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NISSAN DEALER 400 ATTRACTS A QUALITY ENTRY The Nissan Dealer 400, the second round of the Absa Off Road Championship, which takes place in the Darling area in the Western Cape on April 22 and 23, has attracted a quality entry that is set to...

NISSAN DEALER 400 ATTRACTS A QUALITY ENTRY

The Nissan Dealer 400, the second round of the Absa Off Road Championship, which takes place in the Darling area in the Western Cape on April 22 and 23, has attracted a quality entry that is set to excite local motorsport fans.

The all-conquering Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody pickups that dominated the event in 2003 and 2004 will be seen in action in the Western Cape for the last time following the decision by the MSA Off Road Car Racing Commission and the participating manufacturers to introduce a new Super Production Class with effect from the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in June.

The Nissan challenge will be spearheaded by reigning Production Vehicle Driver's Champion Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan who navigated for Giniel de Villiers when they won last year's Nissan Dealer 400 and reigning Class D champions Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford.

Cox and Pitchford stunned everyone in KwaZulu-Natal by winning the prologue and leading the race for the first 90-minutes before being delayed by a faulty battery and later retiring when the rear prop shaft broke and damaged a gearbox oil cooler pump. The former motorcycle enduro champions should be in their element on the fast sandy tracks in the Western Cape and could just pull off a surprise win.

Missing from the line-up will be Nissan Sugarbelt 400 winners Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in the Team Ford Racing Ranger. Management has made a decision to concentrate its efforts on completing and developing the new vehicles that Woolridge and Skjoldhammer and Class D winners in KwaZulu-Natal, Manfred Schroder and Alec Harris, will campaign in Class SP.

Andre Botha and veteran Richard 'Ouboet' Carolin will be the third Class F entry and the pair will share driving duties in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chevrolet Silverado.

Class D promises to be a closely fought affair with championship leaders Manfred Schroder and Alec Harris the crew to beat in the Team Ford Racing Ranger. Team Castrol Toyota will field three Hilux 2.7i models for last year's Class D winner on the Nissan Dealer 400 Paolo Piazza-Musso and Ockie Fourie, Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin and Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton. This will be Gavin Cronje's first outing in the Western Cape and he, as are the rest of the team, is looking forward to a good result on this high speed event. Father and son Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the Bosal / N1 4X4 Toyota Hilux V6 will add valuable support to Toyota's challenge.

Nissan's Class D challenge will come from a gaggle of privateers with the BB Auto team from Pietersburg fielding a double cab for Arnold du Plessis and Johan Knox and a single cab for brothers Jurie and Andre du Plessis. Deon Schoeman and Jan Sime will be hoping to make up for their disappointing non-finish in the Topcar Nissan Hardbody double cab on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 as will Coetzee Labuschagne and Johan Gerber in the Raysonics Nissan Hardbody single cab.

2004 Milestone Award winners Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler will again be in action in the Mastercraft / Ryobi Mitsubishi Pajero and can be expected to deliver a good result to add more points to the ten they have already earned in the Overall Production Vehicle Championship. Brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat will be in action in the lone Bosal / N1 4X4 Land Rover.

Toyota is dominant in Class E where reigning champions Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn have already picked up their first class win of the season. Hugo and his father Jaap finished fourth overall and won Class E in their Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i on last year's Nissan Dealer 400 and can be expected to put up another giant-killing performance. Zane Pearce and Peter Chadwick finished second in KwaZulu-Natal and as a result the Team Castrol Toyota crew has received a huge confidence boost, which should augur well for them in the Western Cape event.

Team Ford Racing's development team, Baphumze Rubuluza and Khulile Vakalisa, survived a baptism by fire last year when they had to dig themselves out of thick sand on at least three occasions but still managed to finish 11th overall and third in Class E in their off road racing debut. The Pietermaritzburg based businessmen are aiming for a podium finish on the Nissan Dealer 400.

Father and son Dirk van Reenen and Dirk van Reenen Jr. finished third in Class E on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 and are hoping for another strong performance in the diesel powered Savannah Ford Ranger.

Thomas Rundle and Stavros Yiannakis have switched from Toyota to Nissan and will campaign the Barden Tyre Services Nissan Hardbody this season. The newcomers to national championship competition were well placed on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 until a broken alternator belt forced them into retirement.

The bulk of the entry will come from the Special Vehicle category, which includes a number of new ultra-powerful vehicles like the BAT Spec-1 models driven by Bevan Bertholdt and Terence Marsh.

2004 Nissan Dealer 400 runners-up Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr will be back in action in the Century Property Developments BAT after missing the KwaZulu-Natal event and will have some catching up to do in the Special Vehicle championship battle.

2003 and 2004 winner Atang Makgekgenene is now based in London and is rumoured to be champing at the bit to compete in the event. He and co-driver Buks Carolin are the reigning Special Vehicle champions and their presence will no doubt unnerve the competition.

Nissan Sugarbelt 400 winners Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau are not at all fazed by Corbett and Makgekgenene's return and believe they have the psychological edge over all their rivals. Their Advansoft BAT is well sorted and more than up to the task of beating some of the more powerful vehicles like brother Bevan Bertholdt and Nick Selamolele's Chev LS-1 powered Itec BAT Spec-1, which is geared to reach a top speed of 220kp/h.

Nissan Sugarbelt 400 runners-up John Moore and Graham Maclachlan come from an off road enduro motorcycle background and like Woolridge, Skjoldhammer, Cox and Pitchford have the ability to read road conditions better than most. The pair will put their experience and the reliability and performance of the Connix Internet Chenowth to good use.

Other Class A contenders include Clint Gibson and Marcelle Trethewey in the Gibson Plant Hire BAT, 2004 Lesotho Sun 400 winners John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco, Terence Marsh and Michael Whitehouse in the Nashua Mobile BAT Spec-1, Shameer Variawa and VZ van Zyl in the Porter, father and son Rob and Gareth Wark in the Superpave Chenowth and Giel Nel and Peter Newbery in the Subaru powered LUK / Ate Zarco Lite.

The hotly contested Class B promises to be a battle of note with the chief protagonists being Class B championship leaders Evan Hutchison and Trevor Ormerod in the Motorite BAT, reigning Class B champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain who finished second to the BAT pair on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400, Adri Roets and Deon de Kock in the Gearbox and Diff Centre WPP who won the class last year and Western Cape father and son crew Bez and Deon Bezuidenhout in the Adenco Sandmaster.

The Zarco Lite brigade of Hendrik and Louis Fourie, John Thomson and Clinton McNamara (Mormond Zarco Lite) and brothers Rudi and Pierre van Graan (Technochair Zarco Lite) will lock horns with the Century Property Developments BAT of Ernest Corbett and son-in-law Warwick Goosen, David White in the ex-Giel Nel Truggy and Gerhard and Zelda Niemandt in the new Promotorsport ORCO.

Class S for special vehicles fitted with beam axle, trailing arm front suspensions includes Nardus Alberts and Collin Hunter in the Wrapsa Raceco and Nic Goslar and Jacob Robbetze in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco.

The CPMCC has laid out a spectacular 115km route that competitors will complete three times on Saturday and motorsport fans will have ample opportunities to see the Production and Special Vehicles in action at designated spectator points.

The Nissan Dealer 400 gets underway with a 42km Prologue to determine starting positions at 13h00 on Friday, April 22 and the main event starts at the Darling Club at 08h00 on Saturday, April 23.

-msa-

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Giniel de Villiers , Alfie Cox , John Moore , David White , Ralph Pitchford , Gavin Cronje , Mark Corbett