It was the same old story but with different personnel in heat one of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round three of the South African Cross Country Auto championship, here today.
Former Dakar Rally winner Giniel de Villiers and Denis Murphy scored their first win of the season to lead home a Toyota Gazoo Racing SA one/two on the only marathon event on the SACCS calendar. De Villiers/Murphy came in ahead of team-mates Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, winners of the first two rounds of the championship, with the two FIA Class cars conforming to Dakar specifications again demonstrating their superiority.
“It was a bit rough out there but we never had any issues and the car was good,” said de Villiers after finishing just short of two minutes ahead of reigning South African champions Poulter and Howie. The champions reported one puncture but found opening up the road a “challenging” task.
The final podium place went to Mpumalanga brothers Johan and Werner Horn, in the Malalane Toyota Hilux, who led home Class T for cars above four litres with solid axle rear suspension. It was their second win of the season with a slight hiccup when they broke a side shaft 50 kilometres from the finish and had to nurse the car home.
Reigning Class T champions Jason Venter and Vince van Allemann (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) finally found some form to finish fourth with the top five rounded out by Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable (Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Ranger) who joined the Horns on the Class T podium. Venter/van Allemann “had a lot of fun” passing Special Vehicle category cars, while Woolridge/Huxtable reported “electrical niggles” on the first of the 210 kilometre loops that made up the race.
Sixth place and third in the FIA Class went to Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson in the Elf Renault Duster with the car having only its second competitive outing. The ever consistent van Staden/Lawrenson reported clean runs and were only 39 second behind the Ford Ranger.
A second Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Ranger in the hands of Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer was next up but it was not a happy run for the pair. Woolridge suffered from motion sickness on the first lap and two puncture slowed the pair on lap two.
For all that they managed to put some time between them and Hennie de Klerk/Achim Bergman, in the Treasury One/Atlas Copco VW Amarok, and Deon Venter and Jaco van Aardt in the second 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux. Side shaft and fuel rail problems delayed Venter and van Aardt, with de Klerk/Bergman the victims of a couple of punctures.
A top 10 finish was the reward for Class S winners Jannie Visser and son Chris (Toyota Hilux) in the class for cars up to four litres with solid axle rear suspension. As expected former SA champion Visser revelled in the conditions, but they were given a run for the money by another North West crew in Heinie Strumpher and Henri Hugo in the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux.
David Huddy and Rodney Cook (Nissan Navara) completed the Class S finishers. Ford Ranger pair Richard Leeke junior and Henry Kohne ran out of luck and spare wheels when a succession of punctures put paid to their first Botswana outing.
Among the high profile non finishers were Gary Bertholdt/Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco VW Amarok) and team-mates and former Desert Race winners Chris Visser/Japie Badenhorst in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux. Bertholdt/Herselman broke the gearbox and are uncertain starters for tomorrow’s second heat, while Visser and Badenhorst broke a rear differential with Henk Lategan/Barry White also failing to see out the distance in a third Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Ranger.
Tomorrow’s race will be run over a new route of 210 kilometres with the start scheduled for 08:15. There will again be a 20 minute compulsory service halt after the first loop.