Former Production Vehicles champions Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan led from start to finish in the Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody to record their first Production Vehicle category win in eight starts and extend Nissan’s record to twelve consecutive victories.
Nissan also picked up the Special Vehicle category overall win when Brandon Harcus and Gary Bertholdt scored their maiden win in the Nissan V6 powered BAT, which Harcus designed and builds in Midrand. BAT vehicles have dominated the Special Vehicle category this year qualifying fastest on all events this year and also winning the Nissan Sugarbelt 400.
The battle in the Production Vehicle category was a nail-biting affair with Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer in the Team Ford Racing Ranger involved in a race-long tussle with the Nissan crew throughout the 360km main event. At one stage they closed to within 22 seconds of the leaders when they stopped to replace a flat wheel in an amazing 1 minute and 38 seconds. Woolridge complained that the handling of the Ford was not ideal, especially when carrying a lower fuel load, and crossed the finish line just over 3 minutes behind de Villiers and Jordaan.
Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton finished third overall in the Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser but were slowed on lap one when a steering wheel boss came loose necessitating a lengthy repair at the midway point. This allowed Production Vehicle championship leaders and winners of the past seven events Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke and team mates Duncan Vos and Mike Griffith who started 41st and 42nd respectively after picking up problems in the Prologue on Friday to come within striking distance of the Toyota crew.
The brakes on Grobler and Leeke’s Nissan faded after 100km and eventually disappeared completely towards the end of lap one, which cost them 8 minutes in the pits and allowed Vos and Griffith to nip through and grab fourth spot.
The battle that ensued between Reyneke and Vos produced some of the closest and best off road racing action seen in many years but in the end the wily Grobler managed to get by his teammate and claim fourth overall, 4 minutes and 20 seconds, behind the Toyota. Vos and Griffith finished fifth overall and two seconds behind their teammates.
Class E championship leaders Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin (Castrol Toyota Hilux 2,7i) had a clean run and finished sixth overall and first in Class E.
Scott Abraham and Richard Carolin started 51st after getting stuck in a donga during the Prologue Friday and went on to finish seventh overall and fifth in Class T in the Atlas Copco/Chicago Pneumatic Jeep.
Father and son Cliff and Louis Weichelt finished eighth overall and won Class D in the N1 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser, but only just. They picked puncture after puncture and eventually finished the Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400 with a flat right rear tyre.
Class E winners on the Oven Fresh Biscuits 500 Kassie Coetzee and Ockie Fourie started last after the Castrol Toyota Hilux KZ-TE overheated during the Prologue but carved their way through the field to finish ninth overall and second in Class E.
Hannes Steyn and Ferdi Seegers made it a Toyota 1-2-3 when they brought their Toyota Hilux KZ-TE, on which the turbo charger had failed, home 10th overall and third in Class E.
Topcar managing editor, Deon Schoeman, and Jeremy Fall had a faultless race in the Topcar Ferodo Nissan Hardbody and finished second in Class D and 11th overall. Father and son Johan and Marthinus van der Merwe in the Chavani Colt Rodeo who had an eventful race followed them home. Co-driver Marthinus, who at 16 is the youngest competitor in the championship, suffered from motion sickness, the spare wheel brackets on the Colt broke twice and they lost a wheel.
Andre Botha and Beans Heydenrych were the only entrants in Class F for two wheel drive unlimited Super Trucks and soldiered on to a maiden class win in the O’Hagan’s/Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chevrolet.
The Special Vehicle category was just as closely contested as the Production Vehicle category was.
Special Vehicle category overall winners Harcus and Bertholdt couldn’t afford to ease their pace at all because they had a horde of challengers hot on their tails in the early stage of the race but, as luck would have it, the challengers would, one-by-one, fall by the wayside.
The first to go were 2002 Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400 winners John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt who broke a sideshaft on the O'Hagan's/Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco a few kilometres from the start. The managed to replace the sideshaft but it cost them 55-minutes and in their attempt to make up lost time they mistimed a jump and the Jimco launched three storeys high and flew for 75 meters before crash landing. The impact destroyed the rear-end of the Jimco and their race was well and truly run.
Nissan Dealer 400 and Oven Fresh Biscuits 500 winners Atang Makgekgenene were well placed in the Total SAM Racing Jimco but engine problems within sight of the midway service point forced them into retirement.
Husband and wife Gerhard and Kobie du Plessis also didn’t make it to the end of the first lap when a broken oil pipe on the Liebherr Jimco sheared and they decided to retire rather than cause expensive damage to the Porsche engine.
John Moore and Fred Werner (Shell Connix Chenowth) and former Special Vehicle champion Mark Corbett and co-driver Jason Bruwer in the Century Property Developments BAT took up the challenge but also succumbed to the tough conditions. Both vehicles retired with gearbox problems.
Event sponsor Greg Harvey and Daniel Ford in the Queen Motor Spares Jimco took advantage of the problems that befell their rivals and finished a solid second overall.
Newcomers to the sport Nic Goslar and Warren Bowe finished third overall and first in Class S in the O’Hagan’s/Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco to extend their lead in the Class S championship over Mohammed Noor and Mohammed Moultsen in the Superveg Raceco who finished seventh overall and second in Class S.
Clint Gibson and Mike Brown finished fourth overall and scored their second consecutive Class B win in the Praesidium Financial Services BAT.
Terence Marsh and Trevor Ahier (Nashua Mobile Racing Jimco) were happy to finish fifth overall and third in Class A. They were followed across the line by Giel Nel in the Class B LUK Africa Truggy whose performance puts back at the top of the Special Vehicle championship log ahead of Gerald Mundell and Billy Bond (Prolong BAT) who lost time with an onboard fire.
The next round of the SA Off Road Championship…presented by Absa will be the Sun City 400 on September 26 and 27.
Original article from Car