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African Heritage: SA crews set the Pace in South Africa.

Two South African crews set the early pace on the African Heritage Cross Country, a round of the FIA Cross Country World Cup, which started at Ysterberg Oord (South Africa) on Thursday. The SA crews, however, are not eligible to score points towards the first World Cup off road event held in South Africa. On this basis the overnight leaders at the end of the first leg of the 1.000 kilometre event were Hungarian crew Sandor Kis and Peter Czegledi, in the RTL Motorsport Club Nissan Hardbody with Russian pair Sergey Shmakov and Konstantin Meshechekov second in the Zil Buggy.

Kis and Czegledi came in behind Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr, giving the Century Property Development Nissan Navara its debut, and Castrol Toyota Hilux pair Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin. The two South African crews are both running in vehicles that compete in the Super Production Class in the Absa Off Road Championship.

The African Heritage Cross Country is running in conjunction with the Ford Motorite Limpopo 400 on Friday and Saturday. The Ford Motorite is the halfway mark in the Absa championship with Corbett/Mohr, Cronje/Birkin and two other SA crews - Naeem Moosajee and Rayhaan Bodhanya (Tyre Rack Porter) and Jan and Hendrik Kraaij (Keymax BAT) competing in both events.

Thursday´s first leg covered 250 kilometres with Corbett and Mohr coming in around 15 minutes ahead of Cronje and Birkin. The Toyota pair, in turn, were 52 seconds ahead of Kis and Czegledi with the Nissan Hardbody designed and built in South Africa by Nissan Motorsport.

The Kraaij brothers set the fourth fastest time ahead of Shmakov and Meshechekov and Moosajee/Bodhanya. The Russian crew and Moosajee and Bodhanya ran into a string of mechanical problems with all the crews complaining that they were hopelessly lost at one or other stage during the day. "It was a difficult day and very tough for us," said Kis. "The route was difficult but the car was very good and we are happy."

Corbett and Mohr were also more than happy with their first outing in the new Nissan Navara. "The vehicle was good and has great potential," said Corbett. "The bush is very thick and because we got lost a couple of times progress was a little slow here and there."

Cronje and Birkin also complained about getting lost. "There were times we were fiddling around in second gear trying to find our way back onto the route," said Cronje. "It wasn’t much fun, and hopefully we will have better runs over the last two days."

The Kraaij brothers reported a troublefree run. For Shmakov/Meshechekov and Moosajee/Bodhanya, however, progress was also halted from time to time because of mechanical problems. Both teams limped home and it is important for the Russian team that they finish the event. Shmakov and Meshechekov currently lead the T1 category in the World Cup, and a good finish in South Africa will cement their title hopes.

The second leg of the event restarts at Ysterberg Oord early friday morning. The final leg will be run on Saturday.

2006/08/04 I 11:28 CET I Editor: Fortune

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