Tgrsa Safari 1000 Off To A Good Start

The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA (TGRSA) Safari 1000, the third round of the SA Rally-Raid Championship that is taking place over three days on 21, 22 and 23 June from the Koedoeskop Laerskool in the Thabazimbi area in Limpopo, got off to a solid start with teams completing the 14 kilometre Castrol Qualifying Race and Stage One of a 100 kilometres. The day was characterised by dust, tight corners combined with flat out terrain and tricky navigation while punctures and a few mechanical issues as well as sterling performances set the scene for more spectacular racing action to follow.

Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings (TGRSA Hilux IMT EVO) were the first team to take on the 14 kilometre Castrol Qualifying Race during the morning and posted the fastest time. As expected, not much separated the teams and Jayden Els/Henry Köhne (King Price Xtreme SVR) finished only two seconds behind in second place followed 17 seconds later by two teams with the exact same time – Brian Baragwanath/Leonard Cremer (Century Racing CR7 Twin Turbo) and Saood Variawa/Francois Cazalet (TGRSA Hilux IMT EVO) with their TGRSA team-mates, Guy Botterill/Dennis Murphy finishing fifth, three seconds further adrift.

The top ten teams then drew for their starting positions with Lategan/Cummings taking the gamble by choosing to start Stage One from 10th place with Botterill/Murphy having to open the road followed by Variawa/Cazalet and Els/Köhne. Baragwanath/Cremer were off in fourth place followed by Chris Visser/Albertus Venter (Red-Lined REVO T1+ GTR) in fifth place.

Despite being 10th on the road, the gamble for Lategan/Cummings paid off with the team posting the fastest time again. Their total time (01:17:30) was a minute and 58 seconds faster than their team-mates, De Villiers/Vonk who wrong-slotted and were caught behind teams who suffered punctures and mechanical issues. Behind De Villiers/Vonk, the reigning champions and 2023 desert race winners, Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer (Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford NWM Ranger T1+) stormed home to post the third fastest combined time, trailing the current SARRC leaders by a mere 30 seconds after starting Stage One from 27th position due to time lost with a puncture in the qualifier.

The second Ford NWM Ranger T1+ in the hands of Lance Woolridge/Kenny Gilbert finished fourth, 44 seconds behind their team-mates with the top five rounded out by Botterill/Murphy who, like Woolridge/Gilbert, had to manage a flat tyre towards the end of the stage.

Also in the top ten were the brothers, Fouché and Bertus Blignaut (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid Toyota Hilux IMT EVO) in a total time of 01:21:33, nine seconds ahead of Baragwanath/Cremer in seventh place; Wors Prinsloo/André Vermeulen (Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford NWM Ranger T1+), 30 seconds further adrift in eighth and only 14 seconds ahead of Eben Basson/Leander Pienaar (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid) who ended the day as the leaders in the Adventurer T1 Class in their quest for a first race finish this season. Basson/Pienaar were 56 seconds ahead of their class rivals, Johan de Bruyn/Adriaan Roets (Red-Lined REVO T1) who were 10th overall.

There were four more FIA Ultimate T1+ teams just outside the top 10 which included three Red-Lined Motorsport teams. The Dutch driver, Rients Hofstra together with Wade Harris (REVO T1+ GTR) finished 11th while Visser/Venter had to settle for 13th place due to time lost with a puncture and then caught behind Variawa/Cazalet who broke a rear diff and eventually finished 22nd. The Dutch couple, Dave and Tessa Klaassen (REVO T1+ GTR) were 15th.

Ahead of them, Johan and Werner Horn’s #TeamHilux Rally-Raid DKR Hilux T1+ suffered a burst rear tyre a few kilometres before the finish with the team finishing 12th overall and 10th in the FIA Ultimate T1+ Class. The German driver, Jϋrgen Schröder and Rikus Fourie (Nissan Navara VK50) rounded out the Adventurer T1 podium and were 14th overall.

In a frantic last minute entry, the two ladies, Puck Klaassen and ace navigator, Carolyn Swan entered a Maverick Rotax and finished 16th.  Although the vehicle ticks all the boxes, the team will not  score any points towards the SARRC at this event. They finished just ahead of Johan and Sean van Staden (Renault Duster) who were fourth in the Adventurer T1 Class.

Only two SSV teams entered the TGRSA Safari 1000 with Geoff Minnitt/Rodney Burke (Hydro Power Equipment Can-Am Maverick) the early leaders in 18th place overall while former champions, Ian Mostert with his father, Werner, reading the notes in the Moto-Netix Racing Can-Am Maverick, were 29th.

Among the teams who suffered mechanical problems were Els/Köhne who lost power steering and then struggled with fuel pressure. They eventually finished 30th overall and will have their work cut out for them taking on the second day from the back of the field. The German driver, Daniel Schröder and Ryan Bland moved to the Ultimate T1+ Class with their new WCT Amarok, but after completing the qualifying race in eighth place, they could not complete Stage One as was the case with Schalk Burger/Armand du Toit (King Price Xtreme VW Amarok).

Stage Two and Three, each consisting of 189 tough and technical kilometres awaits the teams on the second day of the TGRSA Safari 1000. The racing action will commence at 08:00 on Saturday morning when the teams will start in the order of the results of the first day. Koedoeskop Laerskool is the venue from where all the activities will take place.

Image :  Dave Ledbitter

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