Nissan scored a clean sweep of the Toyota Dealer 400, penultimate round of the Absa Off Road Championship, in Mpumalanga over the weekend.
The factory Proudly South African Nissan Navara entries, crewed by Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford and Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan, took first and second in the Production Vehicle category and in the Super Production Class to give Nissan their fifth win in seven events this year. Nissan?s cup was filled to the brim when Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr, in the Century Property Development Nissan Navara, came in third behind the works entries.
The Nissan cup then overflowed when the factory Ford Racing Ranger crew of Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer failed to make it into the top six in the Production Vehicle stakes. That gave Grobler and Jordaan an unassailable lead in both the overall and Class SP championships.
From a Grobler/Jordaan perspective it was a case of losing a skirmish to their team-mates but winning the war. For ebullient Grobler it was his fourth national off road championship to go with a South African rally title and a string of circuit racing championships.
Grobler and Jordaan finished 18 seconds behind Vos and Pitchford but were quite content to play second fiddle to their team-mates after Woolridge and Skjoldhammer, who led the SP Class championship going into this event, ran into early problems. A broken sideshaft on the first of three loops reduced the Ford Ranger to having to struggle along in two-wheel drive, and effectively ended any chance Woolridge and Skjoldhammer had of winning the overall or SP Class titles.
"Over the last few seasons we have won or lost the championship on the last two events of the season," said Jordaan. "It is a relief to know that this season we can go to the final race, the Ford Carnival City 400, knowing the championship is in the bag."
Fourth overall and in the SP Class after a solid performance were the Castrol Toyota Hilux pair of Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton. The were forced to carry the Toyota flag after Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin dropped out after the first loop with steering problems.
The second Ford Racing Ranger, driven by Rob Gurney and Graham Stainbank, came in behind the Toyota. Both Bertholdt/Houghton and Gurney/Stainbank never seriously challenged for top three places with the Nissan crews always in control of proceedings.
The Class D honours went to Jaap and Hugo de Bruyn, in the Castrol Toyota Hilux, after a close battle with the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody pair of Arnold du Plessis and John Knox. For the de Bruyn's it was their second win of the season and their second in a row.
Third in class, however, was enough to see Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, in the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux, take the Class D championship. With four wins for Visser and Badenhorst, two for the de Bruyn?s and a sole success for Cliff and Louis Weichelt in the Bosal entry, Toyota crews have won all seven events run so far this season.
Another championship issue was settled when Manfred Schroder and Ward Huxtable (Ford Racing Ranger) finished second in Class E. It was enough to wrap up matters for the KwaZulu-Natal crew with the win going to a delighted George and Sharon Barkhuizen, in the Ruwacon Toyota Hilux, who scored their first ever national championship victory.
Third were Brian Martin and Ockie Fourie in the factory Castrol Toyota Hilux with Toyota crews also taking the next three places. Fabio Tafani/Mike Baron (Club Refrigeration Toyota Hilux), Mark and Stuart Moffat (Bosal Toyota Hilux) and Jaco Swanepoel and Grayham Bishop (IDM Cement Toyota Hilux) filled the minor placings.