De Villiers: Motor Sportsman of the Year

26 February 2010

Giniel de Villiers was named the winner of the 2009 Bridgestone/Guild of Motoring Journalists Motor Sportsman of the Year after his victory in the 2009 Dakar Rally.

He became the first South African winner of the event, regarded by many as the toughest motor race in the world, in his seventh attempt at it. Together with co-driver Dirk Von Zitzewitz, De Villiers gave Volkswagen its first win in the diesel-powered Touareg.

The South African star had previously come agonisingly close to victory in the Dakar in 2006, when he finished second, and he was leading in 2007 when his engine caught fire and scuppered his chances of victory.

Nominees

There were six other nominees for the prestigious award, which was first presented in 1964 and has been sponsored by Bridgestone for the past 17 years.

Gavin Cronje: the winner of the inaugural Formula Le Mans Cup for prototype sports cars. Teaming up with Belgian Nico Verdonck, he dominated the inaugural Formula Le Mans Cup, which is a stepping stone to the Le Mans Series. Together, they won a remarkable nine of the 12 races on circuits as famous as Le Mans, Spa-Francorchamps, Nurburgring and Silverstone.

Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries: winners of the Sasol Rally Championship for the second year in a row.

They were always the team to beat, winning three of the eight rounds and finishing on the podium six times.

Evan Hutchison: winner of the Special Vehicle category of the Absa Off Road Car Championship, as well as class A7 of the Sasol Rally Championship – the first driver to win classes in both non-circuit disciplines in the same year since the legendary Hannes Grobler in 1986.

Sheridan Morais: winner of the Interfile Superbike and Supersport championships in the same year, the first time the feat had been achieved.

Ralph Pitchford: finished second in the international Dakar Rally as co-driver to American Mark Miller in a factory Volkswagen Race Touareg. He was also the champion off-road racing production car co-driver in 2009, winning the title with Duncan Vos in a factory Nissan Navara.

Duncan Vos: winner of the Production Car category of the Absa Off-Road Championship for the third successive year in a factory Nissan Navara. He won five of eight races in the championship.

Colin Watling Award

The winner of the Colin Watling Award for special achievement in motor sport by someone other than a competitor was Peter du Toit, the owner of the popular Zwartkops Raceway near Pretoria.

Du Toit rebuilt and revived the Raceway and has done an immense job in popularising historic car and bike racing, as well as importing cars and drivers from overseas for his annual International Historic Car Racing Festival.

The other nominees were:

Glyn Hall: in his last year as motor sport manager of Nissan, he saw his off road team win an unprecedented ninth successive driver’s and co-drivers championship and totally dominate the series with six wins in eight races and the top three positions in the championship.

It was Hall’s 16th national championship since he became manager of Nissan Motorsport in 1993.

In the nine years that Nissan competed in the national off road championship under Hall’s management, they also won six manufacturers’ championships and scored a total of 57 victories in 72 events.

In addition, Hall’s team built 29 off-road racing Nissan Hardbody and Navara pickups of which 23 were sold to overseas customers. Three of the vehicles, competing in the privateer Belgian Overdrive team managed by Hall, finished a remarkable fourth, fifth and 21st in the 2009 Dakar Rally in Argentina and Chile.

Jan Hartzer: has been in the forefront of filming and production of television programmes of all kinds of motor sport both on tar and in the dirt for many years.

He not only runs his own company Rapid Motion and directs and produces the programmes, he is also one of the top cameramen in the business.

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