Dry and dusty conditions at the Bronkhorstspruit 400, the fourth round of the South African National Cross Country Series (SACCS) that took place on Friday and Saturday, 2 and 3 August in the Bronkhorstspruit area, proved to be a real test for Production Vehicle teams with Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux) claiming their third overall victory of the season.
Lategan, who also won this event last year, together with his new navigator for the season, Brett Cummings, posted the fastest time overall and in the FIA Class after the 64km Qualifying Race and had a clean run at the front of the field on Saturday. They produced the goods during a challenging event where teams had to survive dusty mealie fields, rocky routes and muddy river crossings.
It was an all Toyota podium in the Production Vehicle category with Chris Visser, who won the recent Toyota Desert 1000 in Botswana, and his new navigator, Danie Stassen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) finishing second after a trouble-free event. They finished seven minutes 11 seconds behind the winners. There was also another good result for Shameer Variawa/Juan Möhr (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux) who rounded off the overall podium as well as the podium for the FIA Class championship despite losing time when they wrong-slotted.
A cautious approach paid off for the defending Class T champions and current class leaders, Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable (Ford Castrol Cross Country Ranger) who started sixth in Class T after the Qualifying Race. Woolridge/Huxtable continued their winning record of the season and finished fourth overall. They were, however, only 24 seconds ahead of Gary Bertholdt/Geoff Minnitt (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) who was the first Class T vehicle to take on the race on Saturday after posting the fastest time during the Qualifying Race. Bertholdt/Minnitt lost time changing a flat tyre 12 kilometres before the end of the first of the two loops and had to settle for the runner-up result in Class T.
An extremely tight battle between the first three Class T teams resulted in the Horn brothers, Johan and Werner (Malalane Toyota Hilux) claiming the third step of the podium after losing time due to flat tyres. They were a mere 59 seconds behind Bertholdt/Minnitt with only a minute and 23 seconds covering the three Class T teams on the podium.
Ernest Roberts/Henry Köhne had a good run in the new Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara despite also suffering a puncture during the second loop. They were seventh overall and fourth in the FIA Class and only 36 seconds ahead of Richard Leeke Jnr/Simon Vacy-Lyle (Ford Ranger) who finished fourth in Class T despite receiving a five minute penalty. They had a clean run and posted the best results so far this season.
The ride of the day probably belonged to Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux) who started the main race on Saturday from 26th place overall after not completing the Qualifying Race due to suspension damage after they hit a rock. The defending champions fought back hard to finish ninth overall and fifth in the FIA Class. They were only two seconds ahead of Jacques van Tonder/Sammy Redelinghuys (Ford Ranger) at the final finish with the Ford Ranger team rounding off the top five in the Class T standings and the top 10 overall.
Wors Prinsloo/André Vermeulen (Ford Ranger) were 11th overall and sixth in Class T with the Class S winners, David Huddy/Gerhard Schutte (Hud Racing Nissan Navara) 12th overall after an uneventful race. Newcomers Bernard and Minette Johnstone (Toyota Hilux) enjoyed their first national cross country event and finished 13th overall followed by international competitors, Marcos Baumgart/Kleber Cincea (Ford Castrol Cross Country Ranger) who also had to fight from the back after a damaged suspension prevented them from posting a qualifying time. They trailed the Johnstone couple by a minute and 27 seconds.
Malcolm Kock/Sean van Staden (Ford Ranger) also received a penalty and had to settle for 15th place overall. The German competitor, Daniel Schröder and KwaZulu-Natal motorcycle rider, Ryan Bland, who navigated for him in the WCT Engineering/PS Laser Nissan Navara, also had to start from the back after not being able to post a qualifying time. They were 16th overall and were followed by cross country newcomer, Clint Weston partnered by Zaheer Bodhanya (Schalk Burger Motorsport King Price Extreme).
The multiple track and rally champion made a good start to the race as they posted the ninth fastest time in the Qualifying Race. They were however 17th overall with Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Elf Renault Duster) bringing up the rear in 27th place. They experienced mechanical problems and returned to the pits to solve the problem and made the decision to take the penalty and continue with the race to reach the finish.
There was some bad luck for their team-mates, Theuns Joubert/Henk Janse van Vuuren who rolled 20 kilometres into the race while Schalk Burger/Elvene Vonk (Schalk Burger Motorsport King Price Extreme) had to retire after they hit a pole and damaged the suspension of their vehicle. Jaco van Dyk/Michel Rust (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara) as well as Jannie Visser/Danie Maré (Ford Ranger) could also not finish the race.
The fifth and penultimate round of the season, the Harrismith 400, will take place on 13 and 14 September in KwaZulu-Natal.