It was no surprise to see the pair of Toyota Gazoo Racing SA entries topping the results in the Production Vehicle category when the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round three of the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS), ended here Sunday. In the final classification former Dakar Rally winner Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy edged out South African champions Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie with the two FIA Class vehicles again showing they are in a class of their own.
The two Toyota Hilux’s put on the show of the weekend with just six seconds separating them at the end of what was a typically tough Desert Race that again demanded reserves of stamina and determination from crews.
It was just about the perfect weekend for the Toyota Gazoo squad which stretched an unbeaten record dating back to the 2015 season. It also saw Poulter and Howie increase their lead in the overall Production Vehicle championship.
It was also a good weekend for the Horn brothers, Johan and Werner, from Mpumalanga. Out in the Malalane Toyota Hilux in Class T the pair claimed the final podium place and were comfortably ahead of Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable (Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Ranger) in fourth place.
Fifth overall went to the new Elf Renault Duster in the hands of Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson with the crew having only their second outing in another of the FIA Class entries. The pair ended up third in the FIA Class but they cut it fine and were only 28 seconds ahead of Woolridge’s younger brother, Gareth, and Boyd Dreyer in a second Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Ranger.
The Horns and the Woolridge brothers went into the Desert Race closely bunched in the Class T championship. The status quo remains and this is a battle – between a privateer team and two factory assisted cars – that will be in focus over the rest of the season.
The Woolridge/Dreyer Ford Ranger had just over two minutes in hand over reigning Class T champions Jason Venter and Vince van Allemann, in the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux, who put together a solid weekend after a streaky start to the season. The same can be said of Venter’s father Deon and Jaco van Aardt, in the second 4×4 Mega World Toyota entry, who were around 15 minutes behind the sister car.
Venter senior and van Aardt had just over two minutes to spare on Hennie de Klerk and former SA champion Achim Bergmann, in the Treasury One/Atlas Copco VW Amarok, who also put together a tidy weekend. The cherry on top of the cake for de Klerk/Bergmann was a win on the Dakar Challenge which earned the crew a free entry to next year’s Dakar Rally in South America.
But the top 10 was rounded out by former South African champion Jannie Visser and his son Chris in what was probably the performance of the weekend.
The Vissers farm in North West province and as one would expect were completely at home in the conditions and won Class S, in a Toyota Hilux, by a huge margin from David Huddy and Rodney Cook in a Nissan Navara. Huddy and Cook were the last of the classified overall finishers with sheer perseverance having its reward.
With a total of 60 points up for grabs in championship terms it was a thoroughly disappointing weekend for Gary Bertholdt/Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco VW Amarok) and team-mates Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux. The crews ended up pointless over the weekend but there was worse to come for Bertholdt/Herselman and tragedy struck when they smelled fuel and the Amarok was totally destroyed by a fire.
The final day also saw rookies Henk Lategan and Barry White, in a third Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Ranger, make a late contribution to what was a pretty good Botswana outing for the Pietermaritzburg team. They topped Class T and it was a moment to savour for the youngsters.
The next event on the SACCS calendar will break new ground for the championship. The Eeram Farmers 400 is a new event on the calendar and will be run near Harrismith, in the Free State, on July 28 and 29.