Toyota sets the pace for Lichtenburg 400 while Alonso makes successful debut

TOYOTA SETS THE PACE FOR LICHTENBURG 400 WHILE FERNANDO ALONSO / MARC COMA MAKE A SUCCESSFUL CROSS COUNTRY DEBUT

While the former F1 champion, Fernando Alonso and multiple Dakar Rally motorcycle winner, Marc Coma stole the show at the Lichtenburg 400, the fifth and penultimate round of the South African National Cross Country Series (SACCS) that takes place this weekend in the North-West Province, the championship title battles continued during the 55 kilometre Qualifying Race this afternoon.

Teams aimed for the best possible starting position on the grid for the race on Saturday as dust can play an important role in the outcome of the results and influence the standings with only one race remaining.

Although Alonso and Coma, who also formed part of the organising team for the Dakar Rally, are participating in their first cross country race they will not score points towards the championship.  They successfully completed their first competitive 55 kilometre race in the Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux and posted the third fastest time (37min 24s) overall from their starting position of 10th.

At the front of the field it was Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Hein Lategan/Brett Cummings who were again the fastest with a time of 36min 52sec, only 26 seconds ahead of defending champions, Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy (37min 18s) in an identical Hilux. De Villiers/Murphy overshot a few times and lost valuable time. The two Spaniards were a further six seconds adrift in third place.

They were, however, 12 seconds ahead of Chris Visser/Danie Stassen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) who are chasing another podium finish. The flow of Toyota Hilux vehicles were interrupted by Ernest Roberts/Henry Köhne (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara) who were fifth fastest (38min 13s), 37 seconds behind Visser/Stassen (37min 36s) and only three seconds faster than team-mates, Richard Leeke/Zaheer Bodhanya (38min 15s) who tackled the Lichtenburg 400 together for the first time while it was also Leeke’s first outing in the Red-Lined Motorsport Navara. Leeke/Bodhanya were again only eight seconds ahead of Shameer Variawa/Juan Möhr (38min 23s) in the fourth Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux.

With the first seven positions occupied by FIA Class teams, three Class T teams were covered by a blanket of 28 seconds behind them. Gary Bertholdt/Geoff Minnitt (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) will lead Class T on Saturday morning despite suffering a broken rear sideshaft four kilometres from the finish. The Brazilian team of Marcos Baumgart/Kleber Cincea (38min 32s) is the leading Ford Castrol Cross Country Ranger, six seconds behind Bertholdt/Minnitt (38min 26s) and 18 seconds ahead of the Horn brothers, Johan and Werner (Malalane Toyota) who also wrong slotted.

Just outside the top 10, are Johan and his son, Sean van Staden (Elf Renault Duster) who were followed by Jacques van Tonder/Boyd Dreyer (Ford Ranger) with the defending Class T champions and current class leaders, Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable (Ford Castrol Cross Country Ranger) also losing valuable time with a wrong slot. They are, however, playing it safe and aim to bag the title before the sixth and final event.

There was again not much difference between the following Class T teams with Wors Prinsloo/Sammy Redelinghuys (Ford Ranger) 15 seconds behind the current class leaders and a mere five seconds ahead of Jason Venter/Jaco van Aardt (4×4 Mega World ARB Toyota Hilux) who lost power steering and brakes in the first half of the race.

Behind them Clint Weston/Riaan Greyling (Schalk Burger Motorsport King Price Extreme) will be lining up in the Production Vehicle category followed by Mark Corbett/Rodney Burke (CR6) with Corbett getting his confidence back after a huge crash late last year.

The Class S champions, David Huddy/Gerhard Schutte (Nissan Navara) will be next in line with Schalk Burger/Elvene Vonk (Schalk Burger Motorsport King Price Extreme) behind them. Burger/Vonk lost valuable time when they got stuck after overshooting and then slipped off a bridge when they reversed. Bernard and Minette Johnstone (Toyota Hilux) as well as track-racer, Kishoor Pitamber/André Vermeulen (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara) also made it safely home.

In the Special Vehicle category, the young Moosajee brothers, Taahir and Talha (Dunlop Zone Stryker) are on pole after posting the fastest time (39 min 07s) in the category as well as in Class A. They will be chased by the category and class leaders, Lance Trethewey/Adriaan Roets (LT Earthmovers BAT Venom) who will start second. The BAT suffered a misfire throughout the race and the team were 51 seconds slower than the Moosajee siblings.

There was a successful Qualifying Race result in the bag for Sandra Labuschagne-Jonck and husband, Jaco Jonck (Total Agri Porter) who were third fastest (41min 33s) despite overheating issues. Guy Henley/Hein Möhr (CR2) made a come-back to the SACCS and will be leading Class P although they were only five seconds faster than Class P title contenders, Nic Goslar/Andrew Massey (Mens Clinic Zarco Magnum). A real battle can be expected here and with Julio Ferreira/Mohamed Moultson (Aceco) also in the fray, the outcome can be quite interesting.

Ferreira/Moultson wrong slotted about 50 metres before the finish and did not go through the flying finish. They will start towards the back of the field.
John Thomson/Maurice Zermatten (Mormond Zarco Challenger) broke a rear sideshaft and could not finish the Qualifying Race but will be on the start line in the morning.

In the Side x Side National Championship (SxS NC), SACCS newcomers Theo Erasmus/Edward Odendaal (Can-Am Maverick) made a good impression by posting the fastest time. They will be under pressure from the current class leaders, Werner and Leon Mostert in a similar vehicle, who were only 2 seconds slower than the leaders after 55 kilometres. Dewald van Breda/Johann du Toit were not far behind and rounded off the podium followed by Christo Rose/Dirk Swart and Peter Walter/Pierre Jordaan, all competing with Can-Am Maverick SxS vehicles. It is Jordaan’s first time in the navigator seat and the team are looking forward to the race.

Ridhwan and Mohammed Dada (Can-Am X3 RS Turbo) also competed in their first SACCS event and will bring up the rear.

On Saturday, 14 September the first vehicle will leave the Lichtenburg showgrounds at 08:00 to tackle the 180 km race. After completing the first of the two loops, teams will be back at the Designated Service Point (DSP) at the showgrounds for a compulsory 30 minute de-control before taking on the second and final loop. With lots of spectating points along the route, the Lichtenburg 400 promises to provide lots of action for competitors and spectators.

Qualifying Results – Click to download

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