Land Cruiser upgraded

If ever South Africans wanted something that would climb every mountain they turned to the farmer’s favourite, the Toyota Land Cruiser from the venerable bakkie to the luxurious VX-R – all with the common denominators of a ladder-frame chassis and V8 diesel engine.

Now the SUV variants of the 200 Series have been given a few tweaks for 2019.

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As before two grade options are offered – the utility-focused entry level model has been rebadged as GX-R (GX of old) – to align the naming convention with its luxurious VX-R sibling.

Both grades are powered by the same 4,5-litre V8 turbo-diesel engine with outputs of 195 kW at 3 400 r/min and 650 Nm from 1 600 r/min.

Notable changes to the VX-R model are mostly found at the front of the vehicle. A new front grille design features two prominent horizontal slats intersecting the large grille opening in an east-west fashion – replacing the previously utilised multi-slat design.

A smoked treatment has been applied to the Bi-LED headlamps and LED fog lamps, for enhanced visual differentiation. The headlamps themselves include Auto High Beam functionality, super bright LED illumination and Daytime Running Lights (DRL).

A new Brown interior trim colour has been made available, now affording VX-R buyers a selection of three interior palettes – Beige, Black and Brown.

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The VX-R model continues to boast an impressive standard specification list, which includes:
• Blind Spot Monitoring
• Auto-dimming mirrors
• Integrated tow hitch
• Leather interior
• Power-adjustable front seats
• 3-zone climate control
• Front ventilated seats
• Heated seats (1st and 2nd row)
• ‘Coolbox’
• Optitron instrumentation
• Surround-view cameras
• Satellite Navigation and touchscreen infotainment
• Smart Entry
• Tyre Pressure Monitoring
• Multi-Terrain Select (switchable off-road driving modes)
• Active Traction Control (A-TRAC)
• Crawl Control
• Full suite of electronic driving aids including Lane Keeping system and 10 air bags

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Pricing
Land Cruiser 200 4.5D V8 GX-R 6AT – R 1 021 900
Land Cruiser 200 4.5D V8 VX-R (Black/Beige/Brown) 6AT – R 1 405 600

All Land Cruiser 200’s come standard with a 9-services/90 000 km service plan (intervals are pegged at 12 months/10 000 km) and 3-year/100 000 km warranty.

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New styling for Duster

Renault has reshaped the Duster with more aggressive lines to give visual confirmation to its SUV status and to modernise the overall look in line with fashion trends in the segment.

With more than two million cars sold globally and 15 000 units sold in South Africa since its initial launch, the new Renault Duster builds on and reinforces existing strengths.

The new Renault Duster boasts exterior styling delivering a distinctly assertive and robust look, highlighting its SUV pedigree. Visually more muscular, the design tone is set by the more aggressive lines and a more expressive front and rear.

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The Duster’s stance is emphasised by its bold, more horizontal lines, 16-inch or new 17-inch wheels, more prominent aluminium roof bars and front and rear skid plates. The chrome trim of the grille, alongside a raised waistline and the powerful C-shaped light signature complete image.

Travelling comfort is heightened by the newly designed and more enveloping seats, numerous easily accessible stowage spaces and improved accessibility of controls and amongst others, an enhanced Multimedia experience.

It also offers a modular interior layout with the rear bench seat featuring a 1/3 – 2/3 split-fold function, while the boot boasts loading capacity of up to 478 litres.

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The New Duster offers a multitude of active and passive safety technology as standard across the range, such as anti-lock braking with EBD in conjunction with EBA.

Rear Park Distance Control enables easier parking manoeuvres by warning the driver of obstacles situated behind the vehicle and Hill Start Assist, triggered by taking one’s foot off the brake, takes over the vehicle by holding it steady for two seconds, allowing the driver to accelerate normally without stalling or rolling back.

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The Duster comes with two fuel options and three engine options.

There is a choice between the 1,6-litre 16V and two versions of the 1.5 dCi turbo engine. The Diesel 1.5 dCi 4×2’s engine has outputs of 66 kW and 210 Nm and consumes just 5,1 l/100 km. The 4×2 EDC and 4×4 Manual versions have outputs of 80 kW and 250 Nm with claimed consumption of 4,.8 l/100 km.

