After a promising start to the weekend, with the three Nissans finishing second, third and fourth in the prologue to determine start positions for the race proper, matters gradually went from bad to worse for the team. Former champion Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr were second on the prologue, Duncan Vos and stand-in navigator Louis Weichelt were third and Norwegian Ivar Tollefsen and Briton Quin Evans were fourth.
“Duncan and Louis settled in nicely, and matters looked good for the race,” said Nissan Motorsport general manager Glyn Hall. “After that we became the victim of a series of intriguing litle electrical maladies that cost us the opportunity to improve on our early lead in the championship after our first round success, but we still managed to finish on the podium and salvage satisfactory results.”
The Nissan Motorsport team’s problems started early when Grobler/Mohr lost 10 minutes when the Navara refused to fire up at the start in the Longmore Forest. Grobler eventually “jerked a wire or two” and the vehicle started – but the pair were already 10 minutes in arrears.
“It was a very technical and difficult route,” said Grobler. “The dust made it almost impossible to pass and we spent the day trying to get ahead of slower cars.
“Under the circumstances fourth was a good result for us.”
Vos and Weichelt got off to a fast start and in the first two hours caught and passed prologue winners Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin in a Castrol Toyota Hilux. Then a blown fuse led to an odometer fault and the windscreen wipers failed.
Vos and Weichelt were forced to stop twice to clean the windscreen and that cost them five minutes – and the lead.
After a cautious start Tollefsen and Evans started to find their feet on the technical route. “We had a few overshoots and it took us 100 kilometres to get into some sort of rythm,” said Evans.
At the designated service point at the end of the first of two loops that made up the event, the three Nissans were restored to health. “The cars were good after the service point, but once again we ran into the unexpected,” said Hall.
Vos and Weichelt were closing the gap on Cronje/Birkin when the Sasol Nissan Navara suddenly cut out after 80 kilometres. An electronic throttle jammed and it took the crew 40 minutes to trace the fault.
“That was the end of us,” said a disappointed Vos. “It was a pity because we felt we could win. Louis did a fine job and we settled in nicely together.”
With Grobler stuck in traffic Tollefsen and Evans were soldiering along effectively. Although hampered by a windscreen that kept misting up, the pair held on to a steady third place while a late spurt took Grobler/Mohr ahead of the Castrol Toyota Hilux of Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst.
Final results placed Tollefsen/Evans third with Grobler/Mohr fourth. Vos and Weichelt, after a disappointing day, recovered to seventh.
“It was not our best day but this is motor racing and the crews showed a lot of character in hanging in there to produce the results they did,” said Hall. “It was a race that also showed just how competitive it is becoming in the SP Class.”
There was compensation for the Sasol Nissan team when they took the manufacturer’s award. There was also better news for Nissan in Class D where brothers Henri and Maurice Zermatten, in the Ryobi Nissan Hardbody, took a narrow 25 second win over Toyota Hilux D4D crew Cliff Weichelt and Jimmy Goch. Both crews ran into problems with the Ryobi Nissan losing fourwheel drive early in the race and then running into rear suspension problems.
Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber (Raysonics Nissan Hardbody) were Class D casualties with Thomas Rundle and Brian Roberts (Barden Tyres Services Nissan Hardbody) dropping out of the Class D stakes after a roll on the first loop.
Nissan Acknowledges Its Sponsors and Specialist Official Supplier and Technical Partners
Nissan Motorsport enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Atlas Copco (pneumatic tools), Bosch Automotive, Champion (spark plugs), Donaldson (air filters), Eibach (springs), Ferodo (brake pads), LUK (clutches), Mastercraft (tools), First Car Rental (formerly National Alamo Car Rental), Pro Engineering, Sasol Oil (fuels and lubricants) and SKF (bearings).