The Absa Off Road Championship, which comprises eight events, reached its midway point at the Sun City 400 with many competitors consolidating their championship leads in the various Production Vehicle and Special Vehicle classes and others finally getting their championship campaign underway.
There has been much movement up and down the Production Vehicle category championship log with Nissan Dealer 400 and Sun City 400 winners Giniel de Villiers, who had to miss the Toyota 1000 due to an elbow injury, and Francois Jordaan in the Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody moving up two positions into third place.
The former Production Vehicle champions have accumulated 114-points and now trail their teammates and championship leaders Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke by only 36-points. The reigning champions damaged the power steering in the Prologue and had to start 54th on Saturday but a spirited drive saw them cross the line third.
Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer finished second overall in the Team Ford Racing Ranger to retain second place in the championship, 18-points behind Grobler and Leeke. The Ford pair is one of only four Production Vehicle crews to have finished all four races run so far.
Class E championship leaders Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i) had their run of three successive Class E victories ended by Hein Moolman and Cecil Fincham in the 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux KZ-TE and had to settle for third in Class E in the Pilanesberg. The Vryburg businessmen have dropped to fourth in the overall championship but still have a commanding lead in the Class E championship. Meanwhile Lichtenburg 200 winners, Moolman and Fincham have moved 11 positions up the overall championship table and are fifth in the Class E championship.
Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford gained a position when they notched up their third successive Class D win and finished fourth overall in the Sun City 400 in the Arnold Chatz Cars Nissan Hardbody. Cox and Pitchford have a 19-point lead over Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler (Master Craft / Playstation Pajero) who are sixth overall and second in the Class D championship.
Reigning Class E champions Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin failed to finish the Sun City 400 due to gearbox failure on their Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i and have dropped from fourth to seventh in the overall championship and first to third in the Class D championship.
Husband and wife Neels and Zelda van der Walt (Nissan Hardbody) gained a place after another consistent performance and are eighth in the overall championship and second in Class E while Proudly South African Nissan crew Duncan Vos and Hennie Stege has moved to ninth in the overall championship.
Team Ford Racing’s development team of Baphumze Rubuluza and Khulile Vakalisa were bitterly disappointed to be time barred by minutes after having to reverse for eight kilometres. Within 100 metres of the finish Rubuluza lost control of the Ford Ranger and it ended up perched on a tree and with no four-wheel drive at his disposal his race was run, which proved costly because they have dropped from eighth to tenth in the overall championship and from second to third in Class E.
Andre Botha and Beans Heydenrych are the Class F championship leaders after scoring their first points of the season when they finished 18th overall and first in Class F in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chevy.
Overall Absa Production Vehicle Championship points:
1. Hannes Grobler / Richard Leeke - Nissan, Class T - 150
2. Neil Woolridge / Ken Skjoldhammer - Ford, Class T - 132
3. Giniel de Villiers / Francois Jordaan - Nissan, Class T - 114
4. Hugo de Bruyn / Jaap de Bruyn - Toyota, Class E - 111
5. Alfie Cox / Ralph Pitchford - Nissan, Class D - 98
6. Henri Zermatten / Bodo Schwegler - Pajero, Class D - 79
7. Mark Cronje / Chris Birkin - Toyota, Class D - 74
8. Neels vd Walt / Zelda vd Walt - Nissan, Class E - 72
9. Duncan Vos / Hennie ter Stege - Nissan, Class T - 64
10. Baphumze Rubuluza / Khulile Vakalisa - Ford, Class E - 55
Three overall victories in four starts sees Atang Makgekgenene topping the Special Vehicle Drivers Championship log with 135-points while co-driver Buks Carolin, who shared the Total Jimco with Makgekgenene on the Toyota 1000 and the Sun City 400, has rocketed from fifth to first in the Co-drivers Championship.
Consistent performances by veteran Nick Harper and Andrew Chalupsky (BAT) has earned them 88-points and they have moved from fourth to second in the overall and Class A championships ahead of Mark Corbett who failed to finish the Toyota 1000 and the Sun City 400 in the Century Property Developments BAT.
KwaZulu Natal pair Clint Gibson and Mike Brown has dropped to fourth in the overall championship with Gibson fourth and Brown third in the Class A drivers and co-drivers championships respectively. Despite a non-finish in the Sun City 400 Class B leaders Adri Roets and Deon de Kock have managed to hold on to fifth place in the overall championship and the lead in Class B, but only just. Shameer Variawa and Nadeem Dudhia battled clutch problems on the Oven Fresh Biscuits Porter to finish third overall in the Special Vehicle category and move to within one point of Roets and de Kock in the Global DAD WPP.
Brothers Hamish and Alastair Stubbs have gained four places in the overall championship and are only four points behind the leaders in Class B after two consistent showings in the Fence Erect Viper while reigning Special Vehicle Drivers Champion Giel Nel (Luk/Ate Truggy), who had been languishing in 19th position has finally got his championship campaign underway and has moved up to eighth overall and third in Class B.
Former Class B champions Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain have had two non-finishes in the JRE, which has dropped them to ninth overall and fourth in Class B with Class B winner on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400, Gary Campbell 10th overall and fifth in Class B.
The Class S championship was a two horse race before the Sun City 400 with one of the horses now sidelined for the rest of the season after Nic Goslar and Warren Bowie collided with a hidden rock at high speed in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco. Goslar suffered spinal injuries and will not be competing for the rest of the season, which leaves the way open for Class S championship leaders Mohammed Noble and Richard Hope in the Abe’s Furniture Raceco to capitalise on their 31-point lead over the rest of the Class S hopefuls.
Overall Absa Special Vehicle Championship points:
1. Atang Makgekgenene - Jimco, Class A - 135
2. Nick Harper - BAT, Class A - 88
3. Mark Corbett - BAT, Class A - 80
4. Clint Gibson - BAT, Class A - 70
5. Adri Roets - WPP, Class B - 53
1. Buks Carolin - Jimco, Class A - 90
2. Andrew Chalupsky - BAT, Class A - 88
3. Gavin Kelsey - BAT, Class A - 80
4. Mike Brown - BAT, Class A - 70
5. Deon de Kock - WPP, Class B - 53
The next race in the Absa Off Road Championship is the Lesotho Sun 400, which starts and finishes in Maseru on August 20 and 21.