With just two rounds left of the 2003 South African Off Road Production Vehicle Championship…presented by ABSA, Nissan Motorsport’s Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke have their second overall championship in sight and are aiming at achieving their sixth win of the year and ninth in 10 races in their Proudly South African Hardbody pickup.
Grobler (champion driver in 1986 in a Nissan) and Leeke (champion co-driver in 1984) are once again the team to beat in round seven of the of the eight-race championship, the Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga Province this weekend (October 24 and 25). A win by the veteran pair or by team-mates Duncan Vos and Mike Griffith in their sister Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody will extend the Midrand-based team’s remarkable unbeaten run in the championship to a record 14 wins stretching back to May 2002.
After dominating the recent Sun City 400 in the North West Province in September, where they finished ahead of Vos and Griffith to give Nissan its fourth 1-2 finish of the year, Grobler and Leeke lead the 2003 overall championship standings with 175 points, just 18 ahead of second-placed Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin in their works Castrol Toyota Hilux. These points take into account the requirement that a competitor’s worst result of the year is dropped.
“We still have some hard work to do,” says Grobler. “We’re only 18 points ahead of Cronje and Birkin and we just have to win each of the last two events to make sure of the title. We’re confident we can do it.”
In the absence of Giniel de Villiers, who will be competing in the UAE Desert Challenge in Dubai in the 2004 Dakar-spec Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody, Vos and Griffith will be keen to repeat their second place overall at Sun City in their South African-built class T Hardbody V6 double cab pickup. The reigning national champions (they won the title last year in their class D Nissan Hardbody) can expect strong competition from 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.
The official Nissan Motorsport entries will again be backed by a big contingent of Nissan privateers, whose consistent points scoring has helped Nissan amass an unbeatable 743 points in the prestigious Manufacturers’ Championship. Toyota is currently second with 411 points and Ford third with 190 points.
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. Together with team-mates husband and wife JP and Linda Augustin, Coetzee Labuschagne and Johan Gerber and MC Coetzee and Marius Liebenberg, they will carry the challenge to the other class D contenders.
Grobler and Prinsloo currently lead class D with 73 points after winning their class and finishing a fine fourth overall at Sun City. Second are Johan and Marthinus van der Merwe (Mitsubishi Colt), who have 67 points. Labuschagne and Gerber are third with 58 points.
Also contesting class D in his Ferodo-backed Nissan Hardbody is Topcar magazine’s Deon Schoeman and co-driver Jeremy Fall. Schoeman is fourth in the class D drivers’ championship after completing all but one event so far this year.
BB Auto’s Arnold du Plessis and George Baker, who joined the championship halfway through the season, will be encouraged by their second place in class D in the last event in their Hardbody and will be looking for a maiden class win. 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 currently fourth in class E in their Hardbody after their consistent run of points scoring was interrupted last month by a non-finish in the Sun City race.
Original article from Car