After the 45km Qualifying Race of the Parys 400, the sixth and final round of the South African National Cross Country Series (SACCS) that takes place this weekend at Parys in the Free State, an interesting line-up in the Production as well as the Special Vehicle categories and the new Side by Side National Championship predicts an exciting race tomorrow.
With the Start/Finish and designated service point of the event at the Parys airfield, competitors tackled the route with a few rocky sections on Friday afternoon and completed it just before a heavy rain and hailstorm saw everyone running for cover.
After the dust had settled, it was Chris Visser/Danie Stassen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) who posted the fastest time (29min 25s) after a clean run. They will be leading the FIA Class and the rest of the field on Saturday morning and will be chased by the rest of the Production Vehicle pack. The newly-crowned champions, Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux) were 18 seconds behind and will be the second FIA Class vehicle to start the race followed by the newly crowned Class T champions, Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable (Ford Castrol Cross Country Ranger) who were just under a minute behind Lategan/Cummings.
Only two seconds separated Woolridge/Huxtable from their Class T team-mates, the Brazilian team of Marcos Baumgart/Kleber Cincea who were again 10 seconds ahead of Clint Weston/Gerhard Snyman (King Price Extreme). Wors Prinsloo/André Vermeulen (Ford Ranger) posted the third fastest time in Class T (32min 06s) and will be followed by the leading Class S vehicle (32min 11s) in the hands of Archie and his son, Kent Rutherford (Toyota Hilux) although Rodney Cook read the notes for Rutherford senior for the Qualifying Race.
The rest of the top 10 will consist of Jacques van Tonder/Nico Swartz (Ford Ranger) who were five seconds slower than Rutherford/Cook and 15 seconds faster than the German driver, Daniel Schröder and his KZN navigator, Ryan Bland (Nissan Navara) with Ernest Roberts/Henry Köhne (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara) only a further eight seconds adrift.
The rocky route meant disaster for some teams who lost valuable time and positions due to punctures. One of these teams were Gary Bertholdt/Geoff Minnitt (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) who will be the sixth Class T vehicle and 14th team to start the main race behind Terence Marsh/Letshego Zulu (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara) 11th fastest; Johan Horn/Leander Pienaar (Malalane Toyota Hilux) 12th and the Class S champions, David Huddy/Gerhard Schutte (Nissan Navara) in 13th place.
Another team who lost time due to a puncture are Richard Leeke/Zaheer Bodhanya (Ford Ranger) while Shameer Variawa/Juan Möhr (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux) will have their work cut out for them after they suffered two punctures. Their team-mates, Giniel de Villiers and his new navigator, Alex Haro, did not get a lucky packet and disaster struck after only 1.9km into the race when the propshaft on their Hilux broke. They will again have to fight the battle from the back of the field as will Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Elf Renault DE Duster) who posted the slowest time of the day.
It seems that the recent win at a regional event did lady driver, Sandra Labuscagne-Jonck and husband, Jaco Jonck (Total Agri Porter) good as they will be leading the Special Vehicle category as well as Class A on Saturday morning. Their time of 33min 43s was 11 seconds faster than John Thomson/Maurice Zermatten (Zarco) who quite enjoyed the twisty, rocky route and will be chasing the couple in the main race. The Voigts brothers, Ralph and André (BAT) opened the route for the Qualifying Race and although it was not easy, they played it safe and rounded off the podium, 16 seconds behind the Zarco. They are fired up for a good result after missing a few events this season.
The Moosajee brothers, Taahir and Talha (Stryker) wrong slotted a few times and felt the pressure of being in the first group on the road, but posted the fourth fastest time (35min 08s) with Trace Price Moor getting his first cross country event off to a positive start by winning Class P and rounding off the top five together with navigator Shaun Braithwaite in the (BAT). They will lead two more Class P teams, Keith and Andrew Makenete (BAT) and Julio Ferreira/Mohamed Moulson (Aceco).
Exciting racing can again be expected in the SxS category where the first ever South African champions, Werner and Leon Mostert (Elf Renault Can-Am Maverick) will be leading the field. Their time (35min 03s) was 19 seconds faster than youngsters Wickus Haasbroek/Jurgens Smith who will also be looking for another victory to end off the season. Dewald van Breda/Johann du Toit were the first SxS team to take on the Qualifying Race and it was a new experience for them. Their time (35min 53s) was not much slower than the rest and they will be the third SxS team out of the starting blocks. Van Breda/Du Toit will be followed by the Lichtenburg 400 winners, Theo Erasmus/Edward Odendaal (36min 12s) who are competing in only their second national SACCS event.
The rest of the teams, all in Can-Am Mavericks, were separated by only a few seconds with Peter Walter/Shaun de Villiers fifth, 18 seconds behind Erasmus/Odendaal and 11 seconds ahead of Christo Rose/Dirk Swart. If these results and the times are anything to go by, more serious battles can be expected at Parys tomorrow.
Due to the Rugby World Cup final, the race will be starting at 07:30 at the airfield on Saturday morning. Teams will then complete the first of the two 170 kilometre loops before the compulsory 30 minute service break and having the opportunity to watch the Springboks take on the English Roses at 11:00 in the marquee tent at the airfield. They will then resume the race at 13:15 and it will finish again at the airfield just outside Parys.
Enthusiasts can follow the race on the RallySafe App that can be downloaded free of charge for iPhone and Android devices.