If the first two events of the 2019 South African National Cross Country (SACCS) season are anything to go by, hectic battles can be expected in the Production Vehicle Championship during the second half of the season. The season reaches the halfway mark at the upcoming Toyota 1000 Desert Race (TDR 1000) on 21, 22 and 23 June in Botswana where the intense rivalry will continue over a thousand kilometres in the desert.
In the Production Vehicle Championship, teams are not only aiming for the titles in the FIA Class, Class T and Class S, but they are also giving it their all for the best overall results. With so much to play for, the emotions in the cabins, with service crews and supporters will mostly be serious. Only when the silverware and points are dished out after the event will this tension be replaced by sighs of relief.
With a victory and a runner-up result for both Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy and their Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux team-mates, Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings after the first two events, they are on equal points in the overall standings and the FIA Class Championship. This predicts an epic battle at the TDR 1000 as neither can afford to put a wheel wrong.
In the overall Production Vehicle standings, reigning Class T champions, Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable (Ford Castrol Cross Country Ranger) currently fill the third place on the podium. They trail the Toyota Hilux teams by 20 points and are only 10 points ahead of former Class T champions, Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) who are in fourth place.
The third Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team of Shameer Variawa/Juan Möhr, jumped to fifth in the overall standings after finishing third in the Production Vehicle category at the recent Berg 400. They trail the Horn brothers by a mere four points in the overall standings.In the FIA Class, new-comer Ernst Roberts and Riaan Greyling (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara) have scored consistently to round of the class podium. They trail the two Toyota Gazoo Racing teams by 20 points with Jaco van Dyk (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan) only six points behind in fourth place in the FIA Class Driver’s Championship followed by Schalk Burger (Nissan Navara) a further eight points behind.
In the FIA Class Navigator’s Championship, Burger’s navigator, Elvene (Coetzee) Vonk fills fourth place due to Van Dyk’s navigator, Michel Rust, not eligible to score points in the SACCS. The gap between Vonk and Greyling is 14 points, but Möhr trails her by a single point which will add to the pressure.
The season did not start too well for Variawa/Möhr who could not see out the distance at the season opener while there were no points for Chris Visser/Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) at the recent Berg 400. These two teams, in the second half of the FIA Class standings, will hope for a healthy haul of points to move them up the leader board and a better position to aim for the podium.
The situation in the Class T championship is by no means any more relaxed. Although Woolridge/Huxtable have a healthy 22 point buffer over the Horn brothers in second place, a blanket of only 14 points cover the three teams in second, third and fourth. The Horns lead Jacques van Tonder/Sammy Redelinghuys (Ford Ranger) by eight points while Gary Bertholdt/Geoff Minnitt (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) are only six points adrift. With double points on offer at the TDR 1000 the standings can quite suddenly have a very different look.
The rest of the FIA and Class T teams have their work cut out for them for the rest of the season and it will start with the challenging thousand kilometres in Botswana. The game is never over until the lady has uttered her final song and teams that have some catching up to do, will do their utmost before it is too late while those who have gathered good points so far, will feel the pressure.
The defending Class S champions, David Huddy and Gerhard Schutte (Nissan Navara) lead the class going into the TDR 1000.