Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan chalked up their first win of the 2005 Absa Off Road Championship when they stormed across the finish line on the Nissan Dealer 400, after leading for all but the first 15 minutes of the race.

Second across the line were Special Vehicle category winners Terence Marsh and Michael Whitehouse in the Nashua Mobile BAT Spec-1. The pair has been knocking at the door for some time and is basking in the glory of their maiden win.

KwaZulu-Natal crew Will Battershill and Reg Sutton made their Class A debut in the ex-Marsh Jimco and put on a polished performance to come from 10th overall to finish third overall and second in the Special Vehicle category. Two times Nissan Dealer 400 winner Atang Makgekgenene and Buks Carolin (Total Jimco) led up until the midway point on lap two but had to stop to replace a flat wheel, which cost them eleven minutes and a possible third successive victory. The reigning Special Vehicle champions had to settle for fourth overall and third in the Special Vehicle category.

Another KwaZulu-Natal crew, Manfred Schroder and Alec Harris in the Team Ford Racing Ranger V6 got the better of Class D rivals Mark Cronje and Chris Birkin in the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i to notch up their second successive Class D win of the season. The rival crews finished second and third in the Production Vehicle category respectively.

Seventh overall, fourth in the Special Vehicle category and first in Class B were Ernest Corbett and son-in-law Warwick Goosen in the Century Property Developments BAT. The pair was locked in a race-long battle with Nissan Sugarbelt 400 Class B winners Evan Hutchison and Trevor Ormerod (Motorite Racing BAT) who picked up fuel regulator problems close to the finish and eventually crossed the line 20th overall and 10th in the Special Vehicle category.

Gavin Cronje and Robin Houghton started 18th in the Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i and finished eighth overall, fourth in the Production Vehicle category and third in Class D in their first outing in the Western Cape. They lost five minutes stopping to clean the windscreen after the windscreen wiper motor fuse blew and then later lost a further five minutes when they got beached in thick sand and had to be towed out by Chris Visser.

Father and son Robert and Gareth Wark started fifth in the Superpave Chenowth but dropped down the field to finish ninth overall and fifth in the Special Vehicle category with Giel Nel and Peter Newberry, who started 26th in the LUK / ATE Zarco Lite, 10th overall and sixth in the Special Vehicle category.

Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst had a faultless run in the Tyco Trucks Toyota Hilux 2.7i and comfortably won Class E ahead of reigning Class E champion Hugo de Bruyn who completed the race without co-driver Jaap de Bruyn who was laid low by food poisoning. De Bruyn started 15th but dropped to 25th on lap one after the power steering failed on his Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i. Quick action by the Toyota service crew got him underway and he managed to work his way back up the leader board to finish sixth in the Production Vehicle category.

Durban based Zane Pearce and Hennie Vosloo brought their Castrol Toyota 2.7i home seventh in the Production Vehicle category and third in Class E and was followed across the finish line by Polokwane based brothers Jurie and Andre du Plessis in the Class D BB Auto Nissan Hardbody.

Good Samaritans Rudi and Pierre van Graan helped Baphumze Rubuluza and Khulile Vakalisa in the Team Ford Racing Ranger and Zarco Lite teammates John Thomson and Clinton McNamara out of the river bed and went on to finish seventh in the Special Vehicle category and second in Class B in the Technochair Zarco Lite.

Husband and wife Marius and Tracey van Vuuren in the Bosal N1 4x4 Castrol Toyota Hilux 2.7i finished 16th overall, ninth in the Production Vehicle category and fourth in Class E.

Swaziland based John Thomson and Clinton McNamara (Mormond Zarco Lite) and brothers Hendrik and Louis Fourie (Zarco Lite) finished eighth and ninth respectively in the Special Vehicle category while brothers Mark and Stuart Moffat finished 19th overall and 10th in the Production Vehicle category in their trusty Bosal N1 4x4 Land Rover.

Evan Hutchison and Trevor Ormerod (Motorite Racing BAT) finished 20th overall and 10th in the Special Vehicle category with last placed Special Vehicle finisher David White in the ex-Giel Nel Truggy finishing 11th overall in the category and sixth in Class B.

The last three positions in the field were filled by Production Vehicle competitors. Henri Zermatten and Bodo Schwegler finished 11th overall and sixth in Class D in the Mastercraft / Ryobi Mitsubishi and were followed by father and son Dirk Sr. and Dirk Jr. van Reenen in the Class E Savannah Ford Ranger and Team Ford Racing’s Baphumze Rubuluza and Khulile Vakalisa in the Class E Ford Ranger.

