While the year has already reached the halfway mark, the 2022 SA Rally-Raid Championship has only just got momentum with two of the seven rounds ticked off. Having a look at the early leaders in the extremely competitive Production Vehicle Category as well as those in the hunt behind them and the minimal amount of points separating the teams, it is clear that some exciting racing action can be expected over the next four months.
The recent Toyota Gazoo Racing SA (TGRSA) Desert 1000, the second round of the championship that took place over three days and almost a thousand gruelling kilometres in the Upington area in the Northern Cape, rewarded those who finished with a healthy amount of points. The past two events have however seen success and disappointment for teams with those who have produced constant results, now a bit higher up on the scoresheets.
Changes to the Production Vehicle Category has also seen the introduction of the FIA T1.2 Class for 2×4 normally aspirated petrol engine vehicles at the recent TGRSA 1000 Desert Race and teams in this class did not score points towards the overall standings at the season opener.
Looking at the overall standings, it is Shameer Variawa/Danie Stassen (TGRSA DKR Hilux T1+) who have taken the early lead (54 points) although only one point separates them from their team-mates and TGRSA 1000 Desert Race winners, Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy (53 points). Another TGRSA team, Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle, rounds off the overall podium (49 points) with not much separating them from the leaders.
The only little gap in the current standings, is the 18 points between Botterill/Vacy-Lyle and Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer (NWM Ford Castrol Ranger T1+) in fourth place with a blanket of only 11 points covering the seven teams from fourth to 10th place on the overall standings. One can expect turmoil between these teams while they will all be hunting down the leaders.
Bad luck at the desert race resulted in the defending champions, Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings (TGRSA DKR Hilux T1+) returning from Upington empty handed with only the 30 points from their victory at the season opener putting them in fifth place overall. They have the same amount of points as Eben Basson/Leander Pienaar (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid T1) with both teams only a single point behind Woolridge/Dreyer.
Brian Baragwanath/Leonard Cremer (Century Racing CR6 T1.2) missed the season opener, but they earned 27 points by finishing fourth in the desert and worked their way into seventh place overall. The Horn brothers, Johan and Werner (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid T1+) also missed the opening round but a good run at Upington moved them to eighth overall, three points behind the 2021 TGRSA 1000 Desert Race winners, Baragwanath/Cremer.
It has been a seesaw season for Gary Bertholdt (Toyota Hilux) so far, but two race finishes puts him ninth amongst the drivers (21 points), one point ahead of Lance Trethewey (King Price Xtreme CR6 T1.2). Bertholdt has made use of two navigators, Philip Herselman (10 points) and Juan Möhr (11 points) while Rodney Burke scored 20 points next to Trethewey and is ninth in the overall navigator standings.
A few tight battles have ensued in the different class championships where competitors receive an additional five points for starting a race. This results in a podium shuffle in the FIA T1+ Class where De Villiers/Murphy are leading (67 points) with Variawa/Stassen (64 points) second and Botterill/Vacy-Lyle (62 points) third. Woolridge/Dreyer (52 points) are still fourth with a little breathing space to Lategan/Cummings (40 points) and the Horn brothers (32 points).
Lance Woolridge/Elvéne Vonk (NWM Ford Castrol Ranger) have had a dismal start to their season and could not finish the first two events. They have 10 points with an uphill battle ahead of them.
In the FIA T1 Class, Basson/Pienaar (67 points) have opened a little gap to the rest of the teams. With different driver and navigator combinations over the two events, drivers and teams do not necessarily share the same position in the standings. Bertholdt (57 points) is currently second of the T1 drivers, one point ahead of Philip Botha (Red-Lined Motorsport VK56) who is only one point ahead of German driver, Daniel Schröder (Nissan Navara) after a good run at Upington.
Newcomer Johan de Bruyn (Red-Lined Motorsport VK56) has worked himself into the fifth place between the T1 drivers (42 points) after scoring at both events with the Blignaut brothers, Fouche and Bertus (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid) completing their first event at Upington successfully to be sixth (36 points). Hennie de Klerk (VW Amarok) is seventh (28 points) followed by Jürgen Schröder (Nissan Navara) who deservedly earned his 23 points after a tough desert race as did Thomas Bell (Red-Lined Motorsport REVO) who is ninth (22 points) after a challenging event.
In the T1 Navigators Championship, Schröder’s navigator, Ryan Bland, finds himself in second place (55 points), trailing Pienaar by 12 points while De Bruyn’s navigator, Gerhard Schutte, rounds off the podium (42 points). Roelof Janse van Vuren missed the season opener, but earned himself 42 points sitting next to Botha at the TGRSA 1000 Desert Race. Wade Harris (37 points) is fifth after navigating for Conrad Rautenbach at the season opener and for Thomas Bell (Red-Lined Motorsport REVO) at Upington.
Bertholdt’s two navigators, Möhr (29 points) and Herselman (28 points) are seventh and eighth respectively with Adriaan Roets, who sits next to De Klerk, also with 28 points in the bag. Jürgen’s navigator, Michael Abramson is 10th (23 points).
Four teams scored their first points in the new FIA T1.2 Class with Baragwanath/Cremer (50 points) leading the class ahead of Trethewey/Rodney Burke (42 points). They are followed by two French couples, Yannick/Valerie