The Nissan Sugarbelt 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, takes place in the Eston area of KwaZulu Natal on April 23 and 24 and Nissan is hoping to extend its domination of this popular annual event to four consecutive wins.
Since Nissan turned its motor sport attention fulltime to national championship off road racing in 2001, after dominating the national touring car championship for four years, the Midrand-based Nissan Motorsport team has won three successive Nissan Sugarbelt 400 races in its South African-built 3,5-litre V6 Nissan Hardbody pickup.
Competing in class T for modified production vehicles, four-times touring car champion Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Francois Jordaan were victorious in 2001 on their way to winning their first national off-road championship. They won the KZN event again in 2002 in their Proudly South African Hardbody, starting Nissan’s unprecedented 14-race winning streak that ended in the final round of the 2003 season, the Carnival City 400.
Former national off-road champions Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke took the chequered flag in 2003 in a year in which they completely dominated the championship, winning six of the eight rounds on their way to the driver and co-driver titles respectively.
Nissan made the perfect start to the 2004 season by winning the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape in March. This time it was De Villiers and Jordaan who took the overall honours, ahead of Grobler and Leeke, the two Proudly South African Hardbody pickups again proving to be the class of the field. It was Nissan’s 19th victory in the 25 national championship off road races it has contested and the ninth time the team scored a 1-2 finish.
For the third member of the Nissan Motorsport team, 2002 champion Duncan Vos, the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 will be his chance to take his first overall victory since moving up to the modified class T category in 2003 after winning the 2002 championship in the near-standard class D six-cylinder Hardbody.
Vos achieved three second place finishes last year in the third class T Hardbody and, with experienced co-driver Hennie ter Stege reading the route notes for him this year following the retirement of Mike Griffith, the former touring car driver is aiming for the top step of the podium this weekend.
Multiple South African off-road motorcycle champion Alfie Cox and co-driver Ralph Pitchford head a strong contingent of Nissan privateers in the Nissan Sugarbelt 400. Cox made an auspicious production vehicle debut last season in the Arnold Chatz Cars class D Hardbody, twice winning the hotly contested class.
Reigning class D champions Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo head up the GBS Racing team. Teammates are JP and Linda Augustin and Coetzee Labuschagne and Johan Gerber. Also contesting class D is the pairing of Arnold du Plessis and George Baker in their BB Auto Hardbody.
Nissan Hardbody privateers in class E (for near standard four-cylinder production vehicles) include husband-and-wife team Neels and Zelda van der Walt and brothers Jurie and Andre du Plessis (BB Auto Hardbody).
Original article from Car