The Waterberg 400, the seventh and final round of the 2023 SA Rally-Raid Championship that takes place on 10 and 11 November from the Koedoeskop Laerskool in the Thabazimbi area of Limpopo Province, is an all-new event on the calendar, and will be the battlefield where various titles will be determined. An extremely exciting season will be rounded off with two days of racing action where teams in both the Production and Special Vehicle Categories will have to complete a total of 415 kilometres, after which the 2023 national champions will be crowned.
In the Production Vehicle Category, all eyes will be at the front of the field, where the NWM Ford Castrol T1+ Ranger of Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dryer, who have been leading the overall and FIA T1+ championship standings since winning the TGRSA 1000 Botswana Desert Race halfway through the season, will go for gold to hopefully secure the titles. They will feel the pressure from the rest of the field, especially from the Toyota Gazoo Racing squad with former multiple SA Rally Champion, Guy Botterill, who is in with a chance for the Drivers’ Championship title.
Woolridge/Dreyer will aim for their third victory of the season and if everything goes according to plan, they will make history by claiming their first Overall Production Vehicle Championship title and FIA T1+ title as well as a first national overall title for Ford in South Africa. There might, however, be a few obstacles.
Botterill, who won Round Five at Parys with stand-in navigator, Zaheer Bodhanya, will be on the same mission – to lay claim to the overall and FIA T1+ Drivers’ Championship titles, to add to his impressive list of national titles, and to keep the honours in the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA camp. With team-mate Henk Lategan out of action due to a shoulder injury, his regular navigator, Brett Cummings, who is currently second in the navigators’ standings, will be partnering Botterill at the Waterberg 400 and they have a foot in the door and their eyes on the titles.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing arsenal has more fire power as former champions, Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy also have a chance to secure a worthy podium result for the team, while the young Saood Variawa will pair up with French navigator, Francois Cazalet, who will bring a vibrant dynamic to the team. Variawa finished on the podium at the penultimate round and would like nothing more than to complete the season with a similar result.
Anything can, however, happen at the front where good results from various capable teams can affect the standings. In the Ford corner, Lance Woolridge/Kenny Gilbert (NWM Ford Castrol T1+ Ranger) will be supporting their team-mates and looking for a solid result to end the season, while the visiting Spaniards, Daniel Alonso/Alejandro Lopez will be making their debut in their brand-new NWM Ford Ranger T1+.
The two sets of brothers in #TeamHilux Rally-Raid, Johan and Werner Horn and Fouché and Bertus Blignaut in the DKR T1+ vehicles will both be aiming for good results while Gary Bertholdt/Henry Köhne (Toyota Hilux T1+) could also round off their season with a good performance.
Having earned good points in the brand-new Century Racing CR7 Twin-Turbo at the penultimate event in Welkom, Brian Baragwanath/Leonard Cremer will again put their four-wheel drive vehicle through its paces, alongside three Century Racing CR6 4×2 vehicles also in the tussle. Lance Trethewey/Adriaan Roets (King Price Xtreme) are back in action after missing the Free State event with the two Farmers Meat Abattoirs teams of Lood du Preez/Junior Vardy and Eugene Bierman/Marius Lombard, who previously participated in the Special Vehicle Category, will be taking on their second event in the Production Vehicle Category.
FIA T1+ will also see two more international teams making their appearance in the colours of Red-Lined Motorsport. The Dutch pairing of Dave Klaassen/Tessa Rooth (REVO T1+) are regular competitors in the SARRC, and it will be a first experience for the Australian team of Adam Kaplan and Dale Moscatt in a similar REVO T1+.
A titanic battle has been raging at the front of the FIA T1 championship where reigning champions, Eben Basson/Leander Pienaar (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid) are fighting to keep the title, while the consistent Johan de Bruyn/Gerhard Schutte (Red-Lined Motorsport REVO T1) will be going to the Waterberg 400 trailing them by a mere nine points. Two more Red-Lined Motorsport contenders will support their team-mates in the battle for the crown with the Heinlein’s, Gerhard and Rudi (VK56) also aiming for another quality result, allowing them to move higher up the standings while Philip Botha/Roedolf Janse van Vuren (VK56) will be participating for the first time this season.
Johan and Sean van Staden (Renault Duster) as well as the German veteran, Jϋrgen Schröder and Ryan Bland (Nissan Navara VK50) are also aiming for the third place in the drivers’ standings with Johan currently leading the German by 22 points while Sean has secured the third place between the FIA T1 navigators.
Schalk Burger/Henk Janse van Vuuren (King Price Xtreme VW Amarok) are the lonely entry in Class T and have already clinched the title.
In the Special Vehicle Category, the situation for the overall Class G title and podium standings has been nerve-wrecking for the best part of the season, and the final event will no doubt produce more nail-biting moments before the multiple battles will eventually be settled.
At the front of Class G, Geoff Minnitt is the leading driver, but the gap to the two Moto-Netix Racing drivers behind him, Ian Mostert and Glen Theron, is too small for him to be safe meaning that any of the three drivers could walk away with the title. And amongst the navigators, Ian’s father and former champion, Werner, leads the way followed closely by his team-mate, Craig Galvin who sits next to Theron. Minnitt’s navigator, Rodney Burke has secured the third spot after only joining Minnitt at the Botswana event.
Minnitt, (Ian) Mostert and Theron are covered by a mere 12 points while Werner will start the race having bagged only three points more than Galvin meaning all three teams will give their utmost, while hoping for a healthy dash of good luck.
Ewald van Rensburg/Johan Scheepers and Francois and Neil de Wit, in similar Can-Am Mavericks as the rest of the teams, have secured their fourth and fifth places in the standings, but their performance could have a major influence in the multiway battles ahead of them.
The overall and Class A titles have been secured by Tim Howes/Gary Campbell (BAT Spec 4) who will be looking for their fifth victory of the season, and will be joined by the Makenete brothers, Keith and Andrew (BAT Makmobile) who are currently fourth in Class A and will be looking to complete another enjoyable event.
Quintin Lessing with Noel Acton in the navigators’ seat, have entered their Century CRT in Class P where Lessing has already secured the drivers title.
The action starts on Friday, 10 November at 12:30 with a 59 kilometre Pirelli Qualifying Race that will determine the starting order for the main race of the Waterberg 400 on Saturday, 11 November when two loops of 178 kilometres each will await competitors. The Start/Finish as well as the Race Headquarters and the Designated Service Point (DSP) will be situated at the Koedoeskop Laerskool.
Spectators can look forward to experiencing the racing action from various vantage points along the route and route maps will be available on https://web.facebook.com/saccsauto and the RallySafe App where the race can also be followed when downloaded from the iStore and Google Play Store.
Published by: SA National Cross Country Series – Charmaine Fortune
Photography by: Plan C Productions
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