Nissan Motorsport’s team of two Proudly South African Hardbody racing pickups of Hannes Grobler/Francois Jordaan and Alfie Cox/Ralph Pitchford is again the one to beat in round four of the Absa Off-Road Production Vehicle Championship in North West Province this weekend (July 1 and 2). The Midrand-based team is aiming for a fourth successive win in the Sun City 400, which would extend Nissan’s dominance in national championship off-road racing to 27 wins from 35 events since Nissan entered the championship in 2001.
Despite their problems in the recent Toyota 1 000 Desert Race – they finished fourth after losing one and a half hours as a result of a broken steering arm and front brake disc – reigning champion Hannes Grobler and co-driver Francois Jordaan lead the 2005 championship standings after three events with 56 points.
Second on 35 points is the works Toyota Hilux of Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton with Ford Racing’s Manfred Schroder and Alec Harris (Ford Ranger) and Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler (Mitsubishi Pajero) joint third with 34 points.
Cox and Pitchford have 25 points from their win in the recent Toyota 1 000 Desert Race, round three of the championship in Botswana, after failing to score in the first two events.
Last year’s Sun City 400 was won by Giniel de Villiers and Jordaan, SA off road champions in 2001, and with De Villiers’ recent move to the Germany-based Volkswagen Cross Country Rally World Cup team, Jordaan will be aiming for a second successive win but this time as Grobler’s co-driver.
“Hannes and I are old friends and we have quickly formed a close working relationship in the Nissan,” says the 51-year-old civil contractor from Gauteng. Jordaan and Grobler, 50, who owns a Nissan dealership in Hermanus in the Western Cape, are finding that their toughest competition is coming from their younger team-mates, former off road motorcycle champions Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford, now referred to as “The Alfie and Ralphie Show”.
Cox, 43, who has his own KTM motorcycle dealership in Cato Ridge, KwaZulu Natal, and Pitchford, also 43 and a member of the Nissan Motorsport technical team, are in their first season together in the powerful class T Nissan Hardbody after winning the class D championship last year in a near-standard Hardbody.
They will be full of confidence for an outright win at Sun City after their impressive performance in the Desert Race where they recorded their maiden victory in the production vehicle category at their first attempt. In the process, Cox became the first man to win the Desert Race on both two wheels and four.
“We had a good, clean run in Botswana thanks to the very professional preparation of the Nissan Motorsport team,” says Cox. “Ralph and I are really enjoying the power of the big 3,5-litre V6 Nissan and we’re very privileged to be up against such distinguished team-mates as Hannes and Francois. We’re learning a lot.”
Nissan will again enjoy the support of an enthusiastic and hard-working band of privateers in class D at the Sun City 400.
Arnold du Plessis, owner of BB Auto Nissan in Polokwane, Limpopo, leads the two-car BB Auto team with co-driver John Knox in a Coca Cola-backed Hardbody. They had a good result in the Desert Race, finishing fifth overall and third in class D after promising starts in both of the earlier rounds of the championship resulted in disappointing retirements.
Arnold’s brothers Jurie and Andre were sixth overall in the Botswana event and fourth in class and currently lie 10th in the championship and 5th in class D after scoring points in the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape in April.
Motoring journalist Deon Schoeman and Jan Sime will be hoping for a happier result than their retirement in the Desert Race, where they were doing well in their Autopage/Du Pont/Topcar Hardbody until they had fuel tank problems. Also contesting class D will be the GBS Racing/Raysonics Hardbody in the hands of Coetzee Labuschagne and Johan Gerber, who ran as high as 10th overall in Botswana before being forced out with oil pressure problems.
Class E contenders Thomas Rundle and Stavros Yiannakis will also be hoping to have better luck this weekend after dropping out of the Desert Race with shock absorber problems on their Barden Tyre Services Hardbody.
Original article from Car