Ford end Nissan run on Sun City 400
information supplied by: Cross Country Commission (Media)
01 October 2006
Ford halted a run of four successive Nissan wins on the Sun City 400 when former South African champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer today won the Pilanesberg event in sweltering conditions.
Overall victory in the Production Vehicle category and the Super Production Class in round six of the Absa Off Road Championship, gave the Ford Racing Ranger team their second win of the season, and kept alive a fierce championship battle. Woolridge and Skjoldhammer came in 13 minutes ahead of the Proudly South African Nissan Navara team of Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan, to close the championship gap between the two crews with just two events remaining.
On an event loaded with controversy and drama, Ford’s cup overflowed when Manfred Schroder and Ward Huxtable finished third overall and first in Class E in the diesel powered Ford Racing Ranger. It was a fine performance from the pair with the next Class E car around 70 minute in arrears.
Most of the controversy surrounded the Friday prologue to determine start positions. A number of crews, including the Team Castrol Toyota Hilux of Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin, were penalised an hour for missing marshal points.
Others like Grobler and Jordaan had problems of a different kind. They failed to finish the prologue because of a power steering failure, and joined the likes of Cronje/Birkin towards the back of the field.
Woolridge and Skjoldhammer regained the lead on the first of two 200 kilometres loops when Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford, in a second factory Nissan Navara, broke the rear axle housing. Two punctures early on lap one were the only problems encountered by the Ford pair, and in the end they were comfortable winners.
An oil pressure false alarm and a misfire over the last 100 kilometres were the only problems Grobler and Jordaan encountered – until they were within spitting distance of the finish. The Nissan pair then used up some of their share of good fortune when a steering arm broke within 100 metres of the finish, and the pair were able to limp across the line with the front wheels pointing in different directions.
Third in the SP Class went to Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton, in the second Castrol Toyota Hilux, with the pair finishing in two wheel drive after a propshaft problem on lap two. They held off Rob Gurney and Graeme Stainbank, in the second factory Ford Ranger, and Cronje and Birkin who lost time via punctures and a broken wheel rim.
The Class D honours went to the father and son team of Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn, in a Castrol Toyota Hilux, with a tough route and the hot and dusty conditions taking its toll of other fancied runners in the category. Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst, in the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux, were looking for a fifth win this season but had a weekend to forget.
Another father and son combination, Cliff and Louis Weichelt, in the Bosal Toyota Hilux, had an adventurous weekend. They hit a tree in the prologue when a brake caliper disintegrated, and then a wheel bearing problem forced them into retirement on lap two.
Class D also lost the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody of Arnold du Plessis and Johan Knox. They were one of the crews penalised during the prologue, and refused to start in protest against the penalty.
Schroder and Huxtable reported a trouble free time of it in the Class E entry. For Schroder it was his first such run in four Sun City events, and left the KwaZulu-Natal crew firmly in control of the Class E championship.
Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux, in a Toyota Hilux, and brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat (Bosal Toyota Hilux) trailed in second and third. Neither crew reported major problems, but just could not match Schroder and Huxtable for pace.
The Class F honours went to Herman de Villiers and Andre Griessel in an ageing Land Rover with the pair the only finishers in the category.