Former Dakar Rally winner Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy took their second Production Vehicle category win of the season with victory on the Harrismith 400, fourth round of South African Cross Country Series (SACCS), here today.
De Villiers and Murphy followed up their win on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in June, with a comfortable win that preserved the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA unbeaten record dating back to the 2015 season. Pre-race favourites and championship leaders Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, in the second Toyota Gazoo Hilux, were forced to retire with a broken gearbox on the second of the 200 kilometre loops that made up the race.
“It was a really fast event and we had no real issues,” said de Villiers at the finish. “By the end of the race the track was well worn.”
Joining de Villiers/Murphy on the podium were the two Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Rangers of Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer and Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable, who finished first and second in Class T, to put championship pressure on Johan and Werner Horn in the Malalane Toyota Hilux. The Horn brothers led the championship going into the event, and finished fourth in class and fifth overall behind former South African champion Chris Visser and Philip Herselman in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux.
“Until around the halfway mark we were ahead of Gareth,” said the elder of the two Woolridge brothers. “We are not sure where or how but he upped the pace.
“For all that it was a good day for the team with two cars on the podium and a top 10 finish for Henk Lategan and Barry White.”
The super quick conditions put “a lot of pressure on the navigators” said Visser who linked up with Herselman for the first time. The pair were four minutes ahead of the Horns who had a comfortable margin between them and fifth placed Luke Botha and Andre Vermeulen in a new Red-Lined Nissan Navara.
The ever consistent Johan van Staden and stand-in co-driver Juan Mohr were seventh overall and finished second to de Villiers/Murphy in the FIA Class in the Elf Renault Duster. They came home ahead of Lategan/White, in the third NWM Ford Puma Lubricants Ranger, who lost around 20 minutes in the pits after the first loop with a rear break problem.
A steady performance saw home town boy Jacques van Tonder and Leander Pienaar (Ford Ranger) finish ninth overall and seventh in Class T. The top 10 was rounded out by Terence Marsh and celebrity co-driver Brent Lindeque in the Red-Lined Nissan Navara with the pair third in the FIA Class.
Behind them former SA champion Jannie Visser and son Chris (Toyota Hilux) scored their third win in as many events in Class S to cement their hold on the class title. David Huddy and Gerhard Schutte (Nissan Navara) were the only other finishers in a class that saw Richard Leeke/Henry Kohne (Ford Ranger) and Archie Rutherford/Kent Rutherford (Toyota Hilux) also fall by the wayside.
It was also not a day to remember for the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux team with reigning Class T champions Jason Venter/Vince van Allemann forced to retire when a gearbox pipe burst spilling oil on an exhaust pipe. The pair managed to put out the ensuing fire, but there was more grief for the team when father Deon Venter and Jaco van Aardt rolled the second 4×4 Mega World Hilux on the first lap.
The next round of the championship will be the popular Sun City 400 on September 15 and 16. The event offers a weekend of national championship motor racing and a weekend getaway at a world renowned holiday resort.
Images: Nadia Jordaan