The 6-speed Dual-Clutch EDC Automatic gearbox is now available with the 1.5 dCi Diesel engine. Upshifting is fast and smooth, with no jerking or loss in acceleration, with fuel consumption is comparable to that of the manual.

As is standard across Renault’s entire product range, the new Renault Duster comes standard with a 5-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty and a 6-year anti-corrosion warranty. Services take place at 15 000 km intervals and a standard 3-year/45 000 km service plan applies.

RECOMMENDED RETAIL PRICING
• NEW Renault DUSTER 1.6 Expression 4X2 R249 900
• NEW Renault DUSTER 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4×2 R282 900
• NEW Renault DUSTER 1.5 dCi Dynamique EDC 4×2 R316 900
• NEW Renault DUSTER 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4×4 R321 900
• NEW Renault DUSTER 1.5 dCi Prestige EDC 4×2 R334 900

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One to go

Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle could clinch the 2018 SA National Rally Championship at the Lake Umuzi Secunda Rally that starts on September 28 – if they finish ahead of AC Potgieter.

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The Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Class R2N Toyota Etios crew have now recorded four victories on the trot in the Championship. This has put them in a position where they could potentially end up winning the title  with one round of the championship to spare.

“We’ve had a look at the maths,” says Guy Botterill, “and it looks as if we only need to finish ahead of AC Potgieter to clinch the title.”

Botterill/Vacy-Lyle have won all but one of the five rounds thus far, having failed to finish the opening event of the season. This gave them 64 championship points, with Potgieter (Volkswagen Polo) their nearest competitor at 57 points.

“But remember, in rallying each driver has to drop the points from one event,” explains Botterill. “So even though the gap between us and AC is only seven points at the moment, our worst result is a DNF, so we don’t lose any points when we drop it.”

Potgieter’s worst finish was worth nine points, effectively increasing the gap between the two crews to 16 points – which just happens to be the number of points you score for a win.

“So, if AC wins the event and we have a DNF, we’ll be tied for the championship with just the final round to go. However, if we finish anywhere ahead of him, he won’t be able to catch us during the last round, even if we have a DNF then,” says Botterill.

With the mathematics in place, there is still the small matter of a rally to do, and the Lake Umuzi Secunda Rally is set for next weekend, September 28th and 29th. As in the past, the event will be centered in the area around the Lake Umuzi Waterfront in Secunda, with the event starting at 15:00 on Friday, September 28th, from the Eastvaal Ford/Mazda dealership in Secunda.

The Friday of the event will see the crews tackle four stages, with the final stage taking place after dark – and the crews tackling it in reverse road order. The action restarts at 8:00 on Saturday, September 29th, with eight stages forming the meat of the rally.

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The Lake Umuzi Secunda Rally has become a firm crowd favourite over the last few years, and it forms part of a festival hosted by the town each year. Spectators can enjoy the rally, and take in the festival at the same time.

Entry to all areas is free of charge, and Secunda is within easy driving distance from both Johannesburg and Pretoria.

“We didn’t win in Secunda last year, so we’d really like to perform well this time out,” concludes Botterill. “A win would seal the championship for us, making it five in a row – and nothing would please us more.”

Road Review – Hyundai Tucson 1.6 TGDI Elite 7DCT2

“I’ve got to admit it’s getting better (Better)
A little better all the time…”

Those lyrics, penned by Paul McCartney and John Lennon for the seminal 1967 ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ album by The Beatles, reflect the progress made by Hyundai as an automaker – co-incidentally formed in 1967.

From its first production car – the Cortina in 1968 in conjunction with Ford – Hyundai Motor Corporation has moved from fledgling to full-grown and a major player on world markets with a structured product range that consistently improves with each iteration.

This is important because – as yet – Hyundai has not shown the complacency some others have done when climbing into the top three in world sales and where product eases backwards from vibrant to boringly predictable.

