FORD END NISSAN RUN ON SUN CITY 400 Ford halted a run of four successive Nissan wins on the Sun City 400 when former South African champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer today won the Pilanesberg event in sweltering...
FORD END NISSAN RUN ON SUN CITY 400
Ford halted a run of four successive Nissan wins on the Sun City 400 when former South African champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer today won the Pilanesberg event in sweltering conditions.
Overall victory in the Production Vehicle category and the Super Production Class in round six of the Absa Off Road Championship, gave the Ford Racing Ranger team their second win of the season, and kept alive a fierce championship battle. Woolridge and Skjoldhammer came in 13 minutes ahead of the Proudly South African Nissan Navara team of Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan, to close the championship gap between the two crews with just two events remaining.
On an event loaded with controversy and drama, Ford's cup overflowed when Manfred Schroder and Ward Huxtable finished third overall and first in Class E in the diesel powered Ford Racing Ranger. It was a fine performance from the pair with the next Class E car around 70 minute in arrears.
Most of the controversy surrounded the Friday prologue to determine start positions. A number of crews, including the Team Castrol Toyota Hilux of Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin, were penalised an hour for missing marshal points.
Others like Grobler and Jordaan had problems of a different kind. They failed to finish the prologue because of a power steering failure, and joined the likes of Cronje/Birkin towards the back of the field.
Woolridge and Skjoldhammer regained the lead on the first of two 200 kilometres loops when Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford, in a second factory Nissan Navara, broke the rear axle housing. Two punctures early on lap one were the only problems encountered by the Ford pair, and in the end they were comfortable winners.
An oil pressure false alarm and a misfire over the last 100 kilometres were the only problems Grobler and Jordaan encountered -- until they were within spitting distance of the finish. The Nissan pair then used up some of their share of good fortune when a steering arm broke within 100 metres of the finish, and the pair were able to limp across the line with the front wheels pointing in different directions.
Third in the SP Class went to Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton, in the second Castrol Toyota Hilux, with the pair finishing in two wheel drive after a propshaft problem on lap two. They held off Rob Gurney and Graeme Stainbank, in the second factory Ford Ranger, and Cronje and Birkin who lost time via punctures and a broken wheel rim.
The Class D honours went to the father and son team of Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn, in a Castrol Toyota Hilux, with a tough route and the hot and dusty conditions taking its toll of other fancied runners in the category. Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst, in the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux, were looking for a fifth win this season but had a weekend to forget.
Another father and son combination, Cliff and Louis Weichelt, in the Bosal Toyota Hilux, had an adventurous weekend. They hit a tree in the prologue when a brake caliper disintegrated, and then a wheel bearing problem forced them into retirement on lap two.
Class D also lost the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody of Arnold du Plessis and Johan Knox. They were one of the crews penalised during the prologue, and refused to start in protest against the penalty.
Schroder and Huxtable reported a trouble free time of it in the Class E entry. For Schroder it was his first such run in four Sun City events, and left the KwaZulu-Natal crew firmly in control of the Class E championship.
Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux, in a Toyota Hilux, and brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat (Bosal Toyota Hilux) trailed in second and third. Neither crew reported major problems, but just could not match Schroder and Huxtable for pace.
The Class F honours went to Herman de Villiers and Andre Griessel in an ageing Land Rover with the pair the only finishers in the category.
MOTORITE BAT CREWS DOMINATE SUN CITY 400
Motorite BAT crews continued to dominate the Special Vehicle category in the ABSA Off Road Championship with a one/two, their second such result in a row, on the Sun City 400 today.
Brandon Harcus, with victory making him the first two time winner this season, and Marcelle Trethewey eventually won a tight battle against team-mates Alfie Cox and Hennie Ter Stege. Off road motorcycle legend Cox and Ter Stege were looking for their second win in a row but finally ended up around three and a half minutes behind Harcus and Trethewey.
Victory, however, kept Cox and ter Stege at the top of the overall and Class A championships. Harcus, who won the opening event of the year in a singleseater Motorite BAT, did his drivers championship hopes no harm with a win in what developed into a cat and mouse game between the two frontrunners.
Third, in their best showing of the season, were Clint Gibson and Mike Brown in the Absolute BAT. The KwaZulu-Natal pair were 20 minutes behind Cox and Ter Stege, but ran strongly all weekend in a race tinged with controversy.
Toyota 1000 Desert Race pair Nic and Ryan Harper, in the Kartek BAT, refused to start after they were one of several crews given an hour penalty after the Friday prologue to determine start positions. The Ryan's, along with a number of other crews, were penalized for missing marshal points along the 63 kilometre prologue route.
Hopes of a Motorite BAT clean sweep were ended early on the first of two 200 kilometre loops when Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann retired. They started the day with "a gearbox that did not feel happy" and soon called it a day.
Cox/Ter Stege and Harcus/Trethewey arrived at the designated service point within seconds of each other after the first lap. A brake problem and a puncture then slowed Cox and Ter Stege with Harcus and Trethewey taking full advantage of the situation.
Reigning champions Terence Marsh and Mike Whitehouse (Nashua Mobile BAT) kept alive slim championship hopes by coming home fourth in Class A. They came in behind Naeem Moosajee and Rayhaan Bodhanya in the Jimco, who were then excluded from the results after a brush with Botswana crew Gary Gillingham and Peter van Vuuren in the Shell Racing Raceco.
High profile Class A runners who fell by the wayside included Ford Motorite 400 winners Gary Bertholdt and Henry Kirstein (Atlas Copco Porter) who went out with gearbox problems on the prologue, Rashid Variawa and VZ van Zyl (Total Porter) who broke a wheel hub and John Weir-Smith/Geoff Minnitt (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco), after contact with a pole. Prologue winners Gerhard du Plessis and wife Kobie, in a Jimco, were early race casualties with mechanical problems forcing them into retirement.
Fourth overall and victory in Class B went to veterans Ernest Corbett and Warwick Goosen in the Century Property Developments BAT. It was their second win on the trot and was another tremendous performance.
Corbett and Goosen had more than 40 minutes in hand over another veteran, Giel Nel, and Johan Smalberger in the LUK Bosal Truggy. Third were Bes Bezuidenhout and Johann de Bruyn in the Adenco BAT, with Alistair and Hamish Stubbs (Viper) and Marius van Vuuren /Johan Coetzee (Bosal Zarco) completing the top five.
Nic Goslar and Richard Carolin, in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco, ground out the win in Class S. It was Goslar's second win in a row after his victory, partnered by Gerhard Niemand, in the Lesotho Sun 400.
Reigning Class S champions Richard Schilling and Chris Davies (Plastotech Aceco) were excluded for deviating from the route to put an end to a troubled weekend end for the pair. Also excluded were Archie Rutherford and Craig Doubtfire (Nashua Mobile BAT) who were involved in a prologue accident with Annamaria Correia in a Sandmaster.