The TOTAL AGRI 400, the third round of the South African National Cross Country Series (SACCS) that took place this past weekend, 18 and 19 September from NAMPO Park in the Bothaville area, not only saw Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings (Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux) scoring their third overall victory of the season, but this action-packed new event also produced some new class and category winners while there were performances that shone brightly through the dust in the Free State.
The 40km Pirelli Qualifying Race on Friday saw a number of teams being penalised and resulted in them dropping way down the starting order. It was, however, Lategan/Cummings who claimed pole position and opened the road on the 178km loop on Saturday morning only to encounter two closed gates. They also wrong slotted and lost their position in the front of the field, but they were compensated for the time lost opening the gates and claimed the overall as well as the FIA Class victory.
“It was quite an eventful race for us that also included a flat tyre six kilometres before the finish,” Lategan said afterwards. “It was a tough race and we had to work really hard, but it was a really great event,” he said.
The shinning stars through the dust, were former multiple quad racing champion, Brian Baragwanath and lady biker navigator, Taye Perry (Century Racing CR6) who posted the second fastest time on Friday, but dropped to the 21st place on the starting grid due to the penalty. The team clawed their way back and had a problem-free outing to post the fastest time on the second of the two loops. As the final results consist of the combined times of both days, their time placed them second in the Production Vehicle Category as well as in the FIA Class and they walked away with their first podium results this season. The team finished two minutes and one second behind Lategan/Cummings.
Shameer Variawa/Dennis Murphy (Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux) experienced a good and uneventful day in the Free State to claim their first podium results this year being third overall and in the FIA Class. They were 4 min. 24 s. behind Baragwanath/Perry, but only eight seconds separated them from Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer (Ford Castrol Cross Country Ranger) who also had a superb run.
Lady Luck had a busy day and forgot about Giniel de Villiers/Juan Möhr (Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux) who finished fifth despite a hectic first loop. They wrong slotted and hit a rock that damaged the rear suspension and caused two flat tyres. Running repairs cost them a lot of time. They eventually finished 31 seconds behind the Ford Ranger team and finished 2 min. 4s. ahead of the second Ford Castrol Cross Country Ranger team of Lance Woolridge/Elvéne Vonk.
Mark Corbett/Rodney Burke (Century Racing CR6) made a good come-back to the SACCS to finish seventh in the Production Vehicle category as well as in the FIA Class albeit only 19 seconds ahead of the father and son team of Johan and Sean van Staden (Elf Renault Duster) who lost time during the first loop with a puncture.
There was not much between the teams and no-one could afford to put a wheel wrong. Not putting a wheel wrong is exactly what the first-time Class T winners, Malcolm Kock and his son, Frans (Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger) as well as team-mates, Wors Prinsloo/André Vermeulen did and they walked away with the two top spots in Class T while they also rounded off the overall top 10.
The final spot on the Class T podium was filled by Johan/Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) who finished without power-steering while the winners of the Pirelli Qualifying Race, Gary Bertholdt/Geoff Minnitt (Total Excellium Toyota Hilux) had to settle for fourth place in Class T after they lost time in the Designated Service Point (DSP) after the first loop. Terence Marsh/Letshego Zulu (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara) finished fifth in Class T.
The rest of the overall standings in the Production Vehicle category consisted of Ernest Roberts/Henry Köhne (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara) who were 11th (ninth in the FIA Class); Clint Weston/Gerhard Snyman (Schalk Burger Motorsport King Price Xtreme Mercedes-Benz) finished 12th (10th in the FIA Class) and, like Roberts/Köhne, also had to fight from way down the field due to the same penalty; the Horn brothers in 13th place; Bertholdt/Minnitt in 14th and Marsh/Zulu in 15th place overall.
Chris Visser/Danie Stassen (Total Excellium Toyota Hilux) were forced to retire with engine problems while the Fourie couple, Marius/Jolinda (Ford Ranger) also experienced mechanical issues and had to call it a day.
In the Special Vehicle Category, the consistent Tim Howes/Gary Campbell (Zarco) took their second consecutive victory and Class A win after a relatively trouble-free race. The winners of the season opener, Clint Gibson/Alaric Smith (Stryker) were second, some eight and a half minutes behind the winners after struggling with clutch issues. There was disaster for the Jonck couple, Sandra and Jaco (Total Agri Porter) who rolled their vehicle 52 kilometres into the race. They got going again, but had to throw in the towel after the wheel broke off the hub. André Fourie/Hendrikus Pienaar (BAT) could also not finish due to gearbox problem.
The third place in the Special Vehicle category belonged to Guy Henley/Leonard Cremer (CR2). They rolled their vehicle during the Pirelli Qualifying Race, but got themselves on the start line for the main race and also bagged the Class P victory.
The rest of the Special Vehicle category consisted of Class G Side-by-Side (SxS) teams with Peter Walter/Shaun de Villiers (Can-Am Maverick) taking their first class victory of the season and finishing fourth in the category. They were just under 10 minutes ahead of Kent Rutherford/Gerhard Schutte (Red Lined Motorsport Can-Am Maverick) who started last as they could not finish the Pirelli Qualifying Race. Christo Rose/Arno Olivier (Can-Am Maverick) rounded off the Class G SxS podium and were sixth overall, only 39 seconds ahead of Nico du Rand/Rikus Hattingh (Can-Am Maverick).
Dean Bradbury/Timmy Botes (Canon Rotex) were the first Class G team out of the starting blocks, but a broken A-arm and two broken belts cost them valuable time and they had to settle for fifth place in the class and eighth place in the Special Vehicle Category. The defending Class G champions, Werner and Leon Mostert (Elf Renault Can-Am Maverick) finished just behind them after again struggling with their SxS going into limp-mode. Theo Erasmus/Edward Odendaal, also in a Can-Am Maverick, were the final team home as Hanno Bierman/Pieter de Beer and Simon Murray/Achim Bergmann could not reach the chequered flag in their Can-Am Mavericks.
The TOTAL AGRI 400 was a challenging and testing, but an enjoyable event for all and competitors will now start preparing for the final two events of the season that will take place on the weekend of 23 and 24 October in Parys.