Two days and two consecutive rounds of the 2023 South African Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC) awaits competitors when they travel to the northern part of the Free State to participate in the Parys 400, which takes place on 18 and 19 August, and if the first three rounds of the season is anything to go by, Rounds Four and Five will again produce riveting racing action.
Round four and five of the SARRC will both be one-day events starting with a short Pirelli Qualifying Race at 07:30 in the morning to determine the starting order for the main race that will follow soon after. Teams will have to race with precision to keep their noses clean while aiming for the highest possible position and bagging the most points towards the Overall Production Vehicle Championship and the various class championships.
After the dust had settled at the recent marathon event in the Botswana desert, the standings looked somewhat shuffled with desert race winners, Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer (NWM Ford Castrol T1+ Ranger) taking the overall lead as well as the lead in FIA T1+. The team were also victorious at an extremely wet and muddy Parys 400 last year, and brimming with confidence will hope for a repeat of this result.
They will have support from their team-mates, Lance Woolridge/Kenny Gilbert who had a disappointing start to the season but clawed their way into the top five after earning good points at the TGR 1000 Desert Race in Botswana.
FIA T1+ is loaded with entries as various teams have moved from T1, and international teams are back from more racing in South Africa. 14 teams very competent teams have entered for the Parys 400 double-header, predicting loads of action and fierce rivalry.
Toyota Gazoo Racing will again have their four Toyota DKR Hilux T1+ teams in the field, of which three will be pushing hard for the titles. Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings will be chasing their third victory of the season and will hope to regain the lead. They will, however, be under pressure from team-mates, Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy as only a few points separate them in the overall and FIA T1+ standings.
Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle have proved they have what it takes to be frontrunners while the young Saood Variawa (17), with navigator Danie Stassen, quickly got to grips with the Toyota DKR T1+ Hilux in Botswana and will be looking to build on their experience.
The Horn brothers, Johan and Werner (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid Toyota DKR T1+ Hilux) are still making up for lost ground due to them not competing in the opening round while team-mates, Fouché and Bertus Blignaut, have advanced from FIA T1 and will now be competing in T1+. Regulars Chris Visser/Albertus Venter (Red-Lined REVO T1+) and Gary Bertholdt/Henry Köhne (Toyota Hilux T1+) will both aim for good results accompanied by valuable points while Wors Prinsloo/André Vermeulen (Ford Ranger T1+) are back for more of the action.
Red-Lined International will also be fielding two international teams in FIA T1+. The 19-year old female teenager, Aliyyah Koloc, who completed the Dakar Rally earlier this year and scored points when she finished the Sugarbelt 400 in FIA T1 in May in KwaZulu-Natal with navigator Riaan Greyling, will be in action in the Red-Lined REVO T1+ as will the Dutch crew of Stefan Carmans and Arjan van Tiel who will be competing on South African soil for the first time.
The lone T1+ 4 x 2 entry, in the hands of the wily old fox, Lance Trethewey and Adrian Roets (King Price Xtreme CR 6), and pending route conditions, could pose a threat.
The competition in FIA T1 has been fierce this season with three different teams claiming a victory while all three had a chance to lead the title chase. And after their victory in Botswana, reigning champions, Eben Basson/Leander Pienaar (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid Toyota) are the new leaders and will aim to maintain this coveted position.
They have opened a marginal gap to the winners of the season opener, Johan de Bruyn/Gerhard Schutte (Red-Lined REVO T1) who will be breathing down their necks with another Red-Lined REVO T1 in the hands of Nic Pienaar/Carl Swanepoel, who took the lead after their class victory at the Sugarbelt 400, currently in third place after not being able to see out the distance in Botswana.
The father and son team of Johan and Sean van Staden (Renault Duster) as well as youngster, Jayden Els and experienced lady navigator, Elvéne Vonk (King Price Xtreme SVR), who won their entry into the Dakar Rally 2024 could also finish on the final podium as only a handful of points separate the teams from third to sixth place.
With no real shot at the title, but with the aim to gain rally-raid experience and compete in one of the world’s biggest and most competitive rally-raid championships, the FIA T1 field is packed with regular teams of which various are also visiting international competitors.
Regular German visitors, Daniel Schröder who teams up with KwaZulu-Natal businessman, Ryan Bland in the WCT Engineering Nissan Navara and father, Jurgen, who has KZN motorcycle rider, Stuart Gregory reading him the notes in a similar Nissan Navara, have had their ups and downs while the Dutch team of Dave Klaassen and Tessa Rooth return for more of the action in the Red-Lined VK50.
In the Class T championship, a third class win for Hendrik and Heinrich du Plessis (Ford Ranger) will go a long way in their chase for a first SARRC title. With Schalk Burger/Henk Janse van Vuuren (King Price Xtreme Volkswagen Amarok) currently third in the class, would like nothing better than victory.
The Parys 400 Round Four starts at 07:30 on Friday, 18 August at the Parys Afridome with a short Pirelli Qualifying Race to determine the starting order for the main race that commences at 09:30. Competitors will then have to complete a 173 kilometre loop twice with the Start/Finish, the Designated Service Point (DSP) and Rally Headquarters situated at the Afridome where the podium ceremony will also take place.
On Saturday, 19 August a new qualifying route as well as a different 190 kilometre loop awaits the teams for Round Five of the SARRC with the action again starting at 07:30 while the flag will drop for the main race at 09:30. Like the previous day, teams will return to the DSP after completing the first loop for a compulsory service break before taking on the second loop.
The Parys 400 can be followed on the RallySafe App available for download, at no charge, from the iStore and Google PlayStore or on Facebook: saccsauto; Instagram: saccs_auto and Twitter: @SACCS.Auto
Published by: SA National Cross Country Series – Charmaine Fortune
Photography by: Plan C Productions
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