emotion to their season was the fact that Sullwald senior's second title came some 12 years after he co-drove for brother Herman in a championship winning season.

Five different crews scored wins during the course of the season with Class A once again highly competitive. The Sullwald's scored two of those wins with former champion Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau (Total Motorsport Porter) also taking two wins on the way to second place in the championship.

Back to back wins in the middle of the season brought Variawa and Rousseau into title contention. A lone non finish, on the Limpopo 400, ultimately ruined their title aspirations.

Third placed Terence Marsh and Pieter Groenewald (Regent Racing BAT) won the opening event of the season and going into the final event of the year, the RFS Magalies 400, were also in with a chance of taking the overall and Class A titles. Gary Bertholdt/Andre Vermeulen (Atlas Copco BAT) also took two wins but were up and down like a yo-yo, while 2007 champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann (Motorite BAT) picked up a lone win in what was a miserable season for the pair.

Consistency also proved to be the major factor in deciding the driver and co-driver titles in Class B. On the way to winning the driver's championship Louw de Bruin (Ruwacon BAT) managed only one win while Tiddo Voogt (Keymax BAT), who took the co-driver honours, ended up with four wins to his credit.

Voogt, however, had to rely on two drivers -- former champions Jan and Hendrik Kraaij -- for his wins with the Kraaij's each winning twice. Rudi Britz, who sat alongside de Bruin in the Ruwacon car, missed one event and that effectively put paid to his championship hopes.

Sheer consistency kept veterans Giel Nel and Deon de Kock (LUK Afrika Zarco Truggy) in the championship picture right to the end, but the pair lacked the pace to challenge for wins. Bez Bezuidenhout and Johann de Bruyn (Adenco BAT) were also double winners but mechanical maladies ruined their season, while Alistair Stubbs and Marc de Chalain (Stafix Viper) managed a lone win.

Brothers Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) overcame a hesitant start to eventually wear down the opposition in Class P. They ended up with only one win -- on the final event of the year - but picked up a string of good results over the latter half of the season.

Don Thompson (Zarco), who was partnered by Don Blakey and Gary Campbell, was the quickest of the Class P drivers, but two non finishes late in the season did his title aspirations no good at all. Brothers David and Gary White (Ruwacon BAT) were also in contention up to the final event and a non finish on the RFS Magalies 400 was a disappointing end to their season.

"Class A was again hugely competitive with half a dozen or more crews capable of winning races," said Motorsport SA Off Road Car Racing Commission president Richard Schilling." That will carry forward into next season and the introduction of Class P was a success with further growth expected in this category."

-credit: saorc

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