NISSAN CHASE FIFTH SUCCESSIVE SUN CITY 400 VICTORY The Proudly South African Nissan team will be chasing a fifth successive Sun City 400 victory in round six of the Absa Off Road Championship on September 29 and 30. The event this year ...
NISSAN CHASE FIFTH SUCCESSIVE SUN CITY 400 VICTORY
The Proudly South African Nissan team will be chasing a fifth successive Sun City 400 victory in round six of the Absa Off Road Championship on September 29 and 30.
The event this year celebrates its fifth birthday with Nissan crews winning each of the four previous races. Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan won in 2002, Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke in 2003, de Villiers/Jordaan won again in 2004 and Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford did the trick last year.
So far this season Nissan have won four out of five events and, on paper would appear to be outright favourites to make it five in a row. There has, however, been evidence in recent outings that the factory Ford Racing and Castrol Toyota teams are starting to provide the Nissan runners with a few headaches.
Ford pair Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer won the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 and have scored in every round of the championship so far. The former champions will have solid backup from Rob Gurney and Graham Stainbank in a second Ford Ranger and will be a formidable combination. After a torrid time of it this season the Castrol Toyota Hilux pair of Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin finished second on the recent Lesotho Sun 400, and the Ford and Toyota squads look capable of matching the Nissan entries for pace.
But it is reliability that will hold the key in the Pilanesberg and here the factory Nissan Navara crews of Grobler/Jordaan and Vos/Pitchford, may have an edge. Woolridge/Skjoldhammer are hugely experienced and will fancy their chances, and Gurney/Stainbank will be looking to see out the distance after a hiccup in Lesotho.
The Castrol Toyota Hilux crews of Cronje/Birkin and Bevan Bertholdt/Robin Houghton, will go to Sun City with confidence levels at their highest of the season.
It all adds up to a good race. Added interest is provided in that while Grobler and Jordaan lead the overall championship standings, it is Woolridge/Skjoldhammer who lead the Super Production Class and both crews will be out to gather in every possible point.
Reigning Class E champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, in the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux, will be heavily favoured to win Class D. They scored their fourth win of the season in the Lesotho race, and this has given them a healthy championship lead.
Their biggest threat is likely to come from the father and son team of Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the Bosal Toyota Hilux. Mechanical failure robbed them of the Lesotho Sun 400 win, and they have the pace to match Visser/Badenhorst.
Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn will also be back in action in the Castrol Toyota Hilux, and Nissan have a strong hand via the BB Auto entries of Jurie and Andre du Plessis and Arnold du Plessis/Johan Knox, and Coetzee Labuscagne/Johan Gerber in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody.
The Nissan teams will be keen to end the Toyota domination. All five races so far this season have been won by Toyota crews, and some good racing is on the cards with Kobus van Tonder/Riaan Guelpa (Unifreight Mitsubishi Pajero) and Ann Evans/Leathesia Fourie (Mercurious Mitsubishi Pajero) also keen to come up with good results.
After a race to forget in Lesotho the Ford Racing pair of Manfred Schroder/Ward Huxtable will be keen to get matters back on an even keel. They are the crew to beat in Class E although Mark and Stuart Moffat (Bosal Toyota Hilux), coming off a good win in Lesotho, will want a repeat performance.
Thomas Rundle and Brian Roberts (Barden Tyres Nissan Hardbody) came up with an encouraging result in Lesotho and will be keen to again have the beating of a horde of Toyota Hilux entries. These include Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux, Brian Martin/Ockie Fourie (Castrol Toyota Hilux), George and Sharon Barkhuizen (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux), Fabio Tafani/Mike Baron (Club Refrigeration Toyota Hilux) and Jaco Swanepoel/Grayham Bishop in the IDM Cement Toyota Hilux.
The Toyota challenge will be bolstered by newcomers Louw de Bruin and Willem Bosch in the ex Ruthven/Boshoff Ruwacon Toyota Hilux, and Douw de Boer and actor Ben Kruger will again be out in the Mahindra. De Boer and Kruger haven't had much luck this season, and will be hoping for a good finish this time around.
