With two of the eight events in the Absa Off Road Championship now completed it is evident that consistency will be the name of the game for those Production Vehicle and Special Vehicle crews wishing to walk away with some of the most coveted titles in motor sport.
The Production Vehicle category has, predictably, been dominated by the Proudly South African Nissan off road team with reigning champions Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke sitting at the top of the championship log with 77 points after finishing second in the Nissan Dealer 400 and winning the Nissan Sugarbelt 400.
Former champions Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan won in the Western Cape but had to be content with third place in KwaZulu Natal and trail their team-mates by eight points. The Nissan pair has a seven-point advantage over Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer in the Team Ford Racing Ranger.
The biggest threat to the Class T contenders comes from Hugo de Bruyn and his father Jaap who have two Class E wins and a fourth and seventh overall. The Castrol Toyota crew are fourth in the overall championship and trail the leaders by only 16-points.
Fifth placed husband and wife pair, Neels and Zelda van der Walt, have been a model of consistency in the Class E Nissan Hardbody double cab and their two runner-up finishes this season makes them strong contenders for the Class E title.
Reigning Class E champions Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin are sixth overall and the Class D leaders despite a troublesome run on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 where they only managed to finish ninth overall and third in Class D in the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i.
Duncan Vos and Hennie ter Stege (Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody) are seventh overall and fourth in Class T and with only 42-points they are faced with a stiff challenge if they wish to make up the 35-point deficit on the leaders.
KwaZulu Natal based crew Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham (Team Ford Racing Ranger) are second in Class D and eighth overall with Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler who are third in Class D in the Playstation / Mastercraft Pajero tied in ninth place overall with Team Ford Racing’s development team of Baphumze Rubuluza and Khulile Vakalisa. The Pietermaritzburg based businessmen have put in two solid performances in the diesel powered Ford Ranger and two podium finishes sees them third in Class E.
1. Hannes Grobler / Richard Leeke (Nissan) 77 points
2. Giniel de Villiers / Francois Jordaan (Nissan) 69 points
3. Neil Woolridge / Ken Skjoldhammer (Ford) 62 points
4. Hugo de Bruyn / Jaap de Bruyn (Toyota) 61 points
5. Neels vd Walt / Zelda vd Walt (Nissan) 49 points
6. Mark Cronje / Chris Birkin (Toyota) 46 points
7. Duncan Vos / Hennie ter Stege (Nissan) 42 points
8. Manfred Schroder / Jack Peckham (Ford) 39 points
9. Henri Zermatten / Bodo Schwegler (Pajero) 36 points
Baphumze Rubuluza / Khulile Vakalisa (Ford) 36 points
Nissan dominates the Production Vehicle Manufacturers Championship with 309 points compared to the 183 of Toyota and the 138 of Ford.
In the Special Vehicle Championship Mark Corbett and Gavin Kelsey in the Century Property Developments BAT have a 27-point lead over their closest challengers after finishing second overall on the Nissan Dealer 400 and winning the Nissan Sugarbelt 400.
Adri Roets and Deon de Kock (Global DAD WPP) are second overall and the Class B leaders after strong performances in the first two rounds of the Absa Off Road Championship and have eight points in hand over Nissan Dealer 400 winners Atang Makgekgenene and Mike Stangl, who was tragically killed when the Total Jimco rolled down a mountainside during the Nissan Sugarbelt 400.
Former Class B drivers champion Marcus Taylor is third in overall championship and second Class B while his Nissan Dealer 400 co-driver, Carl van der Merwe, and his Nissan Sugarbelt 400 co-driver, Marc de Chalain, are way down the Class B co-driver points log.
Clint Gibson and Mike Brown lead the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 for much of the race but in the end had to settle for second place in the Praesidium Financial Services BAT. Gibson is fifth overall in the drivers’ championship and Brown fourth in the co-drivers championship with pair third in Class A.
A fine third overall and the Class B win on the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 sees Gary Campbell (Mighty Mag) joint fifth with Gibson in the overall drivers’ championship and third in Class B. Glen Classen and Mathew Ludick (Zarco) had a good start to the season but were classified as non-finishers in KwaZulu Natal and are seventh and sixth respectively in the drivers’ and co-drivers championships.
Only three points separate the next three crews with Johan van Jaarsveld and Marlene Lindeque eighth and sixth in the Class B Ysco, father and son Bez and Etienne Bezuidenhout from the Western Cape ninth and eighth in the Class B Adenco Sandmaster and Nick Harper and Andrew Chalupsky tenth and seventh in the Class A BAT.
Overall - Drivers:
1. Mark Corbett (BAT) 80 points
2. Adri Roets (WPP) 53 points
3. Atang Makgekgenene (Jimco) 45 points
4. Marcus Taylor (JRE) 42 points
5. Clint Gibson (BAT) 35 points
Gary Campbell (Mighty Mag) 35 points
7. Glenn Classen (Zarco) 28 points
8. Johann van Jaarsveld (Ysco) 27 points
9. Nick Harper (BAT) 25 points
10. Bes Bezuidenhout (Sandmaster) 24 points
Overall – Co-drivers
1. Gavin Kelsey (BAT) 80 points
2. Deon de Kock (WPP) 53 points
3. Mike Stangl (Jimco) 45 points
4. Mike Brown (BAT) 35 points
5. Mathew Ludick (Zarco) 28 points
6. Marlene Lindeque (Ysco) 27 points
7. Andrew Chalupsky (BAT) 25 points
8. Etienne Bezuidenhout (Sandmaster) 24 points
9. Michael Whitehouse (Jimco) 22 points
Marc de Chalain (JRE) 22 points
Warwick Goosen (BAT) 22 points
The third round of the Absa Off Road Championship, the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, takes place in Botswana from June 13 – 15 and good results will be crucial for some of the more fancied teams who have failed to finish in the first two events.
Reigning Class D champions Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo (GBS Racing Nissan), last year’s Toyota 1000 winners John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt (Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco) and reigning Special Vehicle co-drivers champion Brandon Harcus and Achim Bergmann (Adrenalise Corporate Entertainment BAT) will have to pull out all the stops if they want to mount a late challenge for the respective championship titles.