Both Toyota and Ford came away from the Bronkhorstspruit 400 – round 4 of the 2019 South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) – with bragging rights with Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Henk Lategan winning overall and the Castrol Ford Cross Country Team of Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable taking Class T honours.
Lategan won the race overall, echoing his result from 2018, when he achieved his maiden cross-country victory at the same event. This year, however, he was partnered with navigator Brett Cummings, while Barry White read the notes last year.
Lategan/Cummings’ victory, in a time of 4hrs 37min 15sec, was the cherry on top of a class performance by various Toyota crews in Bronkhorstspruit. Teammates Shameer Variawa and Juan Möhr continued their good run, recording the third-fastest time in the overall standings, just behind the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux crew of Chris Visser and new navigator Danie Stassen.
Visser recently won the 2019 Toyota 1,000 Desert Race, with Philip Herselman beside him, and finished the Bronkhorstspruit 400 7min 11sec behind Lategan/Cummings.
Unfortunately, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy failed to score meaningful points, after a disappointing qualifying race on the Friday of the event.
“I am not sure if I missed the call, or it just did not register, but I arrived at a rough section early in the loop way too fast,” said the defending champion after the dust had settled over the qualifier. “We hit a rock at pace, breaking the wishbone on the left front suspension. We couldn’t continue, and were forced to start the race from the back of the grid.”
The dream season continued for the Castrol Ford Cross Country Team of Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable when they won their fifth race in a row.
The reigning Class T champions qualified sixth fastest during Friday’s 66 km prologue in their Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) built and run Ford Ranger, after a cautious initial outing in the extremely dry and dusty conditions that are typical of the Highveld in winter.
Proving just how competitive the field is, the KwaZulu-Natal duo were within 28 seconds of the second-placed team, which set the scene for a thrilling main race on Saturday.
However, they were imperious in the main event, and surged to the front of the Class T field on the first 172 km loop with a much quicker pace than their rivals, with several of them losing time due to punctures.
Setting out on the second loop, Woolridge and Huxtable held a 52-second lead over Johan and Werner Horn (Toyota). Despite the best efforts of the Horn brothers, who eventually finished third, and runners-up Gary Bertholdt and Geoff Minnitt (Toyota), the Ford Ranger crew never put a foot wrong and retained their lead through to the finish of the race with a faultless drive that further extended their advantage at the top of the championship table.
“To get a win like this was fantastic and is exactly what we wanted, but after Friday’s qualifying session we weren’t all that confident, as Lance and Ward were sixth in class and 12th on the road,” said team principal Neil Woolridge. “Lance was not quite himself as he’s had a bit of flu and we have been extremely busy at work building new race cars, but he had a good sleep on Friday night and he was on it today.
“He and Ward had a clean run with no punctures and made no mistakes, and their Ranger was perfect. This is great for the championship with five wins from five races – it cannot get any better than that,” Neil added.
The next round of the 2019 SACCS is the Harrismith 400, which is set to take place on 13 and 14 September. However, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA will be turning their attention to the Dakar Rally, with a test session planned for later in August.