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An overall victory for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings with their Toyota DKR Hilux T1+ at the recent Sugarbelt 400, resulted in the team taking a firm lead in Production Vehicle Category of the 2023 SA Rally-Raid Championship as they have also claimed the victory after the season opener.

With five rounds of the championship still ahead, anything can, however, still happen and if the first two events are anything to go by, the unexpected can be expected during the rest of the season.

In the Overall Production Vehicle Championship, Lategan/Cummings (60 points) lead their team-mates, Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy and Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer (NWM Ford Castrol T1+ Ranger) by 19 points with these three teams sharing the podium after both the Nkomazi 400 and the Sugarbelt 400.

Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle, the third Toyota Gazoo Racing DKR Hilux T1+ team have been scoring consistently and are fourth (30 points) with Chris Visser/Albertus Venter (Red-Lined Motorsport) getting the 2023 season off to a solid start with the new Red-Lined REVO T1+ in fifth place (21 points) despite some challenges.

Two more FIA T1+ teams find themselves in the top 10. Lance Trethewey/Adriaan Roets are sixth with the 2×4 King Price Xtreme CR6 (18 points) and the Horn brothers, Johan and Werner (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid DKR T1+) ninth (12 points) despite not competing in the season opener.

Three FIA T1 teams fill the rest of the openings. With an FIA T1 victory each, Red-Lined Motorsport’s Nic Pienaar/Carl Swanepoel, Red-Lined REVO, (18 points) and Johan de Bruyn/Gerhard Schutte, Red-Lined REVO (nine points) are seventh and 10th respectively while the defending T1 champions, Eben Basson/Leander Pienaar (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid Hilux) are eighth, two points ahead of their team-mates, the Horn brothers.

In the FIA T1+ championship, the standings at the front are mostly the same although the points differ due to all competitors awarded an additional five points for starting an event. Lategan/Cummings (70 points) lead both Woolridge/Dreyer and De Villiers/Murphy (51 points) with Botterill/Vacy-Lyle fourth (40 points); Visser/Venter (32 points) fifth and Trethewey/Roets sixth (29 points).

Behind them teams making up the rest of the top 10 could only finish one of the two events. Gary Bertholdt/Henry Köhne (Renergen Toyota Hilux) and Lance Woolridge/Kenny Gilbert (NWM Ford Castrol Team T1+ Ranger) both have 18 points with Simon Murray/Achim Bergmann in the 2×4 WCT HT2 Toyota and the Horn brothers trailing them by a single point.

The FIA T1 championship has new leaders with a victory and a runner-up result pushing Pienaar/Swanepoel to the top step of the podium (63 points), 12 points ahead of Basson/Pienaar (51 points) with the class winners of the opening round, De Bruyn/Schutte, dropping to third, albeit trailing the 2022 champions by a mere two points. The Blignaut brothers, Fouché and Bertus (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid Hilux) are the only other team in the class to have completed both events putting them in fourth place (34 points).

The order is then somewhat scrambled, as Jayden Els (King Price Xtreme SVR) made use of two navigators at the Sugarbelt 400. Elvéne Vonk took ill halfway through the event and was replaced by Köhne with the two navigators sharing the total amount of points earned. This puts Els fifth of the drivers’ standings (28 points). Johan van Staden (KEC Racing Renault Duster) is sixth (25 points) followed by the two German drivers, Jurgen Schröder and his son, Daniel, both in similar Nissan Navara vehicles, who have accumulated 22 points.

Two more Red-Lined Motorsport international drivers, Dutch driver, Dave Klaassen who competed in the season opener and the 18 year-old lady driver from Dubai, Aliyyah Koloc, who took on the Sugarbelt 400, round off the FIA T1 Drivers’ Championship top 10 with 15 points each.

Between the FIA T1 navigators Johan van Staden’s son, Sean, trails Bertus Blignaut by nine points and is fifth (25 points) followed by the two South Africans, Ryan Bland and Stuart Gregory, who navigate for the German drivers, Daniel and Jurgen. Both have 22 points. Vonk, Els’s regular navigator, is eighth (19 points) followed by the Dutch navigator, Tessa Rooth who sits next to Klaassen and Riaan Greyling who read the notes for the Dubai youngster. Both have 15 points and round off the top 10.

Only three teams have competed in Class T with Hendrik and Heinrich du Plessis (Ford Ranger) the only team to start both events. The Du Plessis duo won the season opener and have gathered 22 points in total so far this season, leading the victors – and the only finishers – of the Sugarbelt 400, Schalk Burger/Henk Janse van Vuuren (King Price Xtreme VW Amarok), by five points. The Nienaber brothers, Nico and Juandre (King Price Xtreme Renault Duster) are third with five points.

Toyota lead the Manufacturers standings (167 points) followed by Ford (61 points) and Nissan (47 points) rounding off the podium. Century Racing are fourth (22 points); Renault has six and Volkswagen three.

Teams are now preparing for the only marathon race on the calendar, the Toyota Gazoo Raging 1000 Kalahari Botswana Desert Race that takes place over three days from 23 to 25 June. And after not racing in Botswana for three years, the Desert Race will return to the Jwaneng area in the south of Botswana.

Published by: Charmaine Fortune

Photography by: Plan C Productions

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