Heave-ho forward to 2018 and the introduction of the revised Tucson range into South Africa where the derivative has been a top-contender in its market segment since it was first launched in 2009.

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In 2017, the Tucson had an 11,1 % share of the segment and this declined in 2018 in the year-to-date to 9,0%, as the old model completed its runout phase.

The new version has been given a new front and rear appearance with the addition of the Hyundai signature cascading grille, along with a new design headlight, fog lamp, front bumper and skid plate.

The Tucson’s interior is also new, sporting a redesigned dashboard with a floating 7-inch screen for its infotainment system that offers features such as Apple’s CarPlay.

Two new derivatives were introduced in the revised in the Tucson range, and a new 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission and 8-speed automatic transmission form part of the changes in the Tucson line-up.

The Tucson’s sporty exterior design is achieved by the cascading grille and the refined new light signature with full LED headlights. An uplifted front bumper and refined skid plate complement the Tucson’s exterior appearance.

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At the rear, the Tucson was gained a new rear taillight design, with a redesigned bumper and exhaust tailpipe. Its side profile features a new 19-inch wheel design for the flagship 1.6 TGDI Elite derivative.

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Tucson’s completely new upper dashboard features high-quality soft touch material with a double stitching line for a more high-quality feeling in the interior. The focal point of the centre console is the floating audio system screen.

The new Tucson range in South Africa features seven derivatives, with a choice between three engines – a naturally aspirated 2,0-litre petrol engine, a turbo-charged 1,6-litre petrol engine and a 2,0-litre turbo-charged diesel – and three specification levels..

The test unit was the 1.6 Elite – a very significant plus factor in this being Hyundai works on the ‘what you see, you get’ so there is no working through a lengthy list of optional extras to try and find the base that matches the published pricing.

For Tucson, there are simply three specification levels with the Elite being top-of-the-range.

However, base specification is impressive and includes cruise control, the infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen, LED daytime running lights, driver, passenger, side and curtain air bags. Executive adds Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), leather seats, Blind Spot Detection for side mirrors, Cross Traffic Alert detectors at the rear, electric seat adjustment for the driver and a full auto air-conditioner with climate control.

Elite, gains a panoramic sun roof, electric seat adjustment for the front passenger as well, a rear USB port, a push-button to start the engine and keyless entry.

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Priced at R559 000 it goes up against the Mercedes-Benz GLA 200, Audi Q3 1.4 FSI and BMW X1, all of which are light in terms of the standard features comparison and offer options that will take their final price up a notch or two.

The Elite is powered by a 130 kW, 265 Nm turbo-charged 4-cylinder petrol engine, which is coupled with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, developed in-house by Hyundai.

There are three distinct drive modes on offer from the benign Eco setting that attempts to keep the vehicle in the highest feasible gear at all times and makes very gentle downshifts through Comfort where the rev range and gear ratios are best suited to daily traffic and short-haul runs.

Sport mode comes as delight and the car gets quite edgy in its desire to hurry up and launch itself at the far distant horizon and it is like having three cars in one.

Overall average fuel consumption ran at 8,1 l/100 km giving truth to the Hyundai claim the new auto box improves economy. However, when switched into ‘angry’ mode be prepared for a substantial increase in fuel use concomitant with burying the right foot and insanely yelling ‘Hoora’ as you power it out of yet another corner.

Equally, once cruising speed is reached and Eco mode engaged, the consumption drops quite dramatically – hence the very competitive overall average.

As a mid-size SUV the Tucson provides the right balance between everyday transport and leisure activities – comfortable seating with plenty of adjustment and enough support to keep long-haul runs from being tiring and painful, enough space for family luggage needs/sports equipment yet still small enough to get in and out of shopping centre parking spaces.

It comes with a 5-year/90 000 km service plan, 7-year/200 000 km warranty (comprised of Hyundai’s 5-year/150 000 km warranty, with an extended 2-year/50 000 km drivetrain warranty) and roadside assistance for 5 years or 150 000 km.

