The Renergen 400, the sixth and penultimate round of the 2023 SA Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC) that takes place on 6 and 7 October from Phakisa Raceway outside Welkom in the Free State, will be a power display for glory and maximum points towards the championship titles.
This Super Event will see teams in the Production and Special Vehicle Categories take on a total of just over 400 kilometres over the two days on two separate racing sections. A total of 73 kilometres awaits them on Friday, 6 October, and the aim will be for the best possible result while keeping it clean and well prepared for the 328 kilometre section on Saturday, 7 October which comprises a 164 kilometre loop to be repeated twice.
Only ten points separate the top four teams in the Overall Production Vehicle Championship and the title is still very much up for grabs, which will make for action packed racing.
Three Toyota Gazoo Racing SA DKR Hilux T1+ teams will be chasing Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer (NWM Ford Castrol T1+ Ranger) who are leading the overall standings, and a second victory will be just what the doctor ordered. Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings are currently second and a fourth victory can pave their way to another title, while less misfortune and a first win this year will also put Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy in a good position for the titles.
After recently winning the fifth round of the series the Parys 400, Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle will hope to do so again moving them closer to a first SARRC title. More experience is the name of the game for their young team-mate, the 17-year old scholar Saood Variawa and his experienced navigator, Danie Stassen with the pair having showed they can keep up with the frontrunners.
Good performances by any of the packed field of FIA T1+ and T1 entries can, however, result in the standings looking very different for the final round.
In FIA T1+ Lance Woolridge/Kenny Gilbert (NWM Ford Castrol T1+ Ranger) are the closest to the leading foursome while a good result for Gary Bertholdt/Henry Köhne (Toyota Hilux T1+), who are just outside the overall top five, will be perfect for their Renergen sponsors.
The Horn brothers, Johan and Werner as well as their #TeamHilux Rally-Raid DKR T1+ team-mates, the Blignaut brothers, Fouche and Bertus, who moved up from FIA T1, will also be out in full force with the Horns in with a chance to move up in the overall top 10 as Chris Visser/Albertus Venter (Red-Lined REVO T1+) will not be in action. Red-Lined Motorsport will be represented by regular visiting competitors, the Dutch couple, Dave Klaassen and Tessa Rooth who will line up with the Visser/Venter REVO T1+.
An interesting entry is that of Brian Baragwanath/Leonard Cremer who will debut the new Century Racing CR7 Twin-Turbo four-wheel drive.
Lance Trethewey/Adriaan Roets (King Price Xtreme Century Racing CR6) is the leading two-wheel drive team in FIA T1+ and a good result can see them moving up in the overall top 10 while Simon Murray will have Elvéne Vonk next to him in the WCT HT2 Toyota as her regular driver, Jayden Els, will not be competing in the Free State.
The owner of Century Racing, Mark Corbett, is no stranger to racing and will have his 15-year-old son, Luke, next to him in the CR6T Audi Twin-Turbo. It will be their first race together and Corbett Juniors first taste of the SARRC.
FIA T1+ also welcomes two more new entries under the Farmers Meat Abattoirs banner. Lood du Preez/Junior Vardy, who competed in the Special Vehicle Category, as well as Eugene Bierman/Marius Lombard will be making their debut in the Production Vehicle Category and will be out in Century Racing CR6 vehicles.
In FIA T1, the ding-dong battle between the leading two teams will continue with the defending champions, Eben Basson/Leander Pienaar (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid) currently only four points ahead of the winners of the season opener, Johan de Bruyn/Gerhard Schutte (Red-Lined REVO T1). The father and son team of Johan and Sean van Staden (Renault Duster) will defend their third place in the class championship.
Behind them only two points cover the next four teams in the standings, but with Jayden Els as well as Nic Pienaar/Carl Swanepoel not competing in the Free State and the Blignaut brothers now racing in T1+, the German driver, Jurgen Schröder has a good chance to jump all the way from seventh to fourth place in the T1 Drivers’ Championship. Schröder has acquired the navigating services of Achim Bergman for this event in his Nissan Navara and as Daniel is forced to miss the event due to a broken ankle, Daniel’s brother, Max, will be behind the wheel of the second Nissan Navara with Ryan Bland in the hot seat.
De Bruyn/Schutte will be supported by two more Red-Lined Motorsport teams with Gerhard and Rudi Heinlein (VK56) in with a chance to secure or better their top 10 position in FIA T1 while another Dutch driver, Rients Hofstra, will make his South African debut in the VK50 with Wade Harris reading him the notes.
Schalk Burger/Henk Janse van Vuuren (King Price Xtreme VW Amarok) is the lonely entry in Class T and a finish can push them to the top step of the podium in the class championship.
With teams changing vehicles and categories, Class A in the Special Vehicle Category has only received three entries. Defending champions, Tim Howes/Gary Campbell (BAT Spec 4) have opened a healthy gap to John Thomson/Maurice Zermatten (Zarco Challenger) but are not home safely yet, while a finish will put the first real points on the scoreboard for Keith and Andrew Makenete (BAT Makmobile).
Quintin Lessing will have Patrick Dodon next to him in the Class P Century CRT and will aim to keep his lead on his way to securing the drivers’ title in the class while good points can result in Grant Watkins/Mark Irvine (Zarco) moving into the runner-up position in the class standings.
A real battle can be expected between the Can-Am Maverick teams in Class G where 12 points cover the podium teams. Geoff Minnitt /Rodney Burke (Hydro Power Equipment) are leading and will be looking for a fourth victory aiming for the title while being pushed by the two Moto-Netix Racing teams, Glen Theron/Craig Galvin and the Mostert family as defending champions – the scholar, Ian Mostert will be aiming for his first title under the watchful eye of his dad, Werner as navigator. Another win and more silverware will also be perfect for Ewald van Rensburg/Johan Scheepers who are currently fourth in the standings.
The Renergen 400 will get underway at 10:15 on Friday, 6 October with a 15 kilometre Pirelli Qualifying Race to determine the starting order for Loop 1 (58 kilometres) that will start at 13:15.
At 08:00 on Saturday, teams will come under starters orders for the first of the two 164 kilometre loops that will be separated by a compulsory 30 minute service break. All the action will start and finish at the Phakisa Raceway where Race Headquarters as well as the Designated Service Point will be situated.
The Renergen 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: Charmaine Fortune – SA National Cross Country Series
Photography by: Plan C Productions
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