MOTORSPORT NEWS OFF ROAD

CLOSE CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLES GIVE PRODUCTION VEHICLE CATEGORY NEW SLANT ON SUN CITY 400

With two events still to be run championship positions in the Production Vehicle category of the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS) have taken on an interesting look.

Giniel de Villiers

The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA pair of South African champions Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howie and Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy still dominate the overall championship, but there has been a significant change in the FIA Class standings. Poulter/Howie continue to lead the overall championship, with a reduced majority, but the standings in the FIA Class have seen de Villiers and Murphy overtake their Toyota Hilux team-mates.

Two wins in a row on the Toyota 1000 Desert Race and the recent Harrismith 400 have seen de Villiers/Murphy reduce the deficit in the overall series to seven points, and overtake the champions in the FIA Class. The gap in the FIA Class is eight points and it is now game on between the two Toyota Gazoo Racing teams who are also defending a Toyota Gazoo Racing SA unbeaten record since the start of the 2015 season.

Third place among the FIA Class drivers is held down by Johan van Staden in the Elf Renault Duster with Terence Marsh, who missed the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, in fourth. Van Staden’s regular navigator, Mike Lawrenson, missed the Harrismith event but still retains third place on the co-driver championship while Marsh has utilised two celebrity co-drivers.

Johan van Staden

The action in the Class T battle could also not be closer where the overall positions are concerned. Here brothers Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) in third place have a three point led over Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer and nine points in hand over Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable, both in Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Rangers.

But in the Class T stakes there is again a reduced majority. Here the lead between the Horns and Gareth Woolridge/Dreyer has been whittled down from more than 20 points to just seven points with Lance Woolridge and Huxtable 14 points behind the team from Mpumalanga.

It is also game on for the Horns and the Pietermaritzburg based Ford NWM Puma Lubricants squad. It is a year since the NWM workshops burned down but they have another team in the top five in the Class T championship in rookies Henk Lategan and Barry White.

Lategan and White trail the elder of the Woolridge brothers and Huxtable by a sizeable margin, but have shown impressive pace throughout the season. They have overtaken reigning Class T champions Jason Venter and Vince van Allemann (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux), who failed to finish in Harrismith, and Hennie de Klerk and Achim Bergman, who missed the Harrismith event.

By contrast to the FIA and Class T championships the current status quo sees former South African champion Jannie Visser and son Chris (Toyota Hilux), leading Dave Huddy and Gerhard Schutte (Nissan Navara) by the proverbial country mile. The Vissers have won all three events in which they have entered and hold a 26 point advantage over Huddy and Schutte.

Richard Leeke junior and Henry Kohne (Ford Ranger) have been hit by retirements in their first season in the national series. However, the pair has shown flashes of what one would expect from young Leeke who is the son of the former rally and cross country legend Richard Leeke senior.

The next event on the SAACS calendar is the Sun City 400 and is obviously hugely important where the FIA and Class T brigades are concerned. None of the leading contenders can afford to slip up, and a weekend that offers national cross country racing at its best at a world class resort has suddenly taken on a new meaning.