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African Heritage: Nissan to contest both SA events.

South Africa hosts its first ever round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup next week (Aug 2 to 5) in conjunction with round four of the ABSA Off Road Car Championship, the Ford/Motorite 400, and Nissan will be represented in both events.

Nissan Motorsport will be contesting the 400-km national event, which starts in Polokwane on Friday with the traditional 50 km prologue and ends in Polokwane on Saturday, with its usual championship winning team of Hannes Grobler/Francois Jordaan and Duncan Vos/Ralph Pitchford in their class SP Nissan Navara pickups.

The Midrand based team will also be lending a hand to Hungarian off road champion Sandor Kis, who will be competing in the inaugural African Heritage Cross Country event over 1 000 km that starts in Polokwane on Wednesday (August 2) in a locally-built Nissan Hardbody.

"Sandor, who is a top Nissan dealer in Hungary, recently took delivery of a racing Navara we built for him to drive in selected rounds of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup as well as the FIA International Cup for Cross Country Bajas," explained Nissan Motorsport general manager Glyn Hall.

"Rather than bring his new car back to South Africa for our international event, it was decided to rebuild one of our old class T cars to international spec for him to drive this weekend. We took Hannes’ 2002 championship-winning 3,5-litre Hardbody and made the necessary changes to meet the international regulations. "

The Ford/Motorite 400 marks the halfway point of the eight-round national championship and Grobler and Jordaan will be looking to increase their lead in the points standings. They currently lead former champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer (Ford Ranger) by a handy 23 points (69 to 46) after their wins in rounds one and three.

"We’ve had a good run so far this year," said Grobler. "But we can’t afford to slack or just defend our championship lead. We enjoyed an advantage at the start of the season with a proven car while Ford and Toyota had brand new cars. They are improving with each race, so we will be in attack made," he promised. "Francois and I won here last year, so we’re keen to make it two in a row."

Team-mates Vos and Pitchford promise to be their toughest competition. After a strong start to the season, when they finished third in the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape, the pair has failed to score any more points and is currently fifth in the class SP standings.

Clutch problems put them out of round two and a crash in the 1 000 km Desert Race, in which the Navara suffered front suspension damage, saw them overcome a long delay for repairs to finish 12th and out of the point.

"The Navara is very strong and very fast and I’m confident we can challenge for a win if we can just keep it on the road and on the route," said Vos.

The official Nissan team will once again be backed up by a band of loyal privateers who have helped make Nissan the winning manufacturer over the past five years and all of whom enjoy official support from Nissan Motorsport.

Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr will debut their brand new class SP Nissan Navara, built by Nissan Motorsport and backed by Century Property Developments, after contesting the two off the first three rounds in a class D Hardbody. They will also be competing in the FIA event, but under local regulations.

Contenders in class D are the Raysonics Hardbody of Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber, who are currently second in their class after a good start to the season, and the two BB Auto Group Hardbody double cabs of Arnold du Plessis/Johan Knox and Jurie and Andre du Plessis. The Polokwane-based team will be looking for home ground advantage this weekend.

KwaZulu Natal motoring magazine editor Jeremy Fall and wife Michelle will be contesting their second national championship event in their DieselCar magazine/Datcentre Pietermaritzburg Hardbody and will be keen to chalk up their first points after just failing, by minutes, to make the deadline for being classified as finishers in the Nissan Sugarbelt 400. They missed the Toyota Desert Race.

Class E contenders are Thomas Rundle and Brian Roberts in a Hardbody in the colours of Barden Tyre Services.

2006/07/20 I 13:38 CET I Editor:

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