Nissan Motorsport’s team of three Proudly South African Hardbody racing pickups is again the one to beat in round six of the South African Off-Road Production Vehicle Championship…presented by Absa in North West Province this weekend (September 26 and 27). The Midrand-based team is aiming for a second successive win in the Sun City 400, which would extend Nissan’s unbeaten run in the championship to a record 13 wins stretching back to May 2002.
After winning the first four events of the year and finishing fourth in last month’s Tarka 400 in the Eastern Cape, former national off-road and rally champions Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke lead the 2003 championship standings with 164 points. Second on 134 points is the works Castrol Toyota Hilux of Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin.
The veteran pair enjoy a comfortable lead in class T for ‘supertrucks’ over former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer (Ford Ranger V6), but the real prize is the overall championship. They will be hoping to repeat their victory in last year’s Sun City 400 and make up for the disappointment of breaking their seven-race winning streak in the Eastern Cape.
“The championship scoring system requires us to drop our worst race result at the end of the season and if we were to do this now, with three races remaining, we would be just 16 points ahead of Cronje and Birkin,” said Grobler. “Richard and I have the championship in our sights and we will be going for our fifth win of the season. We have to score maximum points from now on.”
Their biggest competition will again come from Proudly South African Nissan team-mates Giniel de Villiers/Francois Jordaan and Duncan Vos/Mike Griffith in their class T Hardbody V6 double cab pickups, as well as the official factory entries from Ford and Toyota, the new Ford Ranger V6 of Woolridge and Skjoldhammer and the Toyota Land Cruiser of Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton.
De Villiers and Jordaan won their first race of the season in the Eastern Cape last month and will be strongly motivated to make it two in a row. Vos and Griffith have been having a tough first season together in class T after winning the overall championship last year in a class D Nissan Hardbody. Three non-finishes have been balanced by a second in the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 and a fifth in the Tarka 400 and they will be looking for at least a top-three finish in North West.
“We’re not taking anything for granted,” says Glyn Hall, manager of Nissan Motorsport. “We’re having a good run, but we continue to work very hard to stay ahead in this ultra competitive form of motor racing.”
Thanks to excellent support from privateers, Nissan enjoys a commanding lead in the manufacturers’ championship with 620 points, ahead of Toyota (369) and Ford (190).
The official factory team will be backed by a big contingent of Nissan privateers. Multiple national off-road and enduro champion Alfie Cox has made an impressive debut on four wheels this year with co-driver Hennie ter Stege, winning class D (for near standard six-cylinder vehicles) and finishing sixth overall twice (in rounds two and four) in their Arnold Chatz Cars Nissan Hardbody. Cox is currently fifth in class D and the pair will be keen to make up for a disappointing non-finish in the Tarka 400.
Former class D champion Hein Grobler and co-driver Gerhard Prinsloo head the new four-car Gearbox Services team of gold Nissan Hardbody pickups, which has quickly made its mark in this closely contested class. The other GBS pairings are husband and wife JP and Linda Augustin, Coetzee Labuschagne and Johan Gerber, and MC Coetzee and Marius Liebenberg.
They have all scored points so far, with Grobler and Prinsloo currently second in class D, Labuschagne and Gerber fourth, the Augustins eighth and Coetzee and Liebenberg ninth.
Also contesting class D in a Nissan Hardbody is Topcar magazine’s Deon Schoeman and Jeremy Fall. Schoeman has completed every event so far this year and is third in class D.
BB Auto’s Arnold du Plessis and George Baker will be back for their third event of the year in their class D Hardbody, while team-mates Jurie and Andre du Plessis will compete in their class E (near standard four-cylinder) BB Auto Hardbody.
Husband and wife team Neels and Zelda van der Walt, are having a steady run this year in their class E Hardbody and are currently fourth in the points standings.
Original article from Car