LICHTENBURG, NORTH WEST – Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dennis Murphy claimed victory on the Lichtenburg 400, round 5 of the 2019 South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) this weekend. At the same time, teammates Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings finished in second place, clinching the overall SACCS championship for 2019 in the process.
“It was a close-run race in the end,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, after the race drew to a close. “Initially it looked as if Henk had won the race by 11 seconds from Giniel, but most of the field was penalised for speeding in a controlled section. Unfortunately, Henk also fell foul to such a penalty, handing the victory to Giniel – but importantly doing enough to win the title.”
Lategan/Cummings were 23 points ahead in the overall championship going into the race weekend, with Ford’s Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable in second place. In the end, Lategan/Cummings earned 23 points for their second place; while Woolridge/Huxtable added only 12 points to his tally – giving the Toyota Hilux crew to margin they needed to clinch the title with one round in hand.
The weekend started perfectly for Lategan/Cummings, when they took victory in the 55 km-long Qualifying Race by 26 seconds over De Villiers/Murphy. An epic battle between the two Toyota Hilux crews ensued over the two loops that made up the main race, with De Villiers closing the gap to Lategan to just 11 seconds at the chequered flag.
“Then came the penalties, which saw all but three crews dropping down the order. Giniel and Dennis managed to avoid the penalties, and as a result they moved to the top of the standings,” explained Hall. “We’re delighted regardless, since Giniel won the race for us; and Henk won the title. All in all, a great weekend for the team.”
At the same time, Shameer Variawa and Juan Möhr, in the third Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux, struggled with the setup on their car during the qualifying race; and was then hampered by dust due to their starting position. With that said, they caught up with the cars ahead of them on both loops, and were classified as the fifth-fastest Class FIA crew in the end.
The Lichtenburg 400 was also the first competitive outing for Fernando Alonso and navigator Marc Coma, as part of their continued training for a possible entry to the 2020 Dakar Rally. The pair set the third-fastest time during the qualifying race, but suffered a setback when they had a soft roll 27 km into the first race loop. They lost significant time dealing with a broken windscreen before returning to the DSP.
The pair set out for the second loop with a new windscreen, but a bird strike shortly after the start of the stage saw them racing with a second broken windscreen. Despite these setbacks, they completed the race and were classified in 16th place.
Alonso/Coma showed their pace during the qualifier, and gained invaluable experience and seat time over the remainder of the event. They’ll next be in action at the Rally of Morocco, which takes place from 3 to 9 October, 2019. Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa will also be fielding three cars at the event, with Dakar champion Nasser Al Attiyah; Giniel de Villiers; and Bernhard ten Brinke all taking part.
As for the local championship, the final round will take place on 1 and 2 November, in the area around the Free State town of Parys.
Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa Acknowledges Its Sponsors and Specialist Official Suppliers and Technical Partners
Toyota enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Total, Toyota Financial Services and the Innovation Group. Also Hallspeed, Imperial Toyota, SKF, Spanjaard, OMP, Donaldson, Mastercraft, Edgecam, 3M, Shatterprufe, Supreme Springs, Smith’s Manufacturing, TRD, Peritus Forex, First National Battery, STR8-LIGN, Duxbury Netgear, Lumotech and Plan-C Productions.