Jwaneng, Botswana - Former Dakar Rally winner Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy edged out works Toyota team-mates and South African champions Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie to win the 2017 Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round three of the South African Cross Country Series at the weekend by just six seconds, well ahead of Johan and Werner Horn in a Class T Toyota.
The two FIA-spec Hiluxes were once again in a class of their own, stretching an unbeaten record dating back to the 2015 season, with Poulter and Howie increasing their lead in the overall Production Vehicle championship.
Fourth were Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable in the first of the official Ford Ranger entries, followed by Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson on only their second outing in the new FIA-spec Elf Renault Duster - just 28 seconds ahead of Woolridge’s younger brother, Gareth, and Boyd Dreyer in the second ‘works’ Ranger.
Woolridge and Dreyer, in turn, had a little more than two minutes in hand over reigning Class T champions Jason Venter and Vince van Allemann, (Toyota Hilux) who put together a solid weekend after a streaky start to the season, as did Venter’s father Deon and Jaco van Aardt, who came home about 15 minutes adrift of their team-mates.
Venter senior and Van Aardt finished just two minutes ahead of Hennie de Klerk and former SA champion Achim Bergmann in a Volkswagen Amarok, who also won the Dakar Challenge, earning them a free entry to the 2018 Dakar Rally in South America - a prize worth €14 800 (R213 500).
Rounding out the top 10 were former South African champion Jannie Visser and his son Chris in what was probably the drive of the weekend, winning Class S in a Toyota Hilux by a huge margin from David Huddy and Rodney Cook in a Nissan Navara, who were the last of the classified overall finishers.
The weekend was a total disaster for Gary Bertholdt and Philip Herselman, whose Amarok suffered a fuel leak, caught fire and was totally destroyed.
A crew’s maiden national cross-country victory is always special, but to do it in the only marathon event on the calendar, the toughest event of its type in Southern Africa, is truly memorable.
Certainly husband and wife Marius and Jolinda Fourie will always be remembered for winning the Special Vehicles category of the 2017 Botswana 1000 Desert race in their BAT, 15 minutes ahead of father/daughter combination Coetzee and Sandra Labuscagne in a Porter.
After a disappointing Friday qualifying race, multiple former Class P champions John Thomson and Maurice Zermatten finally worked their Zarco Magnum up to third, in only their second outing in the premier Class A - although they came under late pressure from Class P winners Nic Goslar and Andrew Massey in another Zarco Magnum.
Apart from the Fourie’s win, Goslar and Massey’s drive was arguably the gutsiest of the weekend. Despite running the final leg without any communication between driver and navigator, they gave Thomson and Zermatten a run for their money and were only 40 seconds adrift of the Class A car in the final classification.
Lesotho based Chenoweth crew Stefan van Pletzen and Jaco Pieterse completed the top five with a comeback on the final day, followed home by Werner Kennedy and Thinus Venter (Aceco) and Shaun van Rooyen and Gene Rogers (Century CRT), second and third respectively in Class P.
But there was disappointment for rookie driver Schalk Burger and South African rally champion Elvéne Coetzee in a race which Coetzee’s father won two years in a row. Their race ended when their Porter collided with the BAT of Kobus and Miranda Fourie, sidelining both crews for the duration.