Friday, 21 August 2009


NISSAN SAYS: Nissan Motorsport aims to extend its record run of national championship off road races to 12 in this weekend’s Highveld 400, round six of the eight-event Absa Off Road Car Championship.

Reigning champion Duncan Vos and co-driver Ralph Pitchford, who have already won five of the six races run so far in their SP class Donaldson Nissan Navara, have all but wrapped up the driver and co-driver championships and another win would put them beyond the reach of their rivals. It will be Vos’s third title and Pitchford’s second, but their first together.

They have accumulated 115 points, 60 ahead of Donaldson Nissan team-mates Ivar Tollefsen and Quin Evans and a further four better than Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr in the third factory Navara. It is testimony to Nissan’s domination of the sport that the nearest team in a competing brand is lying fourth overall, 67 points in arrears.

With 25 points for a win and 75 on offer for the remainder of the season, Nissan looks likely to secure its ninth consecutive championship since starting off road racing in 2001. Vos needs just 15 more points from the last three races to take the title, which he will achieve if he finishes third or higher this weekend.

The race for the manufacturers’ championship is still very much on with just 18 points separating Nissan, winners for six out of the last eight years, from current leader Toyota.

Multiple former champion Grobler and reigning co-driver champion Mohr are the only other crew to have won this year and they will be determined to improve their success rate in Saturday’s race. A good performance in Friday’s shorter prologue, which determines the start order for Saturday, will be crucial.

Backing up the Sasol-fuelled factory entries in the premier SP class will be two privateer Nissan Navaras, the regular Regent Racing entry of Terence Marsh and Pieter Groenewald (Vos’s championship-winning car from last year) and a brand new PS Laser-backed entry for former champion Alfie Cox and German businessman Jurgen Schroder.

Cox and Schroder, who completed the Dakar Rally in January in a hired SMG Buggy in their first event together, will be debuting an SP class Navara built by Nissan Motorsport. Cox won the championship in 2005 in a Nissan Hardbody and is a multiple off road and enduro motorcycle champion who has competed in the Dakar Rally nine times, seven on bikes and twice in cars, with a best result of second on a KTM in 2002.

He and Schroder intend entering the Navara in next year’s Dakar Rally, which will also see Norwegian Tollefsen and Briton Evans starting their second Dakar in their South African-built Navara after finishing a remarkable fourth overall this year.

Nissan will have strong representation in class D with the privateer crews who finished first and second in the class in 2008.

Defending champions and brothers Henri and Maurice Zermatten make only their second appearance of the year in the Manrepco Nissan Hardbody, while championship runners-up Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber will be encouraged by their class win in the Sun City 400 last month.

Also fresh from a class win at Sun City are former circuit racing champion Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie in the Nissan Motorsport-prepared class E Ferodo Nissan Hardbody. After showing race-winning pace in each of their first four events together, Poulter and Howie were dominant in the Sun City event and will be aiming to repeat their success.