Motorsport: Lichtenburg 400
South African champions Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie preserved a two year unbeaten record for the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team when they won the Production Vehicle category at the Lichtenburg 400, the opening round of the South African Cross Country (SACCS) championship, here today.
It was a comfortable enough victory for Poulter and Howie but the team’s other entry, the Toyota Hilux crewed by former Dakar winner Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy, retired with mechanical issues on the second of two 170 kilometres loops that made up the race. Rear brake issues put paid to de Villiers/Murphy with both cars the lone entries in the FIA Class for Dakar specification vehicles.
“We had some issues on the first loop including falling into a mud hole,” said Poulter. “It meant we had to push hard over the final loop.”
Poulter and Howie came in around three minutes ahead of Johan and Werner Horn, in the Malalane Toyota Hilux, to win Class T for cars above four litres with solid axle suspension. It was a great come from behind win for the Horns who started 11th after the 50 kilometre sprint yesterday to determine grid positions.
The sprint format for the qualifying race, however, saw the Horns start only a fraction over two minutes behind Poulter and Howie. It was a terrific fight back from the brothers with the final podium place going to Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer in a Ford NWM Puma Lubrications Ranger.
Woolridge and Dreyer started the day in fourth place and came in ahead of team-mates Henk Lategan and Barry White who were making their debut for the factory squad. Lategan and White have plenty of national and international rally experience but a top five placing in a highly competitive class was an outstanding effort.
“The route was a little easier than we expected,” said Lategan who is the son of former Toyota works driver Hein Lategan. “Barry and I were enjoying the experience but it was demanding and hard on the body.”
The top five was completed by former South African champions and Ford factory crew Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux previously campaigned by Gary Bertholdt. They were around three and a half minutes ahead of Hennie de Klerk and Rodney Burke in the Treasury One/Atlas Copco VW Amarok who started fifth alongside Lategan and Dreyer when both crews were credited with the same time in the qualifying race.
After losing time on the first loop through two punctures and the car falling off the jack Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable, in the third of the Ford NWM Puma Lubrications Rangers, finally had to settle for seventh place. After starting the day in third place it was a disappointing finish for the elder of the Woolridge brothers and Huxtable.
“After a year on the side-lines I was happy with the way it went,” said Woolridge. “I settled in nicely and it was good to be back.”
A steady performance from Bertholdt and Philip Herselman, in the Atlas Copco VW Amarok, took them into eight place. Behind them there was another sterling come from behind performance from Class T champions Jason Venter and Vince van Allemann (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) who ran into power steering problems and retired from the qualifying event.
The pair started from the back of the field and worked their way up to ninth to earn precious championship points. Venter’s father Deon and Jaco van Aardt, in another 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux, finished 10th ahead of Jacques van Tonder and former South African champion Joks le Roux (Ford Ranger) who were the last of the Class T brigade.
A very rocky and tight course took its toll on Class S for cars up to four litres with solid axle rear suspension. Former SA champion Jannie Visser, who won the title with le Roux in seasons gone by, and son Chris were the only finishers in a race run in the Vissers backyard.
The next round of the SACCS championship, the Battlefields Lodge 400, will be run in KwaZulu-Natal on May 12 and 13.
Images: Nadia Jordaan