The entry list for this weekend’s Nissan Dealer 400, the opening round of the Absa Off Road Championship for Production and Special Vehicles reflects a growth of 32 percent over last year’s inaugural event in the Darling area.

The Cape Peninsula Motorcycle and Car Club has received a total of 54 entries with the Production Vehicle category accounting for 28 entries and the Special Vehicle category for 26.

“The increase in entries is significant and vindicates the MSA Off Road Car Racing Commission’s decision in 2002 to introduce off road racing in the Western Cape,” said MSA Off Road Car Racing Commission president, Piet Swanepoel. “Initially there was some resistance to staging an event in the Western Cape but competitors and their sponsors have come to realise that the area is commercially important and that it also offers a diversity of terrain not found in other regions where we race.”

The Nissan Hardbody pick-ups of reigning Production Vehicle champions Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke, 2001 champions Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan and 2002 champion Duncan Vos and new co-driver Hennie ter Steege will do battle against 2000 Production Vehicle champions Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer in the Team Ford Racing Ranger in Class T.

Woolridge and Skjoldhammer managed to break the Nissan stranglehold on the Production Vehicle category when they won the Carnival City Casino 400 at the end of the 2003 season and are confident that they now have the measure of the all-conquering Nissan team.

Proceedings in Class D will be watched with interest as Ford, Nissan and Toyota lock horns in what could, in time, become the new playground for manufacturer teams.

Nissan will rely on the GBS Racing Team of reigning Class D champions Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo, husband and wife JP and Linda Augustin and Johan Gerber and Coetzee Labuschagne; Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford (Arnold Chatz Cars Nissan Hardbody) and Arnold du Plessis and George Baker in the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody while Ford’s challenge will come from former Class E champions Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham in the all-new Team Ford Racing Ranger.

Toyota will field two Castrol Toyota Hiluxes for Paolo Piazza-Musso and Rod Hering and reigning Class E champions Mark Cronje and Andrew Birkin. Father and son Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the Bosal / N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser can be expected to put up a strong challenge.

Ford, Nissan and Toyota are also well represented in Class E for 4-cylinder Production Vehicles with Team Ford Racing’s Baphumze Rubuluza and Khulile Vakalisa making their off road racing debut in a Ford Ranger 2.5. Dirk van Reenen and Ian Palmer have acquired the ex-Zane Pearce Hi Q Ford Ranger and will be a threat to the Nissan Hardbody pick-ups of husband and wife Neels and Zelda van der Walt and brothers Jurie and Andre du Plessis in the BB Auto entry.

Toyota’s official challenge has been reduced to one vehicle following the withdrawal of Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton’s Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i and they will rely on the lone Castrol Toyota Hilux KZ-TE of Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo.

However, Toyota can depend on a gaggle of talented privateer crews to fly the flag, notable among which will be former Class E champions Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn in last year’s Class E championship winning Hilux 2.7i and Lichtenburg 200 winners Hein Moolman and Cecil Fincham in the ex-Kassie Coetzee Hilux KZ-TE.

On the Special Vehicle front it is likely to be a BAT versus Jimco battle in Class A after the newly arrived Oven Fresh Biscuits Porter blew its BMW 4.6 V8 engine earlier in the week. Shameer Variawa is burning the midnight oil to repair the damage and stands an outside chance of making the starting grid on Friday.

The BAT challenge will come from reigning Special Vehicle Co-drivers Champion Brandon Harcus and new co-driver Achim Bergmann (Adrenalise Corporate Entertainment BAT), 2003 Toyota Dealer 400 winner Mark Corbett and new co-driver Gavin Kelsey (Century Property Developments BAT), Danie Marais and Andrew Utterson (Extreme Racing BAT) and Clint Gibson and Mike Brown (Praesidium Financial Services BAT.

Jimco will be represented by 2003 Toyota 1000 winners John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt in the newly rebuilt Kopanong Hotel Jimco, winners of the inaugural Nissan Dealer 400 and the 2003 Oven Fresh Biscuits 500 Atang Makgekgenene and Mike Stangl in the Total Jimco, which is now fitted with a Chevrolet LS-1 V8 motor, Sam Moolla and Zaheer Bodhanya (Oven Fresh Biscuits Jimco) and Frikkie Botha and Melville Priest in the Lexus V8 powered Jimco.

Only four entries have been received in Class S for space-framed vehicles fitted with trailing arm front suspensions. Reigning Class S Drivers Champion Nic Goslar has a new co-driver, Graydon Ildertow, in the fully refurbished Men’s Clinic International / Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco and will have to contend with local driver Johan Bezuidenhout in a Chenowth and multiple former champions Buks Carolin and Archie Rutherford (Nashua Mobile Raceco) and Richard Schilling and Ashley Thorn (Plastotech Raceco).

Carolin and Schilling have entered into a friendly wager, dubbed the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, whereby each has stated that he will beat the other in every one of the eight events in the championship with the loser donating R1 000 per race to Sunfield Home in Muldersdrift. Whatever the outcome, the biggest winner of all will be Sunfield Home.

Class B promises to be an action packed affair with reigning Special Vehicle and Class B champion Giel Nel in the Luk / ATE Truggy under pressure from a host of newcomers and some old hands who are all intent on bringing his reign to an end.

The locally built Zarco Lite special vehicles have been entered by Zarco designer and constructor Hendrik and JL Fourie, Warren Classen and Kim Dixon and Glenn Classen and Matthew Ludick and, along with Western Cape based father and son Bez and Etienne Bezuidenhout (Adenco Sandmaster), Ernest Corbett and Warwick Goosen (Century Property Developments BAT) and brothers Hamish and Alistair Stubbs in the Viper, could pose the biggest threat to Nel.

George Barkhuizen and David White have each entered one of the radical, locally designed and built, motorcycle engined Ultimo Dominators and it will be interesting to see how they perform in their Absa Off Road Championship debut.

The Nissan Dealer 400 gets underway at 13h00 on Friday (March 19) with a Prologue to determine starting positions for Saturday’s main event that starts at 08h00 in Darling and consists of two laps of a 172km course.

Original article from Car