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After an extremely tough, tight, dusty and overall challenging Toyota Gazoo Racing Safari 1000, the third round of the SA Rally-Raid Championship that took place in the Bushveld around the Thabazimbi area over three days 21, 22 and 23 June, and a thousand kilometres, it was Henk Lategan and his navigator, Brett Cummings in the TGRSA Toyota Hilux IMT EVO who claimed their first victory of this marathon event.

The team romped home to claim the victory with a total race time of 12 hours, 17 minutes and 39 seconds. They put their noses in the front by winning the Castrol Qualifying Race and Stage One on Friday then continued to open the road on Saturday to win Stages Two and Three. On the third and final day, they again opened the road and went on to win the final two stages. Both Lategan and Cummings, for who racing in the Waterberg area was a new experience this year seeing they did not compete in the event last year, admitted that it was a really challenging event that included tricky navigation. They were, however, delighted with the hard-earned result and their first marathon win.

The battle between the teams at the front has been fierce and although Lategan/Cummings had the bit between their teeth, they could not dare to put a wheel wrong as the four chasing teams all had their eye on the podium. With thick dust as well as the extremely tight route on the final day playing a huge role, Lance Woolridge/Kenny Gilbert (Neil Woolridge Motorsport NWM Ford Ranger T1+) caught up to the leaders, but a flat tyre after they hit a yump that sent them flying, cost them time and they decided to rather play it safe. The team finished second, just over five minutes behind the winners.

Giniel de Villiers/Elvéne Vonk in the second TGRSA Hilux IMT EVO started the final day from third behind Lategan/Cummings and Woolridge/Gilbert, but had to settle for 14th place overall after bad luck in the final stages of the race and damage to their vehicle cost them dearly. That played into the hands of Brian Baragwanath/Leonard Cremer (Century Racing CR7 Twin Turbo) to move onto the podium after an ‘almost perfect’ three days of racing.

A flat tyre during the Castrol qualifier and a broken side shaft in the early stages of the race caused the 2023 desert race winners, Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer (Neil Woolridge Motorsport NWM Ford Ranger T1+) to lose time and start further down the field, did not stop them of producing a sterling performance. They finished fourth overall as well as in the FIA Ultimate T1+ Class with no real issues during the rest of the race. They were followed by the Blignaut brothers, Fouché and Bertus (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid Toyota IMT EVO) who rounded out the top five despite the 20 minute penalty they received on the second day.

Behind the Blignauts, two more #TeamHilux Rally-Raid teams finished this tough albeit enjoyable event with the winners of the Adventurer T1 Class, Eben Basson/Leander Pienaar in sixth place despite experiencing a frustrating two days that included a number of flat tyres. The Horn brothers, Johan and Werner (Toyota Hilux DKR T1+) also had their share of frustrations including no communication for the best part of the last day resulting in challenging navigation and errors.

The rest of the top 10 after three days and almost a thousand kilometres of racing, included Wors Prinsloo/André Vermeulen (Neil Woolridge Motorsport NWM Ford Ranger T1+) who managed brake problems on the final day to finish eighth overall. They were followed by the Adventurer T1 podium finishers, Gerhard and Rudi Heinlein (Red-Lined VK56 Evo2) who finished second after a trouble-free race and Johan and Sean van Staden (Renault Duster) who were third. Just over five minutes eventually separated these two teams in second and third place in the class while Johan de Bruyn/Adriaan Roets (Red-Lined REVO T1), who were 11th overall, finished a mere 89 seconds behind the Van Staden family and were fourth in the class.

As always, the marathon event again took its toll on the competitors with 21 teams managing to reach the finish. Four more Century Racing teams made it to the finish with the Dutch duo of Rik van den Brink/Gydo Heimans (Century Racing CR7 Twin Turbo) completing their first marathon event in South Africa in 12th place; the Farmers Meat CR6 team-mates of Eugene Bierman/Marius Lombard were 13th while Lood du Preez/Juandré Kruger were 16th and William Battershill/Gary Campbell brought their Century Racing CR6 home in 18th place.

In the Red-Lined Motorsport camp, Philip Botha/Gerhard Schutte (Red-Lined VK56) also received the chequered flag as the 15th finishers with Pim Klaassen/Rikus Hattingh (REVO T1+) in 19th. There was only one team to finish in the SSV Class with Geoff Minnitt/Rodney Burke (Hydro Power Equipment Can-Am Maverick) reaching the finish as the 17th overall despite multiple flat tyres.

Lady luck turned her back on the two TGRSA Hilux IMT EVO teams of Guy Botterill/Dennis Murphy and Saood Variawa/Francois Cazalet, Botterill/Murphy made a great start to the race and were in the top five until halfway through the second day when they experienced electrical problems that resulted in them dropping down the field. They finished the day in 24th place and had to battle from the back eventually finishing in 20th place. Variawa/Cazalet did not start the final day after hitting a ditch on the second day resulting in damage to their vehicle.

The lady’s team of Puck Klaassen and Carolyn Swan were the last team to receive the chequered flag with their Maverick R.

Also out of luck this year were Chris Visser/Albertus Venter (Red-Lined REVO T1+ GTR) as well as their team-mates, Rients Hofstra/Wade Harris and Dave and Tessa Klaassen. The German drivers, Jurgen Schroder together with Rikus Fourie (Nissan Navara) and Daniel Schroder with Ryan Bland (WCT Amarok) as well as Ian and Werner Mostert (Moto-Netix Racing Can-Am Maverick) could also not reach the finish.

The TGRSA Safari 1000 also included the Road to Dakar adventure. Five teams entered this challenge where the winners receive a free entry to compete in the 2025 Dakar Rally. Prinsloo/Vermeulen came out on top followed by the Heinlein’s and Van den Brink/Heimans in third.

(The results of the 2024 TGRSA Safari 1000 are not final, pending compliance investigations.)

Published by: SA Rally-Raid Championship (Charmaine Fortune)

Photography by: Dave Ledbitter

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