The Nissan Sugarbelt 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, which got underway today in Eston near Pietermaritzburg promises to be a humdinger of race with the top 20 competitors separated by four minutes and ten seconds after the 35km Prologue to determine starting positions for tomorrow’s main event.

In a repeat of their season opening Nissan Dealer 400 winning performance Production Vehicle Championship leaders Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan will start on pole in the Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody and are widely tipped to win the race.

Team-mates and reigning Production Vehicle Champions Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke will start 11 seconds behind the leaders and 27 seconds ahead of the leading Special Vehicle crew, Shameer Variawa and Nadeem Dudhia, in the brand new and extremely radical Oven Fresh Biscuits Porter.

Despite Variawa having been out of action since 2001 and Dudhia making his debut as a navigator the pair out qualified the rest of the Special Vehicle field in convincing fashion.

Reigning Special Vehicle Co-drivers champion Brandon Harcus and Achim Bergmann were fourth fastest in the locally designed and constructed Adrenalise Corporate Entertainment BAT and survived a scary, high flying moment during the Prologue.

Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer (Team Ford Racing Ranger) and Duncan Vos and Hennie ter Stege (Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody) posted identical times and will start fifth and sixth overall respectively.

Mark Corbett and Gavin Kelsey (Century Property Developments BAT) qualified seventh, a mere six seconds behind the Ford and the Nissan and 34 seconds ahead of former Nissan Sugarbelt 400 winner Bevan Bertholdt and James Kennerley in his newly acquired BAT.

Ninth fastest were Frikkie Botha and Blackie Swart in the Procoat Jimco followed four seconds later by Terence Marsh and Michael Whitehouse in the Nashua Mobile Jimco.

Johan van Jaarsveld and Marlene Lindeque were 11th fastest and the leading Class B qualifiers in the Pro Ysco with Henry Kirstein and Renier Jooste in the Atlas Copco BAT 71 seconds adrift in second spot. Gary Campbell (Mighty Mag) was the third fastest Class B qualifier and will start 18th.

International off road motorcycle star and local hero Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford (Arnold Chatz Cars Nissan Hardbody) were 12th fastest and the leading Class D crew. They will face stiff competition from local cane farmers Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham (Team Ford Racing Ranger) who were only 39 seconds slower and 15th overall. Reigning Class D champions Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo were third fastest in Class D in their GBS Racing Nissan Hardbody.

Richard Schilling and Ashley Thorn (Plastotech Raceco) qualified 14th and will lead the rest of Class S field away in the morning. Their closest challengers will be Nic Goslar and Warren Bowie (Kopanong Hotel Superteam) and Nardus Alberts and Collin Hunter (Wrapsa Raceco) who all picked up problems in the Prologue and will start 50th and 56th respectively.

Northwest Province farmers Hein Moolman and Cecil Fincham (4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) were the leading Class E qualifiers in 25th place and were five seconds ahead Nissan Dealer 400 Class E winners Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn in the Castrol Toyota Hilux. Zane Pearce and Hein Vosloo (Castrol Toyota Hilux) were eight seconds slower and will start 27th.

The Nissan Sugarbelt 400 proper gets underway at 08h00 at the Beaumont Eston Farmers Club and the first vehicle is expected at the finish at 13h30. Spectators have been well catered for with 25 conveniently located vantage points along the compact route, which comprises roads and tracks in the cane fields and forests.

Original article from Car