The Parys 400, the sixth and final round of the 2019 South African National Cross Country Series (SACCS) that took place at Parys in the Free State this weekend proved to be quite a tough test as teams had to first battle dry and dusty conditions that turned into a slippery and muddy affair after a massive hail storm and good rain during Friday night. Breaking halfway through the race on Saturday to watch the Bokke win the Rugby World Cup against England also added to the challenge while a tricky route did not make it any easier.
In the end a fourth victory this season confirmed why Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux) are the overall 2019 Production Vehicle and FIA Class champions as they stepped onto the top step of the podium at Parys. Lategan/Cummings were second to tackle the 340 kilometre route after the 45km Qualifying Race on Friday and chased the leaders, Chris Visser/Danie Stassen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) down, but a puncture saw Visser/Stassen passing them again. Lategan/Cummings conquered the slippery conditions that later turned into a hardpack route and beat Visser/Stassen by five minutes and 11 seconds to take the victory.
After an uneventful race, Visser/Stassen took the second spot in the Production Vehicle category and the FIA Class. They were followed by Shameer Variawa/Juan Möhr (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux) who made a huge jump after losing time due to two punctures during the Qualifying Race that saw them starting from 17th place in the Production Vehicle category. They eventually trailed Visser/Stassen by only four minutes and 43 seconds after they again had a puncture and an early scare when the engine of their Toyota Hilux went into limp mode.
Variawa/Möhr posted the same final time as the first-time winners of Class T, the Brazilian team of Marcos Baumgart/Kleber Cincea (Ford Castrol Cross Country Ranger) who were also fastest in Class T after the Qualifying Race. There was, however, not much difference between the Brazilian team and their team-mates, the two-time Class T champions, Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable who also started the race just behind them. The 2018 and 2019 champions had a clean run except for losing a little time when they were stuck behind some cattle being herded.
Giniel de Villiers and his new navigator, Alex Haro (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux) fought their way from the back of the field to finish sixth overall and fourth in the FIA Class after a tough event. They broke a propshaft within the first two kilometres of the Qualifying Race, but experienced a clean race on Saturday and jumped from 18th position on the start grid of the Production Vehicle category to finish sixth. Only 11 seconds separated De Villers/Haro from the Class T champions.
The Class T podium was rounded off by Johan Horn/Leander Pienaar (Malalane Toyota Hilux) who started the race in 12th place after they also suffered a puncture during the Qualifying Race. They experienced rear brake failure during the first loop and posted a faster time during the second loop to claim their podium result and the seventh place overall. They were two minutes and 43 seconds behind De Villiers/Haro while only a minute and 27 seconds separated them from Jacques van Tonder/Nico Swartz (Ford Ranger) behind them. Van Tonder/Swartz had a good race and were fourth in Class T.
Clint Weston/Gerhard Snyman (King Price Extreme) had a good run despite two punctures during the second loop. They still managed to finish ninth overall and fifth in the FIA Class. Richard Leeke/Zaheer Bodhanya (Ford Ranger) had their fair share of challenges as a puncture and a bent rim cost them valuable time during the first loop. They rounded off the overall top 10 and claimed the fifth place in Class T.
The German driver, Daniël Schröder and his KZN navigator, Ryan Bland (PS Laser/WCT Engineering Nissan Navara) had a clean run and finished 11th overall sixth in the FIA Class. They were followed closely by Johan van Staden (Elf Renault Duster) who completed the Qualifying Race with navigator Mike Lawrenson, but they hit a ditch and a rock on Friday that damaged the front suspension and left Lawrenson with whiplash. Van Staden’s son, Sean, then took over the navigating duties on Saturday and the team finished seventh in the FIA Class.
Gary Bertholdt/Geoff Minnitt (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) as well as Wors Prinsloo/André Vermeulen (Ford Ranger) and Archie Rutherford/Rodney Cook/Kent Rutherford (Toyota Hilux) all received penalties for wrong slotting where the route was changed. This resulted in Bertholdt/Minnitt dropping to 13th overall and sixth in Class T while Prinsloo/Vermeulen were 14th overall and seventh in Class T.
Rutherford, who completed the Qualifying Race with Cook and the main race with his son, Kent, took their first Class S win of the season and were 15th overall after they lost time in the pits fixing a back brake calliper.
The international team of Thomas Bell/Patrick McMurren (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara) were 16th overall and eighth in the FIA Class while Dylan Venter/Donavan Lubbe (4×4 Mega World ARB Toyota Hilux) could not complete the first loop due to a broken lower control arm. They decided to make their way back to DSP and take the penalty to be able to start the second loop which they completed successfully.
Lady Luck waited until the very last race to turn her back on the Class S champions, David Huddy/Gerhard Schutte (Nissan Navara) who were forced to call it a day after their Nissan Navara was stuck in gear a mere 3.6km into the first loop. There were also issues for the Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara team of Ernest Roberts/Henry Köhne who hit a rock during the second loop that broke the lower control arm of their vehicle while Terence Marsh/Letshego Zulu decided not to tackle the wet and slippery route on Saturday morning with their brand-new Nissan Navara that is scheduled to be shipped to the Dakar Rally in a few days.
The 2019 SACCS championship ended on a high note with teams enjoying the Parys 400 while the area received much needed rain and South African won the Rugby World Cup.