The Production Vehicle category at the Sun City 400 today, round five of the South Cross Country Championship (SACCS), turned out to be a pretty good event if you are a Toyota supporter.
Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy, in a new Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux, scored a third successive win to go with successes on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race and Harrismith 400, and in the process wrapped up both the overall and Class FIA championships. The final podium positions also went to Toyota privateer teams with Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) edging out reigning champions Jason Venter/Vince van Allemann (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) by seven seconds in a hectic battle at the front of Class T.
De Villiers and Murphy were comfortably ahead of the two Class T cars, but were slowed by two punctures on the second of two laps that made up a typically difficult Sun City 400 route. They also preserved Toyota’s unbeaten record since 2015.
“The car performed perfectly but it is always difficult when you open up the route,” said de Villiers. “On the second lap at least we could see where we were going.”
The Horns and Venter/van Allemann had contrasting stories to tell. The Mpumalanga brothers reported clean runs to take a tight grip on the Class T title, while Venter/van Allemann were in the wars.
“On loop two we lost fourth gear and going into a corner the gearing was not strong enough to pull us through and we rolled,” Venter said. “Spectators helped us back on our wheels but then fifth gear had also gone, but we gave Johan and Werner a run for their money.”
Third in Class T went to Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable (Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Ranger) who were over four minutes in arrears. More important from a championship point of view, however, was that the Ford Ranger crew lost valuable ground in the battle for the Class T championship.
The top five was completed by local Rustenburg crew Dana Vos and Cornel Burger (BMW X3) who would have taken fifth place any day before the race. Making his first national championship appearance for four years Vos and Burger produced a performance akin to a “man of the match” award.
Behind them there was another outstanding performance, this time from Dakar Rally quad hero Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer in a Ford Ranger. The Class T rookies produced a steady drive that relegated Henk Lategan and Barry White (Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Ranger) into seventh place.
“This was obviously our best performance of the season, and development work is starting to pay off,” said Baragwanath. “We had one puncture which was frustrating.”
A blast from the past saw former Special Vehicle champion Shameer Variawa team up with Zaheer Bodhanya in a Nissan Navara to finish eighth overall and second in the FIA Class. They were followed home by Luke Botha/Andre Vermeulen (Red-Lined Nissan Navara), with the top 10 completed by and Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Elf Renault Duster) who recovered nicely after a difficult qualifying event to finish third among the FIA runners.
Class S saw a first time out this season winning performance from Kimberley based Toyota Hilux crew Ronald Graven and Lohan Faber. They overhauled Archie and Kent Rutherford in another Toyota Hilux with Dave Huddy and Gerhard Schutte in the Red-lined Nissan Navara.
Championship leaders Jannie and Chris Visser (Toyota Hilux) failed to win for the first time in four events this season. However, the former SA national champion and his son maintained a healthy lead in the championship.
The biggest losers on the day were youngsters Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer in a third Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Ranger. They blew a gearbox and that also blew them out of the water as far as the Class T championship is concerned.
The final event of the SACCS season is the Atlas Copco 400 at the Kloof Country Club, in Westonaria, on October 27 and 28.
Final Class Classification
Image: Nadia Jordaan