As I said: “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better (Better)…”

Road Review – Toyota Rush 1.5

Car names have run automakers into trouble over the years with some badly translating badly as they cross language and cultural boundaries – one merely has to think of the Chevy Nova and Mitsubishi Pajero – while others have, for whatever reason, signalled the death-knell of the model; here think Edsel.

Why exactly Toyota chose to name its small SUV the Rush is not clear, although clearer is the fact it is generally not in one!

Rush as a word tends to indicate speedy, whereas the Toyota’s mini Fortuner is an urban creeper and pithed very specifically at that market where it faces off against the likes of the Hyundai Creta, Ford EcoSport and even the Renault Duster.

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The Rush is also limited to a five-seater, keeping it clear of competition with the seven-seat Avanza on the local market, although it is sold in that format in other markets. While it also shares much with the Avanza, the Rush is more of the Daihatsu Terios, a company that sits within the Toyota stable.

The Toyota Rush features a prominent angular design with pointed, upswept LED headlamps and large trapezoidal grille. The grille features wide horizontal slats finished off in dark grey and a centrally mounted Toyota emblem. An inverted contour line separates the upper and lower air-dams and creates a triangular space which house the fog lamps. A silver-hued skid plate and twin hood bulges round off the front façade.

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From the side that front end looked to me as if the bumper was falling off – my wife, however, saw an eagle in flight. Eye of the beholder and all that.

The rear design centres on the LED-equipped rear lamp clusters, which carry strong horizontal lines and a similarly inverted contour line flowing from the bumper to the rear diffuser area.

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Overall the Rush presents a neat and tidy package as able to grace the parking lot of an upmarket bistro as it is the dusty roads of a wildlife haven.

Inside, the upper dashboard houses a touchscreen audio system, equipped with Bluetooth, USB and Android Auto Plus Show/Apple CarPlay functionality. This audio unit also offers a user-customisable layout and ‘apps’ – a must-have for any millennial customer.

The lower dashboard contains the dual-zone electronic climate control, 12-volt accessory connector and storage area.

High-contrast taupe trim and chrome accent pieces are utilised on the facia and door panels to add an air of brightness to the cabin and the 3-spoke leather steering wheel with tilt function and remote switches provide the driver with a firm grip of the road.

For taller drivers telescopic reach on the steering would be a bonus, although I had no problem as an average height person finding a truly comfortable driving position.

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The instrument cluster features legible graphics with a cool blue semi-circular motif and chrome surrounds. A centrally-mounted multi-information display relays user-selectable information to the driver, which includes a colour Eco indicator.

Road trips require ample cupholders and storage compartments and Rush certainly delivers on this front. The front door pockets make provision for two bottles, whilst the rear doors feature a cupholder integrated into the door handle which is supplemented by a traditional low-mounted bottle holder. A 12-volt power outlet is also provided for rear occupants, bringing the tally to two.

The centre console provides three more cupholders, accessible from both front and second row seats, while a 6,4-litre glove compartment and driver-side storage binnacle, place items out of sight.

Some 609 litres of luggage capacity is provided, and the rear seats can also be folded forward independently to further boost cargo space.

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A broad array of safety features are included in Rush; the active safety systems include Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), anti-lock braking system and Hill Assist Control (HAC).

The passive safety systems comprise a total of six air bags which protect occupants in the event of a collision – driver, passenger, side and curtain air bags are provided.

Interfacing with the smart entry system, an alarm and immobiliser, as well as auto door lock function control vehicle access.

Drive is provided by a 1,5-litre four-cylinder DOHC engine, with outputs of 77 kW at 6 000 r/min and 136 Nm of torque at 4 200 r/min. The engine utilises Toyota’s VVT-i system to boost efficiencies.

Buyers have a choice of either a 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic – driving the rear wheels.

The gear ratios are exceptionally short and the Rush hurries to peak revs in each gear and then highway cruising in fifth is achieved around 4 000 r/min accompanied by an uncomfortably loud engine noise, as irritating as it is unnecessary.

I seriously hope Toyota looks at this and considers either a six-speed manual or altering the ratios to give longer legs from first through second, third and upwards. Wheras the Avanza may carry sdeven passengers or large loads in the panel van, the Rush is meant to be a pleasant cruiser.

