Rounds 4 and 5 of the 2021 South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) took place in the area around Bothaville on the weekend of October 1st and 2nd.
The double-header saw TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA’s Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings achieve overall victory in Round 4 of the championship, and settling for 3rd place in Round 5 after a penalty put paid to their hopes of a second consecutive win.
“It was a really good weekend for us,” said Lategan after parking his Class FIA Toyota Hilux in the parc ferme at Nampo Park. “The double-header was really tough, with two full races on consecutive days. But our car ran faultlessly, and despite tricky terrain and staunch competition, we came away with a win on Friday.”
The pair posted the second-fastest time in Friday’s qualifying race, just 16sec behind Brian Baragwanath in a CR6 buggy. During the main race, they managed to pass the two-wheel-drive car early on, and powered away to victory over two race loops of 180 km each.
“We had a lot to deal with on Friday,” continued Lategan. “The weather was foul, and we had to race through a storm. But our new turbo-powered Hilux was up to the challenge, and we brought the car home for a victory without major incidents.”
Saturday saw the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing crew win the qualifying race, before setting about the tricky business of staying in the lead despite opening the road. A puncture in the first loop placed Lategan under pressure, but despite this, they remained in the midst of the fight for the win.
“At the mid-point service, we decided to change the steering rack on Henk’s car as a safety precaution,” said TGRSA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, after the race. “We debated the decision before taking action, and in the end we ran over our allotted service time by a few minutes. As a result, Henk and Brett were given a two-minute penalty, which was applied after the race.”
Out on the route, however, Lategan/Cummings drove a perfect loop to place themselves at the top of the standings. The pair traded blows with archrivals Ford all afternoon, but brought their Hilux to the DSP as the race winners – only to be informed of the penalty. They were classified in third place as a result.
“Of course, it was disappointing to lose out today,” concluded Lategan. “But at the same time, we came here aiming to improve our position in the championship. With the win on Round 4, and a third place on Round 5, we’re now ahead of the competition with two races to go, so we are pleased with the results despite the penalty.”
Shameer Variawa and Danie Stassen, driving a V8-powered version of the Class FIA Toyota Hilux, finished in fifth place in Round 4, showing good pace during the day. However, a suspension problem precluded them from completing Round 5.
At the same time, the team continued the testing and development of their new Dakar challenger, the GR DKR Hilux T1+. The new car ran under special dispensation from the SACCS, but was not eligible to score championship points. Even so, competing in the race offered the team nearly 800 km of flat-out testing, with Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dennis Murphy taking charge of the new car – sacrificing their championship aspirations in the process.
“We tested the new car successfully in Namibia recently, clocking up roughly 1,500 km. Then we tested again before the 4×4 Mega World 400, and the race itself added another 800 km to our tally,” said Hall of the T1+ development. “So all-told, we’ve done 2,500 golden kilometres of testing to date, and we feel that we are making very good progress with the new car.”
The team will have another opportunity to add test mileage when they move to Vryburg for the penultimate round of the 2021 SACCS. The race will take place over the last weekend of October, in an area that is seen by many as the birthplace of cross-country racing.
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