Sun City: Series shakedown summary

GROBLER/MOHR GIVE NISSAN A SUN CITY 400 PROLOGUE WIN Sun City -- Friday Veteran Former South African champion Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr gave Nissan a Production Vehicle win on today's prologue to determine grid positions for the Sun City 400...

GROBLER/MOHR GIVE NISSAN A SUN CITY 400 PROLOGUE WIN

Sun City -- Friday Veteran Former South African champion Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr gave Nissan a Production Vehicle win on today's prologue to determine grid positions for the Sun City 400 here tomorrow.

Without a win so far this season the ebullient Grobler and Mohr, in one of three factory Sasol Nissan Navara, entries, produced a clean run to finish 18 seconds ahead of Castrol Toyota Hilux pair Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin in the Super Production Class.

Grobler is hugely experienced, needs a win and a duel with Cronje and Birkin, arguably the quickest crew in the championship, is a mouth watering prospect.

The works Ford pair of Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, on the podium in all four races run so far this season, were third fastest and in many quarters will be heavily fancied to come up with their first win since the last race of last season. Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn, in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux and Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and Briton Quin Evans, in another Nissan Navara, completed the top five.

There was major disappointment for Nissan, however, with reigning South African champion Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford running into problems that put an early damper on their victory hopes. They broke a propshaft and then a front strut and limped home around 90 minutes behind the frontrunners.

Vos has won three times this year but will start from the back of the field tomorrow and has a mountain to climb. Vos's problems also impacted on Special Vehicle crew Pieter Ruthven and De Waal Boshoff in the Ruwacon BAT.

They stopped to help Vos and Pitchford who were stuck in a tunnel. In the process of towing the Nissan out of harms way they blew the BAT's gearbox and are doubtful starters for the race.

A good dice is also shaping up in Class D where the Ryobi Nissan Hardbody of the Zermatten brothers, Henri and Maurice, came in just under three minutes ahead of Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber. The Coetzee and Gerber combination currently hold an eight point championship lead over the Zermatten's who have won the last two events.

Third in Class D were reigning drivers champion Cliff Weichelt and Nico Els in the N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D. Ramon Bezuidenhout (Toyota Hilux) and wife Maret were fourth with five minutes separating the top four cars.

There was a dead heat in Class E where reigning drivers champion Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro, in the factory Ford Racing Ranger, produced the same time as Deon Venter and Ian Palmer in the 4x4 Megaworld Toyota Hilux. A higher national seeding will see Peckham/Santoro start ahead of the Toyota crew.

Third were newcomers Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit, in the Potch Plastics Toyota Hilux. With the scene set for a good battle there was a setback for championship leaders Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in the Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux.

Visser/le Roux were penalised 15 minutes for missing their start time. The best they can now hope for is to finish in the points.

The race starts at 08h00 tomorrow with the start/finish and the designated service point all situated at the Sun City complex. The first cars are expected to finish at around 3pm.

NARROW SUN CITY 400 PROLOGUE VICTORY FOR HARPERS

Sun City, Friday - The father and son team of Nick and Ryan Harper, in the Atlas Copco BAT, scored a narrow Special Vehicle win on the Sun City 400 prologue here today.

When the race proper starts tomorrow only four seconds will separate the Harpers from Mike Whitehouse and Mathew Carlson in the Regent Racing BAT. Whitehouse and Carlson, in turn, were just 24 seconds ahead of current championship leaders Karl-Heinz Sullwald and his son Quentin in the Sullwald Racing BAT. With less than half a minute between the first three cars on the grid, the scene is set for fun and games in what is going to be a hot and dusty event. The top five were completed by reigning South African champions Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergman (Motorite BAT), who have not had a happy season so far, and Herman Sullwald and Paul Helberg in the Sullwald Racing Zarco Magnum.

The big losers on a day that saw the return to off road racing of former South African champion Atang Makgekgenene, after a break of three years, were Nissan Sugarbelt winners Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen (Atlas Copco Porter) and Free State crew Pieter Ruthven and Dewaal Boshoff in the Ruwacon BAT.

Bertholdt/Vermeulen were going like a train when they landed in a ditch. That dropped them way down the pecking order and they will start around three minutes behind the leaders and face an uphill task.

Ruthven and Boshoff stopped to help Production Car category frontrunners Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford who broke the propshaft on the Sasol Nissan Navara. In towing the Nissan out of the tunnel in which the crew were stuck, Ruthven/Boshoff blew heir gearbox and are doubtful starters for the race.

There were also problems for Toyota 1000 Desert Race winners Shameer Variawa and Siegfried Rousseau in the Total Porter, while Makgekenene was suffering from a bad case of ring rust in the latest model Porter. The former champion and Geoff Minnitt will start from the back of the Class A field after finishing around 15 seconds off the pace set by the Harpers.

"It is going to take Atang two or three races to get back into the groove," said Minnitt. "Apart from Atang's ring rust the pace of off road racing has increased in the three years he has been away.

"As bits of rust fell away today you could see he still has what it takes to be competitive."

A terrific performance saw brothers Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) set the sixth fastest time in the Special Vehicle category. That saw them clinch first place in Class P ahead of another set of brothers, David and Gary White (Ruwacon BAT) who were only 40 seconds in arrears.

Both Class P crews finished ahead of SA champion Jan Kraaij and Tiddo Voogt who were first in Class B in the Keymax BAT. Stafix Racing pair Alistair Stubbs and Pieter de Wit were a further three minutes in arrears with Louw de Bruyn and Rudi Britz (Ruwacon BAT) only 30 seconds behind in third place.

The race starts at 08h00 with the start/finish and the designated service park all situated at the Sun City complex. The first cars are expected at the finish at around 3pm.

-credit: absa

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Ian Palmer , Ralph Pitchford , Quin Evans , Duncan Vos