Reigning South African champions Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan, for the second time in a row, dominated the Production Vehicle category on the Nissan Dealer 400, the opening round of the Absa Off Road Championship, which was run in the Darling area.
A trouble free run saw the veteran Grobler and Jordaan, in the Proudly South African Nissan Navara, get their season off to a dream start with overall victory and a win in the premier Super Production Class. Such was the domination Grobler and Jordaan exercised over the rest of the field that at the finish they were around 10 minutes clear of Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin in the works Castrol Toyota Hilux.
After a disappointing 2006 campaign Cronje and Birkin delighted. They overcame an encounter with a fence ? which led to a puncture and brake problem ? to finish 70 seconds ahead of former SA Champions Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford in the second factory Nissan Navara.
Vos and Pitchford found themselves embroiled in a terrific scrap with the factory Ford Ranger in the hands of Brandon Harcus and Juan Mohr, and the Absolute/Barloworld Ford Ranger of reigning Class E champions Manfred Schroeder and Ward Huxtable. Only 52 seconds separated the three crews with Harcus winning the Special vehicle category last year.
Among the high profile retirements were Class SP champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in the factory Ford Ranger, Norwegian driver Ivar Tollefsen and British co-driver Quin Evans in a third factory Nissan Navara, and Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton in the second factory Castrol Toyota Hilux. Woolridge/Skjoldhammer and Tollefsen/Evans went out with clutch problems, and a fractured brake pipe put an end to Bertholdt and Houghton.
Nissan also took the win in Class D where Jurie and Andre du Plessis, in the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody, edged out Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber in the new Raysonics Nissan Hardbody. Fuel starvation, the loss of four-wheel drive, a broken sideshaft and a puncture saw to it that Labuscagne and Gerber had a busy day, but they managed to see off third placed Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the Bosal Toyota Hilux.
Toyota picked up a win in Class E via the consistent Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux in a Toyota Hilux. They had a clean run to come in comfortably ahead of Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro in the factory Ford Ranger.
It was also a tough day at the office for third placed Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie, in the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux, who won the class last year. They lost power steering about 40 kilometres into the event and after that it was hard going, but at the finish they had plenty in hand over Thomas Rundle and Brian Roberts in the Barden Tyres Nissan Hardbody.