Following the Nissan Dealer 400, round one of the Absa Off Road Championship that was held in the Darling district in the Western Cape recently it is quite evident that this year’s Production Vehicle and Special Vehicle championships will be closely fought affairs.

The championship points system has been restructured and, unlike previous years, it favours the overall winners in each category heavily, which means the rest of the field will have to play catch up starting with the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 in the Eston area on April 23 and 24.

In the Production Vehicle category former champions and winners of the Nissan Dealer 400, Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan (Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody), top the log with 41-points.

Team mates and reigning champions Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke and Hugo and father Jaap de Bruyn, who won Class E and finished fourth overall in the Western Cape in the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i, are joint second on 32 points.

Newcomers to the Castrol Toyota team, Paolo Piazza-Musso and Rod Hering delivered a solid performance in the overheating Hilux 2.7i to finish fifth overall and first in Class D and are only one point adrift of the second placed crews.

Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer amassed 27-points and are fifth overall in the Class T Team Ford Racing Ranger, reigning Class E champions Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin (Class D Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i) are sixth on 26-points and husband and wife Neels and Zelda van der Walt scored 25-points in the Class E diesel powered Nissan Hardbody.

Father and son Cliff and Louis Weichelt overcame all manner of problems on the N1 4x4 / Bosal Toyota during the event to finish third in Class D and are eighth overall in the championship.

Three crews are in joint ninth position after scoring 18-points each. Former Production Vehicle drivers champion Duncan Vos and Hennie ter Steege struggled across the finish line in ninth place as a result of power steering and drive train problems on the Class T Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody while Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler finished 10th overall and fourth in Class D in the Playstation / Master Craft Pajero. No one was more pleased than Team Ford Racing’s development team of Baphumze Rubuluza and Khulile Vakalisa who brought their diesel powered Ford Ranger home 11th overall and third in Class E in their Absa Off Road Championship debut.

Production Vehicle Championship

Overall:

De Villiers / Jordaan (Nissan), 41 Grobler / Leeke (Nissan), 32 De Bruyn / de Bruyn (Toyota), 32 Piazza-Musso / Hering (Toyota), 31 Woolridge / Skjoldhammer (Ford), 27 Cronje / Birkin (Toyota), 26 Van der Walt / van der Walt (Nissan), 25 Weichelt / Weichelt (Toyota), 21 Vos / ter Stege (Nissan), 18 Zermatten / Schwegler (Pajero), 18 Rubuluza / Vakalisa (Ford), 18

Class E:

De Bruyn / de Bruyn (Toyota), 32 Van der Walt / van der Walt (Nissan), 25 Rubuluza / Vakalisa (Ford), 18

Class D:

Piazza-Musso / Hering (Toyota), 31 Cronje / Birkin (Toyota), 26 Weichelt / Weichelt (Toyota), 21

Class T:

De Villiers / Jordaan (Nissan), 41 Grobler / Leeke (Nissan), 32 Woolridge / Skjoldhammer (Ford), 27

The Nissan Dealer 400 again took its toll on the Special Vehicle entries and there were only nine finishers out of 22 starters.

Two times Nissan Dealer 400 winners Atang Makgekgenene and Mike Stangl got their championship campaign off to a good start and earned 45-points for their race-winning efforts in the blindingly fast Chevy LS-1 powered Total Jimco.

Two crews share joint second place and are ten points shy of the championship leaders. Mark Corbett and Gavin Kelsey (Century Property Developments BAT) finished second overall and in Class A, for special vehicles with unlimited modifications, after a race long battle with the winners. However, the performance of the event came from Adri Roets and Deon de Kock in the 2-litre powered Global DAD Racing WPP who finished third overall and first in Class B.

Glenn Classen and Mathew Ludick scored 28-points after finishing fourth overall and second in Class B in the locally designed and built Radflo Zarco with Western Cape based father and son crew, Bez and Etienne Bezuidenhout, very satisfied to have earned 24-points for finishing fifth overall and third in Class B in the Adenco Sandmaster.

Ernest Corbett, father of Mark, and son-in-law Warwick Goosen finished a creditable sixth overall in the Class B Century Property Developments BAT and have 22-points followed by reigning Class S drivers champion Nic Goslar and Graydon Ilderton in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Raceco on 21-points and former Class B champion Marcus Taylor and Carl van der Merwe (Rollerbak Racing JRE) eighth on 20-points.

Reigning Special Vehicle and Class B drivers champion Giel Nel (Luk / Ate Truggy) had a race he would rather forget. Problems with the clutch master slave cylinder resulted in him getting stuck in thick sand behind his rivals, who were just ripe for the picking, but he was forced to stop and effect repairs, by which time they had all got underway again. It was very much a case of ‘from hero to zero’ for the Primrose businessman and he had to settle for ninth overall in the race and 17-points in the Special Vehicle championship.

Special Vehicle Championship

Overall:

Makgekgenene / Stangl (Jimco), 45 M. Corbett / Kelsey (BAT), 35 Roets / de Kock (WPP), 35 G. Classen / Ludick (Zarco), 28 Bezuidenhout / Bezuidenhout (Sandmaster), 24 E. Corbett / Goosen (BAT), 22 Goslar / Ilderton (Raceco), 21 Taylor / van der Merwe (JRE), 20 Nel (Truggy), 17

Class A:

Makgekgenene / Stangl (Jimco), 45 Corbett / Kelsey (BAT), 35

Class B:

Roets / de Kock (WPP), 35 G. Classen / Ludick (Zarco), 28 Bezuidenhout / Bezuidenhout (Sandmaster), 24

Class S:

Goslar / Ilderton (Raceco), 17

The battle will resume on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 with the pressure definitely on the non-scorers and the laggards to make up lost ground.