Nissan’s Grobler and Jordaan retain Championship lead after fighting second place in Sun City 400 Off Road Race
information supplied by: Cross Country Commission (Media)
01 October 2006
Nissan Motorsport’s Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan remained on track to take their second Absa Off Road Championship together when they finished a fighting second overall among the production vehicles in the Sun City 400, sixth round of the Absa Off Road Championship, in North West Province this afternoon.
Nissan’s run of recent wins was halted by the Ford Racing Ranger of former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, who completed the Sun City 400 13 minutes ahead of the Proudly South African Nissan pair in their 4.0 V6 Navara Pickup.
Grobler and Jordaan, who unwillingly have become known for their come-from-behind challenges for top honours in recent times following problems in the Friday prologue that precedes each off road race, were again on the back foot at the start of Saturday’s race. Steering problems just 10 km into the 63-km prologue saw them opt for a 28-min penalty rather than carry on and cause further damage to the Sasol-supported Navara.
They were forced to start 32nd in the combined production and special vehicle field and their combined experience – Grobler has won three national off road championships and Jordaan two – saw them overtake all but the Ford by the time they reached the finish at Sun City this afternoon.
Team-mates Duncan Vos (champion in 2002) and Ralph Pitchford (reigning co-driver champion) in the second Proudly South African Nissan Navara were forced out of the event when the rear axle casing broke 140 km into the race while they were leading. Thanks to a puncture in the prologue, they had started in 16th place behind the pole position-winning Ford of Woolridge and Skjoldhammer, who they caught and passed when the Ford stopped to replace a flat tyre.
“We had a tough day at the ‘office’ today,” said Nissan Motorsport general manager Glyn Hall. “The failure of the rear axle casing on Duncan’s car was the first time we have had a problem with this component since we started racing the Nissan Hardbody in the national off road championship in 2001. The new Navara shares the same component with the Hardbody.
“We have had a very good run so far this year and we are still in pole position to win the overall production vehicle and class SP championship thanks to Hannes’ and Francois’ heroic efforts. But sometimes you have these days and it’s someone else’s chance to enjoy the fruits of victory.
“The new-for-2006 Super Production class is proving to be much more competitive than class T which it replaced and this is good for the sport of off road racing. However, there are still two rounds of the championship remaining and we do not intend to give up our five-year grip on it without a fight,” promised Hall.
It was an even less memorable event for the hardy band of Nissan privateers who have been making a significant contribution to Nissan’s battle with Toyota for overall honours in the manufacturers’ championship.
Arnold du Plessis and Johan Knox withdrew their BB Auto Group-backed class D Hardbody after being penalised an hour for missing marshall points in the prologue, brothers Jurie and André du Plessis in the second BB Auto class D Hardbody missed a marshall point on the 400-km route and withdrew, Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber were halted with radiator failure on the class D Raysonics Hardbody, while Thomas Rundle and Brian Roberts were excluded for entering a control from the wrong direction in their Barden Tyre Services class E Hardbody.