That said, it is no slouch and will bolt off the line with the best of them and sustain highway cruising without the need to make too many downshifts to cope with undulating terrain.

Fuel economy saw the Rush using 6,9 l/100 km, which is not far off Toyota’s claimed figure of 6,6 l/100 km – obviously, thrashing the life out of it on the open road will change that quite dramatically.

Following the front engine, rear wheel drive layout (FR), the suspension system consists of McPherson struts up front and a Multilink design in the rear. The suspension setup has been engineered to offer good rough-road damping and be complaint on mixed surfaces (tarmac, gravel and dirt).

One of Rush’s key features is the generous 220 mm ride height, which combined with a 31-degree approach and 26,5-degree departure angle, allows easy traversing of mixed surface roads. An impressive 600 mm wading depth affords Rush the capability to tackle most water crossings.

No quibbles with this setup and the Rush played nicely on fast long corners and behaved suitably thrown into the twistier ones – always bearing in mind what it is and where it is aimed in the market – so the sum call of all road surgfaces and use returned a verdict of ‘very capable’.

A six-services/90 000 kilometre service plan comes standard, backed up by a 3-year/100 000 km warranty. The service intervals are set at 15 000 kilometres.

Honda HR-V tweaked

Sporting new front and rear styling, the Honda HR-V has been quite significantly tweaked for the 2019 model year.

While the updated model retains all of the outgoing model’s core characteristics and benefits, it delivers new, striking styling elements that transform the front and rear appearance.

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The interior retains Honda’s Magic Seat System, which allows exceptional space utilisation, but features model-specific upgrades to the upholstery, fabric and finishes. In addition, the HR-V’s full-featured infotainment system has been standardised across the range.

Safety remains an HR-V priority with a full complement of active and safety systems that includes six air bags, vehicle stability assist, hill start assist, and emergency braking indicators.

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The updated HR-V model range still offers a choice of Comfort and Elegance trim levels, as well as 1,5-litre and 1,8-litre drivetrains featuring Honda’s i-VTEC technology and Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) gearboxes.

“The Honda HR-V has been a worldwide success since its introduction, establishing a strong position in the ever-growing SUV category,” says Toshiaki Kusakari, Head of Automobiles at Honda Motor Southern Africa.

“The HR-V’s global popularity is also reflected here in South Africa, where it is one of the key models in the local offering. It slots in perfectly between the larger CR-V and the more compact BR-V. We are convinced that these latest updates will further entrench the urban crossover as one of our top sellers locally.”

While the silhouette of the latest Honda urban crossover remains unmistakably HR-V, the front end now features Honda’s latest ‘solid wing face’, which incorporates an all-new front bumper, a reprofiled bonnet, and redesigned headlights.

The more aggressive front bumper design includes a new licence plate garnish, as well as recessed apertures for LED fog lamps now standard on the 1.8 Elegance model. The new headlights feature LED elements and LED daytime running lights on the Elegance version, while the Comfort derivative headlights employ projector-type halogen units.

The taillight clusters gain a smoked appearance, while the licence plate garnish has also been redesigned to match the front’s more aggressive styling approach.

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While the 1.5 Comfort model retains 16-inch alloy wheels, the 1.8 Elegance is now fitted with new 17-inch wheels.

Inside it gains new fabric designs, while the Elegance gets smarter perforated leather upholstery with double-contrast stitching.

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Less obvious but significant in overall comfort terms, noise and vibration dampening has been upgraded, further enhancing the HR-V’s already impressive refinement levels.

Standard across the board are electrically operated windows and mirrors, remote central locking, air-conditioning, cruise control, a multi-function steering wheel and a multi-information trip computer.

As part of the upgrade package, Honda has standardised the touchscreen-based infotainment system, which means that both Comfort and Elegance models now feature a 6,8-inch touchscreen display, instead of the 5-inch screen previously fitted to the Comfort version.

The infotainment system features list includes Bluetooth-based hands-free telephony and audio streaming, extended connectivity via USB and HDMI and smart device screen mirroring for access to device-specific functions such as video and photo files, as well as GPS navigation.

