A fourth victory in the 2019 South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) saw Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Henk Lategan and navigator Brett Cummings prove themselves as worthy champions.
The pair had already wrapped up the title during Round 5 of the six-round series, but once again excelled in tricky conditions, to triumph at the final round of the year, the Parys 400.
The pair started their weekend by posting the second-fastest time during the 45 km-long qualifying race, which took place on Friday, November 1st. Lategan/Cummings trailed pole setters Chris Visser and Danie Stassen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) by just 18 seconds, giving them an ideal road position for the main event – which contributed to their emphatic victory.
“It was nice not to open the route,” explained Lategan after parking his unscathed Class FIA Toyota Hilux in parc ferme after the race. “The conditions were very tricky for the first loop, but the track dried out quickly, and by the time we tackled the second loop, there was plenty of grip.”
The weekend started out with dry, dusty conditions. But a late-afternoon hailstorm, followed by penetrating rain overnight, meant a largely waterlogged course for the opening loop.
“Even so, we managed to gain time on Chris, only to lose it again due to a puncture. But the second loop gave us the opportunity to launch an all-out attack on a good surface, and we made the most of it,” said Lategan.
The pair flew through the remainder of the 340 km-long route, which was split into two loops of 170 km – with a Rugby World Cup final break between the two loops. Lategan/Cummings pulled out all the stops during the second loop, and eventually finish 5min 11sec ahead of Visser/Stassen. Third place saw Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Shameer Variawa and navigator Juan Möhr tied on time with the Brazilian Class T crew of Marcos Baumgart and Kleber Cincea (Ford Ranger), which meant that two Toyota Gazoo Racing SA race cars were on the Class FIA podium.
“We lost a lot of time after suffering two punctures during qualifying,” said Variawa after the race. “But we had a good run during the race, and we reaped the results in the end.”
At the same time, Giniel de Villiers and navigator Alex Haro, had a disappointing start to their race. The pair had just entered the stadium section of the qualifying race, when the clutch shaft on their car suffered a failure, leaving them without drive to the wheels. The pair had no choice but to retire, and start the main event from the back of the grid.
“It was tough, for sure, but our primary goal this weekend was for Alex and I to bank some miles together, as part of our preparation for Dakar 2020,” said De Villiers. “As such, we certainly got the opportunity to bond in the car.”
The pair pulled away as the 30th vehicle on the road, and set about the task of making up ground. The damp conditions initially worked in their favour, as there was no dust to obscure their view. By the time the pair brought their Toyota Hilux over the finish line, they had done enough to move up to sixth in the overall standings, and fourth in Class FIA.
“This has been an eventful race for us,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, after the event. “But we had three Toyota Hilux race cars on the Class FIA podium, and Giniel and Alex achieved their goal of spending more time together in the car.”
Toyota was also awarded with the Manufacturer’s Award for 2019, capping an sterling season in the local championship. The team now turns all its focus on the upcoming Dakar Rally, which takes place in early January, in Saudi Arabia.