Major retirements included Nissan Sugarbelt 400 winners Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau in the Advansoft BAT, who set the fastest time in the Prologue and led for the first 13km before a left front upright bolt broke and pitched the car into the trees, causing severe damage to the chassis.

Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford ran in second place in the Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody for much of the race but were forced to retire with drive train problems shortly before the finish.

2004 Lesotho Sun 400 winners John Weir-Smith and Geoff Minnitt in the Kopanong Hotel Superteam Jimco started 41st and moved up to 10th overall after lap one only to have an electrical short melt the wiring loom and force them into retirement.

Shameer Variawa and VZ van Zyl had a frustrating first lap and had to battle with a faulty power steering. They ploughed through a fence, got wire tangled up on the left rear brake caliper and CV boot on the Total Porter and spent over an hour effecting repairs in the pits at the end of lap one. 20km into lap two the power steering finally cried enough and their race was finally run.

Bevan Bertholdt and Nick Selamolela got stuck in a river bed in the Itec BAT Spec-1, which resulted in a huge traffic jam. After being towed out they continued but hit a small rock, which damaged the suspension.

Arnold du Plessis and Johan Knox, who had a good Prologue, finishing eighth overall and third in class D in the BB Auto Nissan Hardbody, were forced to retire just 50km into the main race with a broken gearbox.

Topcar magazine managing editor Deon Schoeman and Jan Sime were on course for a podium finish in Class D in their Topcar/Autopage/Du Pont Hardbody when they were sidelined with a broken wishbone ball joint three kilometers into the final 115km lap.

Coetzee Labuschagne and Johan Gerber in their Raysonics Nissan Hardbody started from the back of the field after a collapsed valve seal and resultant broken piston prevented them from starting the Prologue. They bought a second-hand engine block in nearby Malmesbury and worked until 5 am on Saturday to get the car ready for the start. Low oil pressure on the first lap was followed by the warning sound of a bearing knock and they were forced to retire soon after the start of lap two.

Thomas Rundle and Stavros Yiannakis had a frustrating weekend in only their second national championship off road race together. They broke the prop shaft on their Class E Barden Tyre Services Nissan Hardbody in the Prologue and, after borrowing a new one from the Topcar Nissan team, were having a good run when they drowned the distributor on their second trip through a big water splash 10km from the end of lap two.

Official Production Vehicle category results:

1 Hannes Grobler / Francois Jordaan (Nissan) 04:33:07

2 Manfred Schroder / Alec Harris (Ford) 05:09:00

3 Mark Cronje / Chris Birkin (Toyota) 05:12:35

4 Gavin Cronje / Robin Houghton (Toyota) 05:21:38

5 Chris Visser / Japie Badenhorst (Toyota) 05:26:57

6 Hugo de Bruyn (Toyota) 05:34:05

7 Zane Pearce / Hennie Vosloo (Toyota) 05:47:13

8 Jurie du Plessis / Andre du Plessis (Nissan) 05:51:59

9 Marius v Vuuren / Tracey v Vuuren (Toyota) 06:07:40

10 Mark Moffat / Stuart Moffat (Land Rover) 06:38:14

11 Henri Zermatten / Bodo Schwegler (Mitsubishi) 06:48:25

12 Dirk van Reenen / Dirk van Reenen Jr. (Ford) 06:58:10

13 Baphumze Rubuluza / Khulile Vakalisa (Ford) 08:50:23

Official Special Vehicle category results:

1 Terence Marsh / Michael Marsh (BAT Spec-1) 04:48:43

2 Will Battershill / Reg Sutton (Jimco) 04:54:32

3 Atang Makgekgenene / Buks Carolin (Jimco) 04:56:16

4 Ernest Corbett / Warwick Goosen (BAT) 05:21:01

5 Robert Wark / Gareth Wark (Chenowth) 05:23:06

6 Giel Nel / Peter Newberry (Zarco Lite) 05:23:45

7 Rudi v Graan / Pierre v Graan (Zarco Lite) 05:56:31

8 John Thomson / Clinton McNamara (Zarco Lite) 06:16:19

9 Hendrik Fourie / Louis Fourie (Zarco Lite) 06:34:52

10 Evan Hutchison / Trevor Ormerod (BAT) 06:39:29

11 David White (Truggy) 06:46:38

The Absa Off Road Championship next heads for Botswana where the Toyota 1000 Desert Race will be run from June 3-5, 2005.

Original article from Car