In the case of the 1.8 Elegance model, a rear-view parking camera is linked to the parking sensors to make reverse parking more convenient.

In active safety terms, the HR-V offers anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) and Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) activation.

Further peace of mind is provided by Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Hill Start Assist (HSA) and a high-mounted, third brake light. IsoFix child seat anchors are also included.

The 1.5 Comfort CVT is powered by Honda’s 1 497cc four-cylinder engine, featuring i-VTEC variable valve timing and electronic fuel injection. The engine is credited with 88 kW of maximum power, attained at 6 600 r/min, together with a torque peak of 145 Nm at 4 600 r/min.

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The 1.8 Elegance CVT employs a 1 799 cc four-cylinder engine, again featuring i-VTEC variable valve timing and electronic fuel injection. Power and torque maximums come to 105 kW at 6 500 r/min and 172 Nm at 4 300 r/min respectively.

The 1.5 Comfort boasts a combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of 6,3 litres/100 km, linked to CO2 emissions of 151 g/km. The 1.8 Elegance model achieves 6,8 litres/100 km in the combined cycle, coupled to 162 g/km of CO2 emissions.

PRICING, WARRANTY AND SERVICE PLAN

HR-V 1.5 Comfort CVT R354 900
HR-V 1.8 Elegance CVT R419 900

The retail prices include a five-year/200 000 km warranty, a four-year/60 000 km service plan, and a three-year AA Roadside Assistance package. Services remain at 15 000 km intervals.

Ford and Toyota win in the Free State

The Harrismith 400, Round 5 of the 2018 South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS), saw Toyotas as the first three cars across the line , but it was Ford that claimed the victory in the hotly contested Class T category.

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Victory in Harrismith went to former champion Chris Visser, with Philip Herselman beside him in the Atlas Copco-supported Toyota Hilux. It was a first overall victory for Visser/Herselman since joining the fray in Class FIA of the SACCS this year, and the burly farmer was ecstatic with his win.
“It has been a long time coming, and we’ve gotten close on a number of occasions,” said Visser from the Designated Service Park (DSP) at the Eeram Farmer’s Complex, to the west of the Freestate town of Harrismith. “But today everything came together. The Hilux ran like clockwork, Philip was an ace on the notes, and I really gelled well with the terrain.”

Visser/Herselman brought their Toyota Hilux home just 01:34 ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Henk Lategan and Barry White, who were fresh from their maiden win at last month’s Atlas Copco 400 in Bronkhorstspruit. The factory crew had won the qualifying race for the Harrismith 400 on the Friday before the main event, but found the going tough during the remainder of the race.

“Opening the route was really difficult, though I think we might have been just a touch too cautious on the opening loop,” said Lategan after finishing the race. “We tried to push a bit harder during the second loop, but Chris drove like a man possessed, and in the end, we just couldn’t catch him.”

Third place, 04:54 behind Lategan/White, came the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux of Jason Venter, with Jaco van Aardt beside him. The pair had last raced at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1,000 Desert Race in June, but it was a clear return to form for the former Class T champions.

“It was a good race for us,” said Venter after the event. “We came out here with the sole aim of having some fun, and maybe the relaxed attitude helped us go faster. Whatever the case may be, we had a great race and we’re very pleased to be on the overall podium.”

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Things didn’t go quite as smoothly for Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy, in the factory Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux. Their weekend started with a broken tie rod during the qualifying race, forcing the pair to drop way down the order for the main race.

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With Lategan/White finishing second, and De Villiers/Murphy not scoring points in Harrismith, the Production Championship is wide open. While the official standings won’t be updated until the results from the Harrismith 400 become official, it is likely that only ten points will separate De Villiers, at the top of the Production Category standings, from teammate Lategan in second place.

Class S saw championship hopefuls, Jannie Visser and son Chris, retire near the end of the race, handing the class championship to David Huddy and Gerhardt Schutte (Nissan Navara) in the process. The Vissers were 15 points behind Huddy/Schutte going into the penultimate round, but a DNF means that they are now out of contention, making Huddy and Schutte the new Class S champions.

