The 2003 SA Off Road Car Racing Championship presented by Absa ended on a high note at the recent Carnival City Casino 400 with new champions, two of whom were rookies, crowned in each of the Production and Special Vehicle classes.

Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke won six of the eight events in the Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody to clinch the overall Production Vehicle and Class T drivers and co-drivers championships. Grobler last won the championship in 1986 and Leeke in 1989 and were one of only two crews able to complete seven of the eight events this season.

Rookie Mark Cronje and former Class E champion co-driver Chris Birkin were the only team to complete all rounds of the championship in their Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i and came tantalisingly close to winning the overall Production Vehicle championship. They walked away with the Class E title but had to settle for the runners-up spot in the overall championship.

Veteran Kassie Coetzee and Ockie Fourie finished third in the overall championship and second in Class E in the Castrol Toyota Hilux KZ-TE with their points tally made up of one class win, four second places and a third in the six races they completed.

Former Class D champions Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo were the only other crew to complete seven events in their GBS Racing Nissan Hardbody, which earned them fourth place in the overall championship and the Class D title for the second time.

It was a difficult season for multiple former champions Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton who were plagued by gearbox and drive train problems on the Class T Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser. They failed to finish three of the events but managed to finish second once, third on three occasions and sixth in the season finale to claim fifth in the overall championship and fourth in Class T.

Former Production Vehicle champions Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer had a season that they would rather forget. The Team Ford Racing pair was consistently on the pace of the race winning Nissan?s but minor problems sidelined them on three occasions and they had to settle for sixth in the overall championship. They were locked in a season long battle with Scott Abraham and Richard Carolin in the Atlas Copco / Chicago Pneumatic Jeep for the runner-up spot in Class T with both crews ending up on 73 points. Winning the Carnival City Casino 400 gave the Ford crew the edge on a count out and Abraham and Carolin, who finished seventh in the overall championship, had to settle for third in Class T.

Father and son Johan and Marthinus van der Merwe (Chavani Colt Rodeo) led Class D for most of the season but blotted their copy book with two non-finishes, which saw them finish eighth in the overall championship and second in Class D.

Reigning Production Vehicle champions Duncan Vos and Mike Griffith made a successful transition from Class D to Class T this season but four non-finishes in the Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody dropped them down the order and they had to be satisfied with ninth in the overall championship and fifth in the Class T championship.

Class D winners on the Carnival City Casino 400, Coetzee Labuschagne and Johan Gerber (GBS Racing Nissan Hardbody), rounded out the top ten in the overall championship and also claimed third spot in the Class D championship.

Former Class E champions Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham claimed third place in Class E in the Team Ford Racing Ranger.

The Special Vehicle driver?s championship was won for the first time by a Class B vehicle with the honours going to Giel Nel in the single seater Luk Africa Truggy. ?Mr. Consistency? completed seven of the eight events and also won the Class B championship for the third time in five years but it wasn?t easy for the Primrose based businessman.

Nel swapped the championship lead with Gerald Mundell (Prolong BAT) throughout the season and it was only at the Carnival City Casino 400, where Nel just had to finish and Mundell had to win overall that the championship was decided with Nel finishing second in Class B and Mundell and co-driver Billy Bond retiring with CV problems. The KwaZulu Natal crew finished fifth and third in the overall drivers and co-drivers championship respectively and second in the Class A championship.

Gary Bertholdt and Brandon Harcus had a dream season in the Adrenalise Corporate Entertainment BAT. After a shaky start to the season they went on to win three events overall and finish second and fifth to clinch the runner-up spot in the Special Vehicle drivers championship for Bertholdt, the Special Vehicle co-drivers championship for Harcus and the Class A title.

2002 Class B champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain (Rollerbak Racing JRE) were the only crew to finish six of the eight events with Taylor picking up third and second place in the Special Vehicle drivers and Class B drivers championship respectively with de Chalain second in the overall co-drivers championship and retaining his Class B co-drivers title.

Clint Gibson and Mike Brown (Praesidium Financial Services BAT) competed in Class B for three events and Class A for two and finished fourth in the overall drivers and co-drivers championships by virtue of three Class B wins and a second and a third overall in the Class A vehicle. Gibson ended up third in Class B and seventh in Class A while Brown finished up seventh in Class A and runner-up in the Class B co-drivers championships.

Mohammed Moultsen, co-driver to Mohammed Noor, was fifth in the co-drivers championship and won the Class S co-drivers title in the Supaveg Raceco. Noor finished eighth overall and second in the Class S drivers championship.

Sixth in the overall standings and third in the Class A championship went to John Moore and Fred Werner in the Shell Connix Chenowth with rookie Nic Goslar (O?Hagan?s/Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco) seventh overall in the drivers championship and the Class S drivers champion. Goslar?s two co-drivers, Glen Steyn and Warren Bowie, finished second and third respectively in the Class S co-drivers championship.

Andrew Birkin finished up ninth overall in the overall drivers championship fifth in Class B after completing only three events in his single seater WPP Wingfoot with another single seater driver Francois Smith (Franic) tenth overall and fourth in the Class B drivers championship.

The coveted Production Vehicle Manufacturers Championship was won by Nissan who amassed 927 points from seven overall wins, ten class victories and numerous top ten placings versus the 607 of Toyota and the 258 of Ford.

Original article from Car