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Competitors from KwaZulu-Natal made their home-crowd proud during the first day of the PS Laser ProMac Vryheid 400, the second round of the SA Rally-Raid Championship that is taking place from the Vryheid airfield this weekend 24 and 25 May, when they claimed the overall podium after two tight, technical and dusty racing sections that tested them for almost 55 kilometres.

It is the first outing for the SA Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC) to the Vryheid area with the two-day race kicking off with a short 15 kilometre Castrol Qualifying Race that determined the starting positions for the 38 kilometres Stage One. Teams were challenged as they had to post the best possible result after the short qualifier while keeping their racing machines intact for Stage One on the same day in the tricky terrain.

The Pietermaritzburg brothers, Gareth and Lance Woolridge (Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford NWM Ranger T1+) were the fastest two teams after the Castrol Qualifying Race with Gareth and Boyd Dreyer leading the way followed by Lance/Kenny Gilbert a mere three seconds adrift. Ballito driver, Guy Botterill and Dennis Murphy (Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux IMT EVO) rounded off the podium, five seconds further behind and posting the same time as Jayden Els/Henry Köhne (King Price Xtreme SVR). The Horn brothers, Johan and Werner (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid DKR Hilux T1+) rounded out the top five overall as well as in the FIA Ultimate T1+ Class.

The leading 10 teams then draw for their starting positions for Stage One. The draw resulted in two more Toyota Gazoo Racing teams, Giniel de Villiers/Elvéne Vonk, who were 10th fastest albeit trailing the leaders by a mere 41 seconds after they lost time wrong slotting, and their team-mates, Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings, who opened the road of the qualifying race, starting Stage One in the first and second positions respectively.

Botterill/Murphy charged to the front to lead the field with a combined time of 00:40:47 followed 25 seconds later by Gareth/Dreyer who were again only 14 seconds ahead of Lance/Gilbert who rounded off the podium for the day. The Horn brothers finished fourth (00:41:57) while Saood Variawa/Francois Cazalet (Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux IMT EVO), who were ninth fastest after the qualifier, moved up to fifth (00:42:03).

More teams competing in the FIA Ultimate T1+ Class made up the remainder of the overall top 10 with Lategan/Cummings in sixth place (00:42:11) and De Villiers/Vonk in ninth after again losing valuable seconds wrong-slotting (00:43:44). Brian Baragwanath/Leonard Cremer (Century Racing CR7 Twin Turbo) were seventh (00:42:21) after they completed the qualifier in the same position with two Red-Lined Motorsport teams, Chris Visser/Albertus Venter (Red-Lined REVO T1+ GTR) eighth, two minutes and 31 seconds behind the leaders and a minute and 49 seconds ahead of their team-mates, the Dutch driver, Rients Hofstra and Wade Harris in a similar vehicle in 10th place.

Another KZN driver, veteran Lance Trethewey and his Botswana navigator, Vincent Crosbie finished just outside the top 10 in 11th place after their first outing together in the Century Racing CR6 (00:45:48). They were followed by the first three teams in the Adventurer T1 Class who all finished with the exact same combined time of 45 minutes and 58 seconds. This will result in a tough battle between the defending champions, Eben Basson/Leander Pienaar (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid Toyota Hilux); Johan de Bruyn/Adriaan Roets (Red-Lined REVO T1) and Gerhard and Rudi Heinlein (Red-Lined VK56).

Johan van Staden and his son, Sean (Renault Duster) are 16th overall and only 65 seconds behind the trio in the same class while Philip Botha/Gerhard Schutte (Red-Lined VK56) are 25th and would like to make up for lost ground in this class.

Three more teams flying international flags also find themselves in the top 20. The Dutch couple, Dave Klaassen/Tessa Rooth (Red-Lined REVO T1+ GTR) are 15th (00:46:42) while the German driver, Jϋrgen Schroder and his navigator from Port Edward, Stuart Gregory (PS Laser Nissan Navara VK50) are 17th followed by the Dutch newcomers to the series, Rik van den Brink/Gydo Heimans (Century Racing CR7 Twin Turbo). The Blignaut brothers, Fouché and Bertus (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid Toyota DKR T1+) had to fight their way back from the back of the field after the Castrol Qualifying due to a penalty. They are 20th, just behind Geoff Minnitt/Rodney Burke (Hydro Power Equipment Can-Am Maverick) who lead the SSV Class.

The young Dutch driver, Puck Klaassen and Bloemfontein navigator, Charl Swanepoel (Moto-Netix Racing Can-Am Maverick) finished second in the SSV Class and 23rd overall with Darron Gudmanz/Quintin Lessing in a similar vehicle third – they are 26th overall.

Wors Prinsloo/André Vermeulen (Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford NWM Ranger T1+) had some issues, but managed to finish 21st while Simon Murray/Rikus Hattingh (HT2) are 22nd; Grant Watkins/Mark Irvine are the lonely entrants in the Challenger Class and are 24th. Philip Botha/Gerhard Schutte (Red-Lined VK56) will have to claw their way back up after problems resulted in them finishing 25th.

After qualifying fourth, Els/ Köhne experienced some bad luck when the rear suspension was damaged early in Stage One. They were forced to retire and will start Stage Two from the back of the field. There were also problems for Daniël Schroder/Ryan Bland (Nissan Navara VK50).

The racing action will start at 07:30 at the Vryheid Airfield when the leading team will depart on the 175 kilometre Stage 2 with teams returning to the Designated Service Point at the airfield for a 30-minute break before taking on Stage 3. The finish and podium ceremonies will also be at the airfield and spectators can look forward to an action-packed day at Vryheid.

The PS Laser ProMac Vryheid 400 can be followed on the RallySafe App, available as a free download from the iStore and Google PlayStore or on Facebook:;
Instagram: and Twitter: @SACCS.Auto.

Published by: SA Rally-Raid Championship – Charmaine Fortune

Photography by: Dave Ledbitter

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