The Free State proved a happy hunting ground for the Ford Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) team for the second year in a row as Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer scored their second consecutive Harrismith 400 Class T victory at the weekend.

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Having earned their first career win at this event last year, it was once again a stellar performance from the young pair in the NWM-built and run Ford Ranger, catapulting them from fourth to third place in the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS).

Team-mates and current Class T championship leaders, Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable were not quite as fortunate in the second NWM Ford Ranger but still managed a solid fourth place.

With their title rivals, Johan and Werner Horn (Toyota), encountering troubles and only managing sixth, it gives the Ford crew a bit more breathing space with their lead extended from four to nine points – thus setting the scene for yet another thrilling two-horse race for championship glory at the season finale.

Qualifying

With this year’s Harrismith 400 featuring an almost entirely new route, the primary objective for the Ford NWM team was to score maximum points without taking any risks that could sideline them in the fierce battle for the 2018 Class T Production Vehicle title.

As the SACCS Class T leaders, Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable were the fastest of the NWM Ford Rangers on Friday’s extremely windy and dusty sprint-style 39km qualifying session. They set the third-fastest time, which gave them an ideal starting position for Saturday’s main race without having to sweep the road – and, crucially, they were two places ahead of the Horn brothers.

Making the most of their local knowledge, Harrismith residents Jacques van Tonder and Sammy Redelinghuys caused a stir by powering their NWM-built privateer Ranger to the fastest qualifying time, 40 seconds ahead of Woolridge/Huxtable and 13 seconds quicker than second-placed Richard Leeke/Danie Stassen (BMW).

Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer were fourth quickest, just 7 sec behind their team-mates, perfectly placed to pounce as the race progressed.

Race

This year’s new Harrismith 400 route featured a challenging mix of fast farm tracks and gravel roads, keeping the crews on their toes throughout the two 177 km loops.

Lance and Ward started off well and were pushing hard, but despite the extremely dry and dusty conditions, they quite unexpectedly found themselves stuck in a mud hole located in a small forest section, just 65 km into the race. Several other crews were nearly caught out by the same hazard, which cost the Ford team around two minutes to extricate themselves – thus undoing their early charge, resulting in them holding station in fourth at the end of loop one.

Gareth and Boyd were setting a blistering pace and fortunately had no major issues on the first loop, other than one of the right front shock absorbers breaking towards the end of the opening stint, which only hampered them on the big bumps. They came into the pits leading Class T by more than two minutes over Leeke/Stassen in second place, and almost three minutes ahead of Van Tonder/Redelinghuys who had dropped back to third.

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With the damaged shock absorber replaced, Gareth and Boyd had a perfect run through the second loop and claimed their second Harrismith 400 win in a row with a total race time of 4 hours 35 min 10 sec – more than 6 minutes ahead of Leeke/Stassen and a further 1 min 21 sec clear of third-placed Van Tonder/Redelinghuys.

As the Ford NWM team’s third win of the 2018 season, the maximum haul of 30 points powered the young duo into third place in the championship, ahead of Gary Bertholdt and Geoff Minnnitt (Toyota) who crossed the line fifth.
For Lance and Ward, their second loop was also a fraught affair. They set blistering times on the first part of the stage and were within 20 seconds of second-placed Leeke/Stassen with 80km to go, only to lose the front brakes on their Ranger. A cautious drive to the finish saw them claim a hard-fought fourth place.

With rivals Johan and Werner Horn also experiencing a difficult weekend and finishing sixth, Lance and Ward are now nine points ahead of the Toyota crew going into the last race, scheduled for 2-3 November in Westonaria, Gauteng.

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Thanks to three Rangers finishing in the top four places, Ford won the coveted Manufacturers Award for the second time this year, to go along with the season-opener in Dullstroom.

The final race of the 2018 SACCS season will take place on 2 and 3 November in Glenharvie, Westonaria, Gauteng. The event was originally planned for Sun City, but had to be relocated due to landowner authorisation not being granted for the race route.

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