FAMILIAR TERRITORY FOR POULTER/HOWIE IN SA CROSS COUNTRY SERIES
- Horn brothers take early lead in Class T
South African champions Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie are in familiar territory atop the overall and FIA Class standings in the Production Vehicle category after round one of the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS).
A predictable win for Poulter and Howie on the Lichtenburg 400 also preserved the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team’s two year unbeaten streak in the championship. The other factory car, in the hands of former Dakar winner Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy, was forced to retire with brake problems in loop two with the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA cars the only entries in the FIA Class.
It is in Class T – for cars over four litres with fixed axle rear suspension – that early signs point to a highly competitive season with any one of half a dozen or more teams capable of pulling off victories. It makes for an interesting season with a nice blend of youth versus experience among crews adding to the mix.
Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn, in the Malalane Toyota Hilux, took the Lichtenburg win after starting 11th on the grid. That gave the brothers second place in the overall standings and the lead in Class T.
A technical issue – an electrical problem saw the engine cut out when sixth gear was engaged – hampered the brothers in the 50 kilometre qualifying race. But with the electrical problem resolved and a go for broke strategy in the race, the Horns came home comfortably ahead of Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer in the Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Ranger.
The next nine cars among the classified finishers were all Class T entries with Woolridge and Dreyer, followed by team-mates Henk Lategan/Barry White taking podium places behind the Horn brothers. Lategan and White have widespread rally experience, but it was a highly encouraging debut for the pair in a factory team environment.
Former South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) were fifth overall and fourth in class, with Hennie de Klerk and Rodney Burke (Treasury One /Atlas Copco VW Amarok) next up in a performance that offers plenty of encouragement for the rest of the season. Evidence of the depth in the Class T ranks was also provided by experience in the form of Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable (Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Ranger) and Gary Bertholdt/Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco VW Amarok).
There were also qualifying race woes for reigning champions Jason Venter and Vince van Allemann (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux), and retirement after power steering problems saw them start from the back of the field. They rescued valuable points with eighth in class, with Deon Venter/Jaco van Aardt (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) and Jacques van Tonder/Joks le Roux (Ford Ranger) in the last of the Class T points paying positions.
The maths in Class S, for cars up to four litres with solid axle rear suspension, is a simple matter. Former South Africa champion Jannie Visser and son Chris (Toyota Hilux), competing in their North West province backyard, were the only finishers with a rocky and tight course taking its toll among the Class S brigade.
The next event on the SACCS calendar moves to Dundee in KwaZulu-Natal for the Battlefields 400 on May 12 and 13. It has also been confirmed that the final event on the SACCS calendar in October will be the Gold 400 in Westonaria.
An announcement is expected shortly on the venue for the fourth round of the series in July. The event follows the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race in Jwaneng form 23 to 25 June.
Images: Nadia Jordaan
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