Five In a Row for Nissan, Hat-Trick for Vos
information supplied by: Cross Country Commission (Media)
30 July 2007
Fish River Sun - Former South African champions Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford gave Nissan their fifth Production Vehicle win in a row when they won the Amathole 500, round five of the Absa Off Road Championship, which finished here today.
It was Vos’s third win in a row and Pitchford’s second win of the season after he missed last month’s Toyota 1000 Desert Race because of overseas commitments. But, for the second race in a row Vos, in a factory Nissan Navara, was gifted a win by Castrol Toyota Hilux pair Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin.
Cronje/Birkin led by more than a minute when they crashed only a kilometer from the finish. The pair also crashed last time out when they had victory in their grasp on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, and handed victory to Vos and stand in co-driver Richard Leeke.
The Cronje/Birkin indiscretion and the demise of reigning SA champions Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan, also in a Nissan Navara, lifted Neil Woolridge/Kenny Skjoldhammer, in the factory Ford Racing Ranger, into second place with Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn taking the final podium place in the Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux. Cronje/Birkin, after being helped back onto four wheels by the de Bruyn’s, limped home in fourth place with Mark Corbett/Rudy Balzer (Century Property Development Nissan Navara) rounding out the top five.
Grobler, suffering from a bout of flu, and Jordaan also crashed when they hit a sluit and destroyed the Navara’s suspension. With Manfred Schroder and Ward Huxtable, in the Barloworld Absolute Ford Ranger, retiring with a broken differential the situation at the front of the field was always delicately poised.
“When we saw the Toyota on its side we couldn’t believe it,” said Vos. “It was the sort of race where you had to focus, focus, focus and then focus some more.
“The route was ultra fast with varying terrain and conditions and you could not afford any lapse in concentration.”
Cronje/Birkin and Schroder/Huxtable shared the fasted time on the Friday prologue with the Ford crew retiring early on. At the halfway point Cronje and Birkin led from Grobler/Jordaan and Vos/Pitchford with Woolridge/Skjoldhammer moving up the field in impressive fashion.
Class D was dominated by brothers Henri and Maurice Zermatten, in the Ryobi Nissan, who have found their touch after a slow start to the season and scored their second win in a row. The Zermatten’s were just over four minutes ahead of Cliff and Louis Weichelt (Bosal Toyota Hilux 4D4) with Ramon Bezuidenhout and Stefan Lock (Toyota Hilux) a further seven minutes in arrears.
Championship leaders Harold and Tiaan Coen, in a Land Rover, had a wretched event. They never recovered from a poor prologue and were eventually classified sixth in class behind Coetzee Labuscagne/Johan Gerber (Raysonics Nissan Hardbody) and Jurie and Arnold du Plessis in the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody.
The demise of George and Sharon Barkhuizen in the Ruwacon Toyota Hilux, who rolled heavily, handed the Class E win to Jack Peckham/Lucia Santoro in the Ford Racing Ranger and eased the logjam at the top of the class championship. At the start of the event just one point separated the two crews.
Peckham had an eventful event. He was forced to finish the race on his own after Santoro suffered a severe bout of car sickness midway through the morning.
Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux) trailed in around 15 minutes behind Peckham. There was a welcome podium finish for Thomas Rundle/Brian Roberts in the Barden Tyre Services Nissan Hardbody, while Brian Martin/Ockie Fourie (Castrol Toyota Hilux) also lost championship ground via a non finish.
Nissan won the manufacturers challenge to increase their lead over reigning champions Toyota.