Reigning SA off road driver’s champion Hannes Grobler plans to finish his 28-year motor sport career on a high note with a third successive driver’s title in this year’s Absa Off Road Championship, which starts with the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 on Friday and Saturday (March 18 and 19).

“It’s time to hang up the driving gloves,” says the popular racing driver, who has both national rally and off road driver’s titles to his credit and who is probably the world’s longest serving competitor in the same make, having only ever raced Datsun and Nissan products.

“I still enjoy my racing,” he says with his ever-present smile “but there comes a time when you need to spend more time with your family. I’ve been blessed with a long and enjoyable career, with more than my fair share of success. I also have an exciting new business venture and will be opening my own Nissan dealership in Hermanus in April.”

During his long and distinguished career Grobler has won two SA amateur rally drivers championships (1979 and 1980), two national rally drivers championships (in 1986 and 1991), two rally production car drivers championships (1998 and 1999), and three national off road drivers championships (1986, 2003 and 2004). He was awarded his Springbok colours for motor sport in 1987 and his National Colours in 1999. “Mooi man!” as Hannes is fond of saying.

“So 2005 is going to be my 29th and final year in local motor sport. My co-driver in the Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody this year is my good friend Francois Jordaan, who navigated for my old team-mate Giniel de Villiers these past four years, and the two of us intend entering the 2006 Dakar Rally as privateers. This will be my final race. We have a big challenge just raising the substantial funds needed to compete in this famous international event, before we go out there and take on the toughest off road race in the world.”

Grobler is one of South Africa’s most loved and recognised sportsmen and his good natured and fun loving personality have enriched the sport he has dedicated himself to with distinction. Always professional in his approach to competition, but never forgetting that it is a sport and to be enjoyed, he is a tough competitor who doesn’t know the meaning of giving up.

His propensity to throw his 3,5-litre V6 racing Nissan Hardbody sideways whenever he passes through a spectator point illustrates his innate desire to be a showman, but belies his dedication and skill that has earned him more off road racing wins in the past four years than any other driver.