New Championship Leaders

With three rounds of the 2024 SA Rally-Raid Championship, that included the tough and testing TGRSA Safari 1000 marathon that recently took place in the Thabazimbi area of the Limpopo Province, now something of the past, new overall leaders have emerged with the standings in the overall as well as the class championships setting the perfect stage for a nail-biting second half of the season.

The recent Safari 1000 proved to be a real challenge and when the dust had settled after three days and almost a thousand kilometres of racing, it was the race winners, Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings (TGRSA Toyota Hilux IMT EVO) who moved up from their third place to the top step in the overall standings. The former multiple champions could not complete the opening round of the season after an unfortunate incident but fought back with a vengeance to claim two consecutive victories, which also heralded their first ‘desert race’ win. Lategan/Cummings have now earned 75 points towards the overall championship.

Their team-mates, Giniel de Villiers/Elvéne Vonk, who were the overall leaders after the first two rounds, dropped back to second place and trail them by 16 points. The team produced a solid performance at the Safari 1000 until technical challenges in the final section of the race resulted in them finishing 14th overall.

Lance Woolridge/Kenny Gilbert (Neil Woolridge Motorsport NWM Ford Ranger T1+) made quite a significant jump in the overall standings with their move from eighth to third place after their second-place finish at Thabazimbi. A mere seven points now separate them from De Villiers/Vonk. The Ford team are sandwiched between the Toyota Gazoo Racing teams with Guy Botterill/Dennis Murphy only one point behind in fourth place. The team lost time due to technical difficulties on the second day of the Safari 1000 that dropped them down the field.

Behind them, the Blignaut brothers, Fouché and Bertus (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid DKR Hilux T1+) are still fifth overall (45 points) followed by the second NWM Ford Ranger in the hands of the defending champions, Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer who made the biggest move on the overall points’ ladder by shooting up from 14th to sixth place (35 points). Although the team could not claim a second consecutive ‘desert race’ victory, they managed to finish fourth after having to fight back from lower down the field.

Behind them, only eight points cover the rest of the overall top ten. The Horn brothers, Johan and Werner (#ToyotaHilux Rally-Raid DKR Hilux T1+) are a single point adrift in seventh place followed by Brian Baragwanath/Leonard Cremer (Century Racing CR7 Twin Turbo) who charged from nowhere to eighth place (31 points) after completing the Safari 1000 in third place.

Johan de Bruyn/Adriaan Roets (Red-Lined REVO T1+) moved from 10th to ninth place (27 points) and kept their lead in the Adventurer Class followed by the runners-up in this class, the Heinlein duo, Gerhard and Rudi (Red-Lined Motorsport VK56 Evo2) who moved into the top 10 trailing the class leaders by one point.

After not being able to complete the Safari 1000, Chris Visser/Albertus Venter (Red-Lined Motorsport REVO GTR) dropped out of the top 10 to 12th place, two points behind Wors Prinsloo/André Vermeulen (Neil Woolridge Motorsport NWM Ford Ranger T1+) who finished the marathon event in eighth place while a non-finish also saw Jayden Els/Henry Köhne (King Price Xtreme SVR) drop from eight places to 14th (18 points). They are two points behind Eben Basson/Leander Pienaar (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid Toyota Hilux) who finally got their title defence off the ground when they won the Adventurer Class at the TGRSA Safari 1000 to bag 20 points after not having earned any points after the first two events. This pushed them to 13th place on the overall standings.

The Dutch crew, Rik van den Brink/Gydo Heimans (Century Racing CR7 Twin Turbo) rounds out the top 15 (16 points).

The various class championships have also seen some changes. In the Ultimate T1+ Class, the same teams still occupy the podium although in a different order and with a little added twist.

Lategan/Cummings now own the top step (90 points) followed by De Villiers/Vonk (78 points) who dropped to second place. Botterill/Murphy (72 points) are third, but the team are level pegging on points with Lance Woolridge/Gilbert who were sixth before the Safari 1000. The Blignaut brothers (60 points) are fifth followed by the Horn brothers (53 points) with the defending champions, Gareth Woolridge/Dreyer, not too far behind in seventh place (50 points).

After not being able to earn points at the first two events although receiving the additional five points for starting an event, like all competitors in the class championships do, Baragwanath/Cremer are now eighth in the class (46 points) with Prinsloo/Vermeulen ninth (45 points) while Visser/Venter dropped from fourth to 10th place (37 points).

In the Adventurer Class, De Bruyn/Roets are still leading (95 points), but only two points separate them from the Heinlein family who have moved into second place and the battle lines have been drawn. Behind them the standings between the drivers and navigators looks somewhat different due to Botha making use of two different navigators. Botha is third in the Adventurer Drivers’ Championship (69 points) followed by Basson (60 points) and Johan van Staden (Renault Duster) on 58 points. The two German drivers, Daniel (55 points), who has moved to the Ultimate Class, and Jurgen Schröder (30 points) are sixth and seventh respectively.

Various battles are looming between the navigators in the Adventurer Class Championship. Here Pienaar has clawed his way onto the third step of the podium (60 points) with only two points keeping Sean van Staden (Renault Duster) off the podium in fourth place. Daniel’s navigator, Ryan Bland is fifth (55 points) while Schutte should keep his eye on the top five as he is currently sixth and only three points behind Bland. Jurgen’s regular navigator, Stuart Gregory, dropped from fourth to seventh (25 points) after missing the Safari 1000.

In the SSV Class, consistency has paid off for Geoff Minnitt/Rodney Burke (Hydro Power Equipment Can-Am Maverick) who have opened a large gap to their closest opponents. Minnitt, the defending SSV Drivers’ Champion (66 points) leads Dutch lady driver, Puck Klaassen (28 points) by 38 points with Ruperd Fourie (20 points) in third. Burke is 43 points ahead of Charl Swanepoel (23 points) who read the notes to Klaassen at round two while Fourie’s navigator, Morné van Rensburg (20 points) is third while the rest of the teams, all competing with the Can-Am Maverick, will have to play catch-up.

Toyota still leads the Manufacturers’ standings (335 points) followed by Ford (133 points) and Nissan third (39 points). Can-Am is fourth (26 points) and Renault rounds out the top five (21 points).

Teams now have almost six weeks to prepare for the fourth and fifth rounds of the SARRC that takes place in the surrounds of the boutique destination Parys on 16 and 17 August.

image: Dave Ledbitter

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