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ABSA South African Championship 2007 Special-Newssection

This is the single-news section of the special of the ABSA South African Offroad Championship series 2007. To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

ABSA 2007: Championship win for Vos, seven in a row for Nissan.

Just three seconds were enough for Nissan factory driver Duncan Vos to clinch the Production Vehicle driver’s championship in this year’s Absa Off Road Championship. Three seconds was the margin Vos and Ralph Pitchford, in a Nissan Navara, had over team-mates Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan to win a pulsating battle on the Toyota Dealer 400 in Mpumalanga over the weekend. It was enough for Vos to shut out reigning champion Grobler to clinch his second overall driver’s championship and, at the same time, give Nissan their seventh win in a row in this year’s championship.

But while Vos wrapped up the overall driver’s championship, the co-driver situation is still undecided. Pitchford has missed two events this year through overseas commitments, and he and Jordaan will fight it out at the last event of the season. The Ford Carnival City 400 will also see the title issue in the premier Super Production Class settled. A differentiation in points in scoring for overall and class results has kept the SP Class battle alive.

The three second margin between Vos/Pitchford and Grobler/Jordaan, after more than six hours and 400 kilometres of racing, gives an idea of the intensity of the battle between the two Nissan crews. The fact that the two Nissans were 16 minutes ahead of Brandon Harcus and Juan Mohr, in a works Ford Racing Ranger, also tells a story of total Nissan domination.

With the Friday prologue cancelled because of rapidly rising water at a river crossing, start order for the race was based on the national seeding list. This saw Vos/Pitchford start two minutes behind Grobler and Jordaan.

Both teams suffered from punctures, but it was the second of the three loops that made up the event, that decided the outcome. Grobler/Jordaan were quicker than Vos/Pitchford on he first and third loops but, hampered by a steering problem, dropped nearly eight minutes on a wet and slippery middle section.

A tough route and the elements saw to it that only 10 of the 32 Production Vehicle starters were classified as finishers. But the Nissan cup ran over when Mark Corbett and Rudy Balzer (Century Property Developments Nissan Navara) and Ivar Tollefsen and stand in co-driver VZ van Zyl, in a third factory Navara, joined Vos/Pitchford and Grobler/Jordaan in the top five. "That was as tough a race as you can get," said Vos. "I am obviously delighted with the result, but I am mentally and physically finished."

The Nissan domination was helped along by the early demise of Mark Cronje/Chris Birkin in the Castrol Toyota Hilux, and former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer in a second factory Ford. The Toyota broke a rear axle and the Ford went out with suspension problems.

An unhappy event for Toyota saw Cronje/Birkin joined later by Bevan Bertholdt/Robin Houghton and Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst in Castrol Toyota Hilux entries. An off road excursion saw Bertholdt/Houghton time barred, with side shaft problems sidelining Visser and Badenhorst.

Brave efforts saw Kobus van Tonder and Riaan Guelpa (Unifreight Ford Ranger) and Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) trail in at the tail end of the field. Plagued by a myriad of problems the two SP Class crews were, however, around 90 minutes behind the winners.

A win for Henri and Maurice Zermatten (Ryobi Nissan Hardbody), a string of retirements and a hard luck story, have kept the Class D championship alive with four or five crews still in with a chance of taking the title. Title contenders Coetzee Labuscagne/Johan Gerber (Raysonics Nissan Hardbody), Arnold du Plessis/Johan Knox (BB Auto Nissan Hardbody), Jurie du Plessis/Andre du Plessis (BB Auto Nissan Hardbody) and Harold and Tiaan Coen (Land Rover) all fell by the wayside, while Ramon Bezuidenhout/Stefan Lock (Toyota Hilux) missed the time bar cut off by seconds.

The Zermatten’s, who took their third win of the season, were followed home by Cliff and Louis Weichelt (Bosal Toyota Hilux D4D) who overcame punctures and a down on power motor to hang in for second. The Class D dogfight at Carnival City is going to be a feature of the last event of the year.

Down in Class E the Castrol Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux pair of Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux clawed their way back into championship contention. Championship leaders Jack Peckham/Lucio Santoro (Ford Racing Ranger) failed to see out the distance for the first time this year, and George and Sharon Barkhuizen (Ruwacon Toyota Hilux) also lost ground.

Visser/le Roux were the only Class E finishers and had a clean run. According to the reticent Visser the crew "never had to get out the car." With title issues still to be settled the Ford Carnival City 400 will hold plenty of interest. Top of the bill, however, will be the Class D battle.

2007/11/06 | 17:46 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Charmaine Fortune

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