Lichtenburg, North West – South African champions Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie preserved a two year unbeaten record for the Toyota Gazoo team when they won the Production Vehicle category at the Lichtenburg 400, the opening round of the 2017 South African Cross Country (SACCS) Championship on Saturday.
It was a comfortable enough victory for Poulter but the team’s other FIA Class Hilux entry (for Dakar spec vehicles), crewed by former Dakar winner Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy, retired with mechanical issues on the second of two 170km loops that made up the race.
Poulter came in around three minutes ahead of Johan and Werner Horn, in the Malalane Toyota Hilux, who won Class T for cars above four litres with solid axle suspension. It was a great come from behind win for the Horns who started 11th after Friday’s 50km sprint to determine grid positions.
The final podium place went to Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer in their Ford NWM Puma Lubrications Ranger. Woolridge started the day in fourth place and came in ahead of team-mates Henk Lategan and Barry White who were making their debut for the factory squad.
Lesotho driver Stefan van Pletzen and Jaco Pieterse upset the applecart when they scored a surprise win in the Special Vehicle category with their Live Lesotho Chenowth. It was a fairytale maiden win for the pair who finished sixth in the overall and Class A Championship last season. The cautious approach paid off for van Pletzen, who had around six minutes in hand over champions Evan Hutchison and Danie Stassen in the King Price Extreme BAT Viper. Husband and wife team of Marius and Jolinda Fourie (PHB BAT) took the final place on the podium.
There were also two outstanding performances when John Telford and Victor Ntsekhe (Calcamite Hellcat) and Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer (Century CRT) finished fourth and fifth to lead home the Class P contingent. Telford’s time also included a 10 minute penalty with Baragwanath coming from 12th place on the grid to force their way into the top five.
Motorcycles and quads
Dust played a huge role in the outcome of the motorcycles and quads (SACC Moto) results while riders had to negotiate rocks and grass typical to the racing terrain in the North-West Province. Defending OR1 (Open) motorcycle champion, Ross Branch (Brother Leader Tread KTM) opened his scorecard with a perfect result when he claimed his first victory of the season. He beat Tim Young (Sherco Liqui Moly Racing) who made a comeback to cross country racing after winning the OR2 championship in 2013 while motocross ace, Tristan Purdon (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha Racing) rounded off the OR1 podium.
The 2015 OR3 champion, Brett Swanepoel (Pepson Plastics Husqvarna) won the OR2 category for 250cc bikes, while Kyle Flanagan (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha Racing) scored a win in OR3 (200cc). Juan ‘Bollie’ van Rooyen (Brother Leader Tread KTM) was the winner in Senior Class bikes, and Pieter Holl (KTM) claimed the first Masters victory. Stefan van Deventer (Bidvest Blu Cru Yamaha) was the quickest of only three finishers in the High School class.
The rocks and dust added to the challenge in the quad category where former Senior Champion, Russell Ferreira (Yamaha) took the win in the Open Class. Keenan Hammon (Yamaha) won the Quads High School Class while Botswana’s Sidney Rankgate took the victory in Masters and Megan Stander (GVS Racing Vryburg) won the Ladies Class.
The next round of the SACCS championship, the Battlefields Lodge 400, will be run in KwaZulu-Natal on May 12 and 13.