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Insane battles for the titles in the 2024 SA Rally-Raid Championship are brewing after competitors had a second chance to earn points this season, and looking at the current standings after the PS Laser ProMac Vryheid 400 that took place in KwaZulu-Natal recently, tough times are looming for some while others are already building on solid foundations. A long and daunting season, however, lies-ahead for everyone and anything can still happen.

With two of the seven rounds now something of the past and with grueling events like the upcoming three-day event, the TGRSA Safari 1000, still on the to-do list, two pairs of defending champions have their work cut out for them – the defending overall and Ultimate T1+ champions, Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer (Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford NWM Ranger T1+) and the 2022 and 2023 Adventurer T1 champs, Eben Basson/Leander Pienaar (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid Toyota DKR).

After not being able to complete the season opener and then finishing eighth at Vryheid due to mechanical issues, Woolridge/Dreyer have managed to move up two positions on the overall rankings and are now 14th. Their total of eight points is 40 points less than the leaders, Giniel de Villiers/Elvéne Vonk (Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux IMT EVO) who kept their overall lead after winning the first event followed by finishing third at Vryheid.

The gap between the two TGRSA teams at the front has, however, shrunk to only two points with Guy Botterill/Dennis Murphy still in second place after two runner-up results. Their team-mates, Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings made the biggest jump on the points’ ladder with the 30 points they earned with their victory in KwaZulu-Natal, pushing them from nowhere up to the third place on the overall standings and giving them hope of a possible fourth title.

Behind them only one point separates Chris Visser/Albertus Venter (Red-Lined Motorsport REVO T1+ GTR) with 22 points who moved from sixth to fourth place and the Blignaut brothers, Fouché and Bertus (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid IMT EVO) who remained in fifth place. And after finishing third at the opening round, Jayden Els/Henry Köhne (King Price Xtreme SVR) had a disappointing outing at Vryheid and could not finish the race resulting in them dropping to sixth place overall (18 points). The Horn brothers, Johan and Werner (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid Toyota DKR T1+) also dropped from fourth to seventh place overall (16 points) due to finishing 15th in KZN as a result of mechanical problems.

Lance Woolridge/Kenny Gilbert (Neil Woolridge Motorsport NWM Ford Ranger T1+) bagged 15 valuable points at the recent event that put them in eighth place after not scoring any points at the season opener. A single point separates them from Saood Variawa/Francois Cazalet (TGRSA Hilux IMT EVO) in ninth place who are again only one point ahead of Johan de Bruyn/Adriaan Roets (Red-Lined REVO T1) with the team now leading the Adventurer T1 Class and rounding out the top 10.

Competitors receive an additional five points in the various class championships for starting an event and these can make quite difference in the standings.

In the Ultimate T1+ Championship, the podium also belongs to the three leading TGRSA teams with De Villiers/Vonk at the front (58 points) followed closely by Botterill/Murphy (56 points) and Lategan/Cummings who moved up to third (40 points).

Behind them, there is no breathing space for the next seven teams as a blanket of only 10 points covers them. Visser/Venter are fourth (32 points) with the Blignaut brothers a single point behind in fifth and Lance Woolridge/Gilbert one point further back in sixth (30 points). Els/Köhne and the Horn brothers level peg with 28 points, leading Variawa/Cazalet by a single point with Wors Prinsloo/André Vermeulen (Neil Woolridge Motorsport NWM Ford Ranger T1+) 10th (22 points). The defending champions (Woolridge/Dreyer) find themselves just outside the top 10 in 11th place (18 points). For the rest of the teams, there is some catching up to do.

In the Adventurer T1 Class, De Bruyn/Roets (63 points), who won the class at Vryheid, have leapfrogged the winners of the first round, Daniel Schröder/Ryan Bland (PS Laser Nissan Navara) to lead them by eight points. The Heinlein duo of Gerhard and Rudi (Red-Lined VK56) remain third (51 points) after adding a second podium result to their first of the season.

Philip Botha (Red-Lined Motorsport VK56) moved into the fourth place of the drivers (40 points) followed by Jurgen Schröder (PS Laser Nissan Navara) who dropped to fifth place (25 points) after not being able to complete the Vryheid event. Botha made use of different navigators for the two events resulting in Schröder’s navigator, Stuart Gregory (25 points) keeping his fourth place while Gerhard Schutte, who joined Botha at Vryheid and earned 23 points, is fifth and Roelof Janse van Vuren, who initially navigated for him and scored 17 points after the first event, is seventh of the navigators. Johan van Staden (Renault Duster) and his son, Sean, who could not complete the first race, are sixth (22 points) after a determined effort in KZN saw them scoring points towards the class championship. Basson/Pienaar have 10 points.

In the SSV Class, Geoff Minnitt/Rodney Burke (Hydro Power Equipment Can-Am Maverick) are still leading (37 points) despite experiencing problems at both events. The most recent SSV Class winners, young lady Puck Klaassen (28 points) and Charl Swanepoel (23 points) are second with the Moto-Netix Racing Can-Am Maverick followed by their team-mates, Ruperd Fourie/Morné van Rensburg (20 points). Darron Gudzman/Quintin Lessing (Can-Am Maverick) still needs to finish a race but have accumulated 10 points for starting the events.

Toyota still leads the Manufacturer standings (188 points) followed by Nissan (50 points); Ford (46 points); Can-Am (10 points) and Renault (2 point).

A tough event, the three-day marathon TGRSA Safari 1000 that takes place at Koedoeskop School on 21, 22 and 23 June, will take the championship close to the halfway mark. It could be a make or break event, but will reward those who finish with cherished points.

Issued by: SA Rally Raid Championship – Charmaine Fortune

Photography by: Dave Ledbitter

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