As usual most of the focus will be on what promises to a tight battle at the front of the field. That is only to be expected, but there will be plenty of good racing further down the field with the prospect of an upset here and there.
MOTORITE BAT CREWS THE TARGET AT SUN CITY 400
Motorite BAT crews will be in the firing line in the Special Vehicle category on the Sun City 400, round six of the Absa Off Road Championship, in the Pilanesberg on September 29 and 30.
So far this season there have been five different winners in the five races run so far. But Motorite BAT crews have won three of those races and currently hold the first three places in the drivers championship, and the first two places in the co-drivers championship.
Lesotho Sun 400 winners Alfie Cox and Hennie Ter Stege currently lead the overall and Class A standings, with Evan Hutchinson and Achim Bergmann in hot pursuit. Brandon Harcus, paired again at Sun City with Marcelle Trethewey, is third in the drivers championship and along with Cox and Hutchison has tasted victory this season.
While the Motorite crews will be under fire, there is no shortage of potential winners. Nick and Ryan Harper (Kartek BAT) and Gary Bertholdt and Henry Kirstein (Atlas Copco Porter) have also won this season and will again be among the frontrunners.
Former champion Shameer Variawa and Andrew van Zyl (Total Porter) have the pace to trouble the best crews, and reigning champions Terence Marsh and Mike Whitehouse (Nashua Mobile BAT) will want to bounce back after failing, for the first time in 13 starts, to see out the distance on the Lesotho race.
The likes of John Moore/Ashley Thorne (Leo/Connix Internet Koloi Chev) and Colin Matthews and Juan Mohr in the Gondwana Steel BAT have all had their moments this season. The biggest threat to the Motorite crews, however, is likely to come from Nardus Albert and Colin Hunter who have shown impressive form of late in the Wrapsa BAT.
Clint Gibson/Mike Brown (Absolute BAT) and the father and son pair of Rob and Gareth Wark, who are now going to share a single seater BAT, could also come into the reckoning.
The pace up front is likely to be fast and furious with no prisoners taken. That is going to make for a highly interesting race and the battlefield will be no place for the faint of heart.
Looking for winners in Class B is also a tricky exercise. Jan and Hendrik Kraaij (Keymax BAT) currently lead the championship but still have to drop one score, and the challengers are lining up.
The championship leaders will be looking for every point they can muster, while Ernest Corbett/Warwick Goosen (Century Property Developments BAT) will be coming off a high after winning in Lesotho. The Adenco BAT teams of Bez Bezuidenhout/Johann de Bruyn and Johann/Etienne Bezuidenhout are capable of winning as are John Thompson and Clinton McNamara in the Zarco.
The van Graan bothers, Rudi and Pierre, in the Technochair Zarco, have won this season and will be back in action as will former champions Marcus Taylor and Mark de Chalain in the CLE JRE. The latter have had a miserable time of it this season and will be looking to show their true colours.
Veteran Giel Nel and Johan Smalberger in the Bosal Truggy and Marius and Tracey van Vuuren, in the Bosal Zarco, are both capable of good results, and there is little to choose between the top crews. This makes for what should be a highly interesting outing.
A win on the recent Lesotho Sun 400 saw Nic Goslar (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco) move ahead of reigning drivers champion Richard Schilling in the Class S points standings. The experienced Schilling, partnered in the Plastotech Aceco by Chris Davies, won't take that lying down and will be keen to hit back immediately.
Schilling/Davies have the pace to dominate but also face threats from Archie Rutherford/Craig Doubtfire (Nashua Mobile Raceco) and Botswana crew Gary Gillingham and Peter van Vuuren in the Shell Raceco. Once again a good battle is on the cards.
Pride, as much as championship points, is a great motivator. There will be enough motivation throughout the various classes at Sun City to turn the outing into one of the most exciting races of the season.