The Sun City 400, round four of the Absa Off Road Championship, which ended in the Pilanesberg today took its toll on man and machine with less than 40% of the 74 starters in the Production and Special Vehicle categories making it to the finish.
The Proudly South African Nissan team continued its dominance of the championship with Nissan Dealer 400 winners Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan bringing their Nissan Hardbody home first overall inn the Production Vehicle category.
The former Production Vehicle champions started 17-seconds behind Team Ford Racing pair Neil Woolridge and Ken Skjoldhammer this morning but soon got past and went on to win by 10m 25s. Woolridge and Skjoldhammer picked up a puncture, which cost them valuable time and a bout of motion sickness on the part of Woolridge didn’t help their cause either.
Current Production Vehicle championship leaders and winners of the past two rounds of the championship, Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke started 54th after the power steering on their Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody failed during Friday’s Prologue. A spirited drive kept the huge crowds entertained on each of the three 130km laps and they eventually finished third, 21m 32s behind their team-mates.
Nissan continued its clean sweep of the top positions with Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford (Arnold Chatz Cars Nissan Hardbody) finishing fourth overall and first in Class D for the third successive time this season Reigning Class D champions Hein Grobler and Gerhard Prinsloo (GBS Racing Nissan Hardbody) recorded their first finish of the season to end up second in Class D, 2m 35s behind Cox and Pitchford.
Duncan Vos and Hennie ter Stege (Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody) finished sixth overall and fourth in Class T after a race fraught with problems. The windscreen wiper failed and they stopped four times to clean the windscreen and then spent eight minutes in the pits trying to repair the problem, but to no avail. They overshot a turnoff and stalled, only to discover that the starter motor had failed. Team Ford Racing pair Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham sportingly towed them out and push started the Nissan only to have to again come to their rescue when they later overshot another corner. Schroder and Peckham retired with gearbox problems.
Lichtenburg 200 winners and North West Province farmers Hein Moolman and Cecil Fincham saved the day for Toyota by finishing seventh overall and winning Class E in their 4x4 Mega World Toyota Hilux.
Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler (Master Craft/Playstation Pajero) survived three punctures to finish eighth overall and third in Class D with husband and wife Neels and Zelda van der Walt ninth overall and second in Class E in the Nissan Hardbody. Class E championship leaders Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Toyota Hilux) battled throughout the Sun City 400 but managed to finish 10th overall and third in Class E. They had to replace a gearbox after the Prologue on Friday and then five kilometres into the race the transfer case failed and they were forced to complete most of the race in second gear.
It was a disastrous outing for the Castrol Toyota team with three of its four entries failing to make it to the finish due to gearbox problems. Class D championship leaders Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin were ahead of Cox and Pitchford until they lost 3rd and 4th gear on the second lap and 5th gear on the final lap, which forced them into retirement. Class E contenders Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton were comfortably in the lead but were eventually sidelined when the gearbox also failed. Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo in the other Class E Castrol Toyota Hilux suffered a similar fate.
Paolo Piazza-Musso and Rod Hering had two punctures on the first lap, a clean run on the second lap but then lost rear-wheel drive and first and second gear on the final lap but managed to finish 11th overall and fourth in Class D.
The Special Vehicle category had the makings of an almighty battle but it all came to nought in the end with punctures taking their toll on the field.
Class S winners on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race Mohammed Noble and Richard Hope (Abe’s Furniture Raceco) were the fastest qualifiers in the 40km Prologue but their run ended with four punctures within the first 65km of lap one.
Nissan Dealer 400 and Toyota 1000 winner Atang Makgekgenene and Toyota 1000 winner Buks Carolin in the Total Jimco won the Special Vehicle category in convincing style. The pair did not put a wheel wrong all day and finished 11m 24s ahead of Nick Harper and Andrew Chalupsky in the Class A BAT.
Third overall were Shameer Variawa and Nadeem Dudhia in the Oven Fresh Biscuits Porter who had one puncture and a faulty clutch pedal, which eventually resulted in the clutch slipping and them having to nurse the vehicle home.
Colin Matthews (WPP) finished fourth overall and first in Class B after a race long battle with Marcus Taylor and Marc de Chalain (JRE), who failed to finish, and Giel Nel (Luk/ATE Truggy), who finished fifth overall and second in Class B.
Class B winners on the Toyota 1000, Hamish and Alastair Stubbs (Fence Erect Viper) claimed the remaining spot on the Class B podium with John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt, who started 55th in the Kopanong Hotel Jimco finishing seventh overall and fourth in Class A to record their first finish of the season.
Roy Slabber, who has only one arm, and son Milton were models of consistency and finished eighth overall and fifth in Class A in the Piet Retief Engineering Chevy.
The Class F win went to Andre Botha and Beans Heydenrych in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Chevy.