Motorsport: Battlefields 400
South African champions Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie scored their second victory of the season with a comfortable win on the Battlefields 400, round two of the South African Cross Country Auto Series (SACCS), which ended here today.
The race was run in treacherous conditions with a wet route compounded by freezing temperatures. A lone puncture was the only hiccup for Poulter/Howie who again dominated the premier FIA class for cars conforming to FIA specifications. The pair came in over three minutes ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team-mates Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy.
It was a sterling drive from the former Dakar Rally winner and Murphy with the pair starting more than 20 minutes behind Poulter/Howie after rolling the Toyota Hilux in the qualifying race to determine grid positions. Seventh overall and third in the FIA Class were Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson who debuted a Renault Duster.
“It was slippery, fast and hairy,” was Poulter’s laconic comment at the finish. But apart from the puncture the pair never put a foot wrong.
The final podium place and the win in Class T for cars above four litres with solid axle rear suspension, went to Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable in the Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Ranger. The pair finished around seven minutes clear of Woolridge’s younger brother Gareth and Boyd Dreyer in a second Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Ranger.
The younger Woolridge and Dreyer were penalised 10 minutes for not stopping at a road crossing in the qualifying race, and started the day 13th in the Production Vehicle class. They made up wads of time but it was a costly error that ultimately cost them a shot at winning Class T.
It was, however, an excellent result for the Pietermaritzburg team with the Dundee event a home race. The only blot on the copybook was a non finish for rookies Henk Lategan and Barry White who rolled their Ranger in the second half of the race.
Fifth place overall and third in Class T went to Hennie de Klerk and former South African champion Achim Bergmann in the Treasury One/Atlas Copco VW Amarok. Bergmann was having his first outing in a race car for years, and an impressive performance saw them come in ahead of brothers Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) who won the season opener in Lichtenburg.
A misty windscreen saw the brothers beach the Hilux on some rocks with the incident costing them two minutes. Behind the Mpumalanga pair Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson were delighted with the Renault Duster’s potential, and after a tricky qualifying race they also made up places.
Gary Bertholdt and Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco VW Amarok) also ran into problems via a broken rear differential and nursed the car home over the last 100 kilometres. They finished up eight overall and seventh in class with the top 10 rounded out by reigning Class T champions Jason Venter and Vince Van Allemann (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) and Jacques van Tonder and Leander Pienaar in a Ford Ranger.
Class S for cars up to four litres with solid axle rear suspension provided Richard Leeke junior and Henry Kohne (Ford Ranger) with a maiden national championship victory. The pair were hampered by fuel pressure problems but were comfortably ahead of David Huddy and Gerhard Schutte in a Nissan Navara.
Notable retirements were former South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) who broke a front prop shaft, and Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer in a Ford Ranger. Dakar quad hero, Baragwanath/Cremer were having their first outing in the Production Vehicle category having previously campaigned among the Special Vehicles.
The next event on the SACCS calendar is the iconic Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, based in Jwaneng, on June 23, 24 and 25.