Series newsletter 2009-05-23

NISSAN TRIO DOMINATE PRODUCTION CAR CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS Donaldson Nissan factory crews have a lock on the first three places in the Production Vehicle overall and premier SP Class standings in the Absa Off Road Championship. The...

NISSAN TRIO DOMINATE PRODUCTION CAR CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Donaldson Nissan factory crews have a lock on the first three places in the Production Vehicle overall and premier SP Class standings in the Absa Off Road Championship.

The championship standings mirror the Donaldson Nissan domination of the season so far, with the squad scoring wins on all three events run to date. The winners of two of those events, Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford, top the overall and SP Class standings.

Vos and Pitchford, who overcame starting 55th on the road to finish third on the recent Nissan Sugarbelt 400, top the standings by 19 points from Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and his British co-driver, Quin Evans, who finished fourth on this year's Dakar Rally.

Tollefsen and Evan have been regulars in the Absa series for the last three seasons, and are knocking at the door of a maiden win. So far this season the pair have been models of consistency.

A win on the Nissan Sugarbelt in KwaZulu-Natal lifted veteran former champion Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr into third place in both championships. It was their first win of the season with Mohr the reigning co-drivers champion.

Fourth and fifth overall in the two championships go to Toyota crews. The consistent Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, in the RFS Toyota Hilux, are seven points behind Grobler/Mohr and have a 13 point cushion over Hein Lategan and Chris Birkin in the works Castrol Toyota Hilux.

The top positions in the SP Class standings are the same as in the overall points. The only difference is a slight reduction in the difference between the top five crews. Nissan's dominance so far is also reflected in the prestige South African Manufacturers Award. At this stage Nissan have a 17 point lead over perennial rivals Toyota who are the reigning champions.

Three wins on the trot have given the father and son pair of Cliff and Louis Weichelt, in the N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D, a tight hold on the Class D championship. They have a commanding 24 point lead over newcomers Heinie Strumpher and Hendrik van der Linde in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux.

Only two points, however, separates Strumpher/van der Linde and third placed Dewald van Breda and Johan du Toit in the Northam Toyota Hilux D4D. Van Breda and du Toit campaigned in Class E in 2008 and were Rookies of the Year.

Two wins in three events has given Deon Venter and Ian Palmer, in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux, a comfortable lead in Class E. A maiden national win for Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus, in another 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux, on the Nissan Sugarbelt has lifted them into second place.

Third are reigning champion Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in the RFS Toyota Hilux. They have picked up two third places so far this season, and trail Venter/Palmer by 30 points.

The next event on the calendar is the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race in Gaborone from June 19 to 21. It is the only marathon event on the calendar and a highlight of the season.

HUTCHISON/BERGMANN INCREASE SPECIAL VEHICLE CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD

A third straight victory on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 has seen former champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann increase their lead in the Special Vehicle category in the Absa Off Road Championship.

Hutchison and Bergman, in the Motorite Revo1 4x4, strolled to victory on the KwaZulu-Natal event and finished nearly five minutes ahead of Herman and Wichard Sullwald in the Sullwald Racing Zarco. It was a win that saw Hutchison and Bergmann, who designed and built the Revo1 4 x 4, open up a 35 point lead at the top of the Special Vehicle and Class A championships.

A steady third place on the Nissan Sugarbelt lifted the father and son pair of Nick and Ryan Harper, in the Atlas Copco BAT, into second place in the two championships. The Harpers move ahead of Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson who ran into a litany of problems in KZN.

Fourth in the overall championship are Class P leaders Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout in the Adenco BAT. The Cape based brothers scored their second win of the season on the Nissan Sugarbelt.

Behind the Bezuidenhout's two crews are tied in fifth place. Kallie and Quintin Sullwald move into the top five after their best result of the season, and are locked together with Limpopo crew Naeem Moosajee and Mohammad Moultson, in the Tyre Rack Jimco, who also had a tough time of it in KZN.

The top three in the overall championship stay the same in the Class A standings. Here, however, the Hutchison/Bergmann lead over the Harpers is 22 points with Whitehouse/Carlson a further four points adrift.

The Class B championship is a tight affair with only three points separating two Cape Town crews. Bes Bezuidenhout and son Deon, in the Adenco BAT, have a slight advantage over Derrick du Toit and Ian Palmer, in the Orange Tree BAT, who grabbed a second on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400.

Third in Class B are the Makenete brothers, Katleho and Andrew, in an ageing Zarco. Despite problems on both the Adenco 400 and the KZN event, the brothers hung in to pick up valuable points.

The Bezuidenhout brothers have an early hold on Class P. They have a 21 point cushion over Johan van Staden and James Rossouw, in the KEC BAT, who have been the revelation of the season so far

Eastern Cape 400 winners Jan and Hendrik Kraaij are third in the Class P stakes. A broken gearbox on the Nissan Sugarbelt was a setback for the former Class B champions.

The next event on the calendar is the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, a highlight of the season, in Botswana from June 19 to 21.

-credit: saoffroadracing.co.za

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