Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan in their Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody will start tomorrow’s Sun City 400, round four of the Absa Off Road Championship, from pole position after posting the fastest time in today’s 45-km prologue in the Sun City area.
Nissan Motorsport team-mates Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford, winners of the recent Toyota 1 000 Desert Race in Botswana, will start second among the production vehicles and fifth overall, 1m 32s behind Grobler. Third production vehicle and ninth overall was the class D Castrol Toyota Hilux of Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin, a further 24,7m in arrears.
Leading the special vehicle category off the start line at the Sun City Sports and Recreation Club close to the entrance to Sun City will be Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau in their class A Advansoft iBurst BAT, who were second fastest overall in the time trial. They were 30,9s ahead of the second-placed special vehicle, the Jimco 2000 of Gerhard du Plessis and Ferdie Seegers, which was third overall.
Fourth overall and third special vehicle was the Century Property Developments BAT of Juan Mohr (subbing for regular driver Mark Corbett) and Jason Bruwer (taking over Mohr’s usual navigator’s role.
Class D production vehicle championship contenders Manfred Schroder and Alec Harris hit a tree in their Team Ford Racing Ranger, damaging the front of the vehicle and being forced to complete the prologue in 2-wheel-drive. They still managed to finish second among the class D cars, 13th overall and 49s behind Cronje. Third in class and a good 14th overall was the Topcar Racing Nissan Hardbody of motoring editor Deon Schoeman and Jan Sime.
Highest-placed class E production vehicle was the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux of Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, winners of the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape. They were 16th overall and sixth among the production vehicles.
Second in class E and 32nd overall was the Barden Tyres Nissan Hardbody of Thomas Rundle and Stavros Yiannakis, with reigning champions Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn third in their Castrol Toyota Hilux.
A significant victim of a tough and demanding prologue, designed by the organisers, Off Road South Africa, to give the competitors an early challenge before Saturday’s 4050-km race, was the class-leading Castrol Toyota Hilux of Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo. They suffered a broken driveshaft early in the route and failed to reach the finish, but will work tonight to fix their car in time for tomorrow’s 08h00 start.
Leading class B special vehicle was the JRE of current champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain who were 15th overall and 27,6s ahead of second-placed Hamish and Alastair Stubbs (Viper) and 37,8s faster than third-placed Colin Matthews and Jannie Erasmus (WPP Footloose).
Class B title contenders Evan Hutchison and Trevor Ormerod (Motorite Racing BAT)suffered a loss of pressure in the power steering system as a result of a filter working itself loose and had to be content with a disappointing 30th overall and 10th in class.
Former national off road champion Richard Schilling and former motorcyclist Chris Davies will lead the class S contingent in their Plastotech Aceco after finishing an excellent 11th overall and eighth among the special vehicles.
Class D championship leaders after their excellent showing in the Desert Race, Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton, got their Castrol Toyota Hilux stuck in a ditch, breaking off the right front wheel and damaging the suspension. They also expect to make the start on Saturday after a late night for their pit crew.
Tomorrow’s race will be run over three 135-km laps with the designated service point at the Sun City Sports and Recreation Club serving as the start and finish. The first car is due to finish at 13h45. Ends