Late drama as Class T champions relegated to 17th position in overall results

Dundee, Friday – South African champion Giniel de Villiers and stand-in navigator Dennis Murphy, in the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux, won today’s qualifying race for the second round of the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS), the Battlefields 400, here tomorrow.
De Villiers and Murphy, standing in for the injured Rob Howie, came in 34 seconds ahead of another FIA Class crew, Jason Venter and Jaco van Aardt – 4×4 Mega World ARB Toyota Hilux, in the 53 kilometre dash to determine grid positions for tomorrow’s race. A third FIA Class crew, Henk Lategan and Barry White, in the second Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux, completed the podium.
De Villiers/Murphy and Venter/van Aardt reported clean runs but for Lategan and White it was a ‘baptism of fire.’ White co-drove with Lategan last year in the Ford NWM team competing in Class T, and was called into action when Murphy replaced Howie, who injured his back on the recent Qatar Rally.
“The FIA Class was a baptism of fire for Barry,” said Lategan. “We lost the RallySafe feature early on and had a few overshoots on a tricky and slippery route. It could have been a lot worse.”
Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer in Ford NWM Ranger, who won the qualifying race on the recent Mpumalanga 400, were fourth fastest and the first of the Class T cars. Johan and Werner Horn, in the Malalane Toyota Hilux, were originally classified fifth overall and second Class T car home, but were later penalised for lateness in the formation line-up before the start.
With close times over the 53 kilometre dash for grid positions, the penalty dropped the Horns down to 17th place in the results and was a major blow for the reigning Class T champions. That elevated Gary Bertholdt and Geoff Minnitt (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) into fifth overall, and second in Class T ahead of team-mates Chris Visser and Philip Herselman in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux running in the FIA Class.
The ever steady Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson (Elf Renault Duster) also picked up a place to finish seventh overall, with the top eight rounded out by Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable in a second Ford NWM Ranger. For Woolridge and Huxtable, who won Class T on the opening event of the season it was a nightmare drive.
“The bolts anchoring my seat in place snapped off within the first few kilometres,” said Woolridge. “The rest of qualifying was a nightmare with my seat rather unsteady for the rest of the race.”
The first car home in Class S was the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux of Archie Rutherford and Pieter van Wyk. They were comfortably ahead of David Huddy and Gerhard Schutte, in the Nissan Navara, with the two crews the only entrants in the class.
Race headquarters, the start/finish and designated service park are all located at the Battlefields Lodge on the outskirts of Dundee. Public entry to these areas and spectator vantage points along the route is free of charge, with route guides available at race headquarters.
The race is scheduled for two laps of approximately 170 kilometres and will start at 08:00. There will be a 20 minute compulsory service halt and regroup after the first lap and the race will restart at 12:00.
The programme of events also includes a round of the KwaZulu-Natal regional championship and round two of the SxS interprovincial challenge.