The Proudly South African Nissan team had a disastrous start to the Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400, round 5 of the SA Off Road Championship... presented by Absa, in Tarkastad today. The Production Vehicle championship leaders and winners of the...
The Proudly South African Nissan team had a disastrous start to the Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400, round 5 of the SA Off Road Championship... presented by Absa, in Tarkastad today.
The Production Vehicle championship leaders and winners of the past seven events, Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke, came to a grinding halt within kilometres of the start of the 40km Prologue, which is a time trial used to determine starting positions for the main race. The clutch failed on the Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody and they will start 41st in tomorrows 360km main event.
Team-mates Duncan Vos and Mike Griffith were handily placed in the second of three Class T Nissans entered but disaster struck 6km from the end of the Prologue when the propshaft cross joint sheared and severed the oil pipe feeding the gearbox. The Nissan was engulfed in a plume of blue smoke and Vos decided to stop for fear of doing further damage. They will start 42nd, 16 minutes behind teammates Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan who qualified fastest with a time of 32 minutes 31 seconds. De Villiers missed a gear change and a decision was made to replace the gearbox on his vehicle, as a precaution, as well as that on the Grobler Nissan.
Gary Bertholdt and Brandon Harcus were the fastest Special Vehicle qualifiers in the locally designed and built BAT and will start 1 minute 11 seconds behind the Nissan.
Winners of the 2001 Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400 Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer had a clean run in the Team Ford Racing Ranger and despite being held up by Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton in the Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser they qualified third fastest.
Special Vehicles occupied the next four places with 2002 Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400 and this year's Toyota 1000 winners John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt fourth in the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco. Twenty seconds back were Nissan Dealer 400 and Oven Fresh Biscuits 500 winners Atang Makgekgenene and Mike Stangl fourth in the Total SAM Racing Jimco followed by husband and wife Gerhard and Kobie du Plessis in the Liebherr Mobil Jimco. Gerhard and brother Laurence won four events in 2002. Former Special Vehicle champion Mark Corbett and Jason Bruwer qualified seventh in the Audi V8 powered Century Property Developments BAT.
Multiple former Production Vehicle champions Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton struggled with an ill-handling Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser and had to settle for eighth, almost three and a half minutes behind de Villiers and Jordaan.
Class S winners on the Oven Fresh Biscuits 500, Frikkie Botha and Melvill Priest (Sandton Off Road Accessories Raceco) started 20th and stormed across the finish line in ninth position. They qualified over 2 minutes ahead of 16th placed Class S championship leader Nic Goslar and new co-driver Warren Bowe in the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco.
John Moore and Fred Werner rounded out the top ten in the Shell Connix Chenowth on a route that clearly favoured the Special Vehicles as far as handling was concerned.
Class B winners on the Oven Fresh Biscuits 500 Clint Gibson and Mike Brown were the leading Class B qualifiers and will start 11th in the Praesidium Financial Services BAT.
Despite breaking a leaf spring on the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2700i Class E championship leaders and contenders for the overall Production Vehicle championship Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin out-qualified the rest of the Class E field and will start 12th in the morning.
Former Class D champion Piet Haasbroek and Freddie Scheepers for once had a clean run in the Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser and will lead the Class D field away in the morning.
Arch rival and winners of Class D on two occasions this year, Alfie Cox and Hennie ter Steege, broke a stub axle and ran out of brakes on the Arnold Chatz Cars Nissan Hardbody and will have to be content with starting third in Class E behind GBS Racing Nissan pair Coetzee Labuschagne and Johan Gerber.
The conditions were extremely tough and the attrition rate in tomorrow's main event is expected to be high. The Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400 starts at 08:00 and the first car is due at the finish at 13:30. Whether or not Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke can extend their record-breaking run of seven wins out of seven starts is anyone's guess but based on today's results the odds would appear to be stacked against the seeming invincible partnership.