The recent Gold 400 rounded off the 2018 South African Cross Country Series (SACCS) that consisted of six tough events all over the country and Botswana with various title battles from the start. It was also a season where teams and manufacturers developed and competed with state of the art vehicles and equipment and a huge following of enthusiasts waited in anticipation for the action at each event.
In the end, after racing almost 3 000 cross country kilometres, it was Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA) who were crowned the Production Vehicle champions while consistency paid off for the father and daughter team of Coetzee Labuscagne/Sandra Labuscagne-Jonck (4×4 Mega World ARB Porter) who walked away with the overall laurels in the Special Vehicle category after finishing all the events.
In the Production Vehicle category, De Villiers/Murphy were followed by their team-mates, Henk Lategan/Barry White who competed in their first season with Toyota Gazoo Racing SA and claimed two wins and two more podium results. Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable (Ford NWM Ranger) rounded off the overall podium with Chris Visser/Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) fourth and their team-mates, Gary Bertholdt/Geoff Minnitt fifth.
De Villiers/Murphy might have taken the overall laurels, but the Class FIA title belongs to Lategan/White. It was a dramatic battle with Lategan beating De Villiers by a single point to take his first cross country national championship title. Despite not finishing the Gold 400 a victory and three podium results pulled Visser/Herselman through to the third place on the Class FIA podium.
Terence Marsh (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara) made use of various celebrity navigators during the season that helped him to fourth place in the Class FIA Driver’s Championship while Jaco van Aardt, who reads the notes for Jason Venter (4×4 Mega World ARB Toyota Hilux), is fourth in the Navigator’s Championship. Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Elf Renault Duster) finished fifth in the class.
The Class T championship was another nail-biting affair with Woolridge/Huxtable having another go at the defending champions, Johan/Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux). The Ford NWM team started the season with three victories, but not finishing the second event in Botswana after winning the first day, was quite nerve wrecking for their challenge onslaught.
And while Woolridge/Huxtable were fighting it out with the Horn brothers, who had an up and down season that included one victory and three podium positions, Bertholdt/Minnitt came into play and won twice to eventually finish second in the Class T battle.
The Horns’ did not give up, but Lady Luck had turned her back on them. In the meantime, Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer (Ford NWM) claimed their first Class T victory and scored three more podium results to finish the season in third place with the Horn brothers having to settle for fourth ahead of Jacques van Tonder/Sammy Redelinghuys (Ford Ranger).
Class S belonged to David Huddy/Gerhard Schutte (Nissan Navara) who were the only team in this class to start each of the six events. They could only not finish at the Battlefields 400. It was, however, not always plain sailing as the defending champions, Jannie Visser and son, Chris (Toyota Hilux) were fighting back despite missing the first two events. They finished second and were followed by Heinie Strumpher/Henri Hugo (Toyota Hilux) with another father and son duo, Archie and Kent Rutherford (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) fourth.
In the Special Vehicle category everyone waited with bated breath for the proverbial fat lady to sing at the final event to confirm the overall champions for 2018 as the standings changed after the penultimate event in Harrismith. The Labuscagne pair led from the second round and kept their lead to the fifth round when they dropped back to second but a third place at the Gold 400 and a sixth place for their rivals, John Telford/Victor Ntsheke (BAT) resulted in a first overall title for Coetzee and Sandra.
Telford/Ntsheke trailed the family by six points to take the runner-up position while Stefan van Pletzen/Jaco Pieterse (Live Lesotho Chenowth), who won the Mpumalanga 400 as well as the Bronkhorstspruit 400, but could not finish three times, rounded off the overall podium.
Werner Kennedy/CJ van Pletzen (Live Lesotho Porter) had an up and down season and finished fourth with Nic Goslar claiming the fifth place in the Special Vehicle category Drivers’ Championship. Goslar made use of two navigators during the season resulting in Lance Trethewey’s navigator, Adriaan Roets, finishing fifth in the overall navigators’ standings.
The Labuscagne father and daughter pair were the only team in the Special Vehicle category to start and finish all the events and they also walked away with the Class A championship crown. It was, however, a close finish as Telford/Ntsheke could not see out the distance at Dundee and finished second at four events, overtook the Labuscagnes at the penultimate event and went to the Gold 400 as the Class A leaders. There was no gold left for them and they had to settle for fifth place in Class A relegating them to the runner-up team in the Class A championship.
Van Pletzen/Pieterse finished third in Class A followed by their team-mates, Kennedy/CJ van Pletzen and Trethewey/Roets (LT Earthmovers BAT) fifth after winning the final two events.
In Class P, Goslar (SA Clinics Zarco) tackled all but the final event and earned the Class P Driver’s Championship title. Julio Ferreira (Sandmaster) finished second for the season followed by Keith Makenete (BAT). In the Class P Navigator’s Championship, Onkabetse Seemise who read the notes for Ferreira at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, took the title with Andrew Massey, who had a couple of outings with Goslar second and Ntaote Bereng, who sat next to Makenete, rounding off the podium. Joe Lima, who navigated for Goslar on three occasions, finished fourth.
Sandra Labuscagne-Jonck was the highest placed female competitor.
Nico du Rand/JG Claassen took the overall Interprovincial Side-by-Side Challenge title ahead of Werner Mostert/Rob Green with Peter Walter/Shaun de Villiers third. All teams competed in Can-Am Maverick SxS vehicles. Du Rand/Claassen were consistent and bagged the title with one round to go.
It was a case of success first time around for the Mpumalanga 400 in Dullstroom, the opening round of the SACCS championship, which won the Best Event of the Year award.
Malalane Toyota dealer principal Johan Horn senior was the prime mover in taking the race to Dullstroom and despite the inclement weather turned the event into a winner.
“The award is thoroughly deserved, and Johan is to be congratulated for all the time and effort he and his team put into making the event a success,” said SACCS chief executive Archie Rutherford. “The event is again on next year’s calendar and they have set the bar at a high mark.”
Toyota (613 points) took the coveted Manufacturer’s Trophy with Ford (194), who won the Manufacturer of the Event award, due to different scoring three times during the season, as the runner-up. Nissan (75) finished third followed closely by Renault (60) and Century Racing rounding off the top five. BMW and Volkswagen also scored points during the season.
“The SACCS championship is fiercely competitive and our congratulations go to the new champions” said Rutherford. Our sport is a family orientated sport and we also extend our gratitude to all the crews and family who supported the championship through the year”.
“SACCS is also privileged to have long standing relationships with our partners Ford, Total and Toyota and event sponsors Atlas Copco, Malalane Toyota and Toyota SA and this will continue in the future,” Rutherford added.