Elation for some, disappointment for others as Bronkhorstspruit 400 qualifyer predicts fast and furious cross country racing

If the outcome of the Qualifying Race of the Bronkhorstspruit 400, the fourth round of the South African National Cross Country Series (SACCS) that took place on Friday, 2 August on the Gauteng border, is anything to go by, the main race on Saturday, 3 August will be an extremely interesting event for competitors and enthusiasts alike.

The Bronkhorstspruit 400 started with a 64km Qualifying Race to determine starting order for the main race, and while there was joy and good results for some, there are teams that will have to brace themselves for the battle that awaits. Competitors and enthusiasts can look forward to a fast and furious race where it will not be over until the proverbial lady has uttered the last note.

In the Production Vehicle category, the first five vehicles to tackle the main race will be Toyota Hilux vehicles, but the defending champions, Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA) will not be in the mix.  They hit a rock and damaged the suspension 11 kilometres into the route and will have to fight back from the back of the field. Their team-mates in the FIA Class, Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings posted the fastest time and will lead the field ahead of the two Atlas Copco teams – the Toyota Desert Race 1000 winner, Chris Visser and new navigator Danie Stassen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) and Gary Bertholdt/Geoff Minnitt who started well after no real seat time in Botswana due to Bertholdt being ill.

Bertholdt/Minnitt will lead the Class T brigade but will be followed by the second crew in the FIA Class, Shameer Variawa/Juan Möhr (Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux) who were seven seconds off the pace of the Atlas Copco Hilux teams. Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) rounded off the top five and are second in Class T, a mere two minutes behind the Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux.

Malcolm Kock/Sean van Staden showed their speed in a new, faster Ford Ranger and will be the third Class T vehicle on the road, just behind the Horn brothers while they will be chased by yet another Class T team, Richard Leeke Jnr (ATS Ford Ranger) and new navigator, Simon Vacy-Lyle who were just one second slower than Kock/Van Staden.

Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Elf Renault Duster) were a mere three seconds aback and fourth in the FIA Class while they were only nine seconds faster than cross country newcomer, Clint Weston and experienced campaigner, Zaheer Bodhanya (Schalk Burger Motorsport King Price Extreme). Weston, a multiple track racing and rally champion, had a baptism by fire as the team hit a rock 15 kilometres into the route that damaged the suspension while they also experienced small navigational issues. They were fifth in the FIA Class and only a second faster than Jacques van Tonder/Sammy Redelinghuys (Ford Ranger) who will be the fifth Class T team on the road.

With only 2 minutes 40 seconds separating the top 10 teams in the Production Vehicle category and the rest in close pursuit, the possibility of silverware and the most points possible will be the aim for all.

Defending Class T champions and current leaders, Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable (Ford Castrol Cross Country Ranger) adopted a cautious approach to the rough terrain and finished sixth in Class T, but their team-mates, Marcos Baumgart/Kleber Cincea will also be fighting from the back as they too fell victim to a rock that bent the prop shaft early in the race.

The Namibians, Jaco van Dyk/Michel Rust (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara) will start just behind Woolridge/Huxtable and will be followed by Theuns Joubert and navigator Henk Janse van Vuuren (Elf Renault Duster) who made a come-back to the sport. Ernest Roberts took on the Bronkhorstspruit 400 in his new Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara in the FIA Class and had a good run accompanied by Henry Köhne.   Wors Prinsloo and the experienced André Vermeulen (Ford Ranger) will be just behind Roberts/Köhne and just ahead of David Huddy/Gerhard Schutte (Hud Racing Nissan Navara) who lead Class S.

Schalk Burger/Elvene Vonk (Schalk Burger Motorsport King Price Extreme) will be using the event to gain more experience in Burger’s quest to tackle the Dakar Rally while Bernard and Minette Johnstone (Toyota Hilux) are taking on their first national cross country event.

In the Special Vehicle category, there was yet another victory for Lance Trethewey/Adriaan Roets (LT Earthmovers BAT Venom) who posted the fastest time after a smooth, fast and perfect qualifying race. They are looking forward to spearheading the attack. The Moosajee brothers, Taahir/Talha (Dunlop Stryker) will be behind them although they lost time with a problematic alternator and a misfire.

Clint Gibson/Alaric Smith (Dirt Sport Stryker) the third team in the Special Vehicle category on the road and will be followed by Sandra Labuschagne-Jonck and husband Jaco (Total Agri Porter). Sandra struggled with a steering wheel that did not click in properly, but they enjoyed the route although there were more rocks than they expected.

John Thomson/Maurice Zermatten (Zarco) were fifth fastest in the category as well as in Class A and will be followed by the two Class P teams, Julio Ferreira/Onkabetse Seemise (Aceco) and Nic Goslar/Andrew Massey (SA Clinics Zarco Magnum) who were separated by less than two minutes.

Dewald van Breda/Johann du Toit (Can-Am Maverick) posted the fastest time in the Side x Side National Championship despite their start being a bit shaky. They were only 58 seconds faster than the championship leaders Werner/Leon Mostert in a similar vehicle with the paraplegic driver, Wickus Haasbroek and Jurgens Smith, also in a Can-Am Maverick, a mere two seconds further behind. Christo Rose/Dirk Swart (Can-Am Maverick) also had a good run and will be the fourth SxS off the mark in the morning.

The Bronkhorstspruit 400 main race will start on Saturday, 3 August at 08:00 from the Soetdoring Function Venue where the race headquarters as well as the designated service point (DSP) will also be situated. After completing the 180km loop once, teams will return to the DSP for a compulsory 30 minute service break before taking on the 180km loop again starting at 12:00. There are ample spectating points along the route.

The Bronkhorstspruit 400 can also be followed on the RallySafe App that can be downloaded free of charge from the Google Play Store or the App store.