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GROBLER/JORDAAN WIN NISSAN DEALER 400 Multiple South African champion Hannes Grobler started his quest for yet another national title with a consummate victory in the Production Vehicle category of the Nissan Dealer 400, the opening event of...

GROBLER/JORDAAN WIN NISSAN DEALER 400

Multiple South African champion Hannes Grobler started his quest for yet another national title with a consummate victory in the Production Vehicle category of the Nissan Dealer 400, the opening event of this year's Absa Off Road Championship, which ended in Darling today.

Grobler, partnered by Francois Jordaan in a works Nissan Navara, came in around 10 minutes ahead of the factory Ford Racing Ranger in the hands of former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer to take both overall honours and the win in the new Super Production Class. The veteran Grobler, who has national off road, rally and circuit racing titles to his name in a distinguished career, shelved retirement plans for one last assault on the off road series, and got his campaign off to the perfect start.

It was also a perfect start to the season for Woolridge and Skjoldhammer who are back in action after a year long Sabbatical. It was the Ford's debut race in the SP Class with the pair delighted with the performance of the vehicle after limited testing time.

Third were Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford in a second factory Nissan Navara who started the day in pole position. The pair did not have a happy day but helped maintain Nissan's domination in recent years, perpetuated by success in the now defunct Super Truck category, of the Production Vehicle category.

"On a route that had a little of everything the vehicle was perfect," said Grobler. "A puncture on the final loop slowed us a little, but otherwise we had a copybook run."

Grobler and Jordaan took the lead on the first of three 125-kilometre loops when Vos and Pitchford were slowed by a broken fan belt. They were also overtaken by the Ford late in the race when a gearbox problem added o their woes.

"We didn't have much time for testing, so this was a great result for us," said Skjoldhammer. "Now we can go back and work on improvements before the next event."

Fourth overall and fourth in the SP Class in a Class D vehicle, were Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton in the Castrol Toyota Hilux. The pair were slowed on the final loop by overheating problems and lost a couple of gears, but were more than happy in what was Bertholdt's debut for the factory squad.

"Bevan was under pressure but drove nicely," said multiple South African off road and rally champion Houghton. "It is a result that will have given him confidence, and we cannot wait to get into a real SP vehicle on the next event."

Fifth overall and first in Class D were Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux. The pair, the reigning Class E champions, were having their first outing in Class D and produced a steady run with overheating -- a common problem for competitors after the notorious water splash turned out to be more of a mud splash -- their only concern.

Second in Class D were Coetzee Labuschagne and Johan Gerber, in the Raysonic Nissan Hardbody, who had an adventurous day. A broken oil pipe, a broken sideshaft, overheating problems and punctures also plagued them throughout the day and they were happy just to make it to the finish.

Their cause was also helped by a string of Class D retirements. Among them were Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn, in the Castrol Toyota Hilux, Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the Bosal Toyota Hilux and fellow Nissan crew Jurie du Plessis and Andre du Plessis.

Class E produced a great result for Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie in the Castrol Toyota Hilux. With Martin making his off road debut the pair took the class ahead of former champions and reigning Class D champions Manfred Schroder and Ward Huxtable in the works Ford Racing Ranger.

There were also a string of retirements in Class E and Schroder/Huxtable lost a great deal of time repairing a CV joint. This saw Martin and Fourie, who lost time replacing a sideshaft, gradually wear down the opposition.

-msa

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Series Other rally
Drivers Ralph Pitchford , Duncan Vos , Japie Badenhorst