Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dennis Murphy recorded their second victory on the trot, in the 2017 South African Cross-Country Series, when they won the Harrismith 400, round 4 of this year’s championship. This comes after their victory on the grueling Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, and puts the crew right back in the fight for the championship.
Teammates Leeroy Poulter and navigator Rob Howie, driving an identical Class FIA Toyota Hilux, initially set the pace on the Harrismith 400 by winning Friday’s Qualifying Race. This gave them pole position for the main event, and the pair set about the task at hand with single-minded precision. They completed the first of the day’s two race loops without any problems, but then a technical hitch brought their charge to a halt shortly after starting the second loop.
“We had no choice but to retire,” said a frustrated Poulter after returning to the Designated Service Park (DSP) near the Free State town of Harrismith. “It obviously isn’t what we set out to do, and it is disappointing for us not to finish the event, after such a strong start.”
But Poulter/Howie’s retirement opened the door for teammates De Villiers/Murphy – and the experienced campaigners grabbed to opportunity to add another victory to their season.
“It was a tough race in the end,” said De Villiers from the DSP after the race. “On the first loop, we had to push really hard to keep the pressure on Leeroy and Rob, but a puncture near the end of the loop took the sting out of our attack. But then they retired, and we could ease up a little. In the end our Toyota Hilux never missed a beat, despite some pretty rough sections, and we’re ecstatic with the win.”
In Class T, for vehicles with engines over 4000 cc and solid rear axles, Chris Visser and stand-in navigator Philip Herselman brought their Toyota Hilux home in third place, behind the Fords of Gareth and Lance Woolridge.
Further back, Toyota privateers Jannie Visser and his son, Chris Junior, flew the flag in Class S of the championship. This class caters for four-wheel-drive vehicles with solid rear axles, and engines up to 4 litres in cubic capacity. Visser and son have proven themselves to be tenacious competitors, and the veteran driver proved his worth yet again, but taking a convincing class victory on the Harrismith 400. He now comfortably leads the championship in Class S, with two races left on this year’s calendar.
Next up is the Sun City 400, which is scheduled for 15 and 16 September, with the DSP based at the Sun City resort. The final round of the year will be the Atlas Copco Gold 400, which takes place on 27 and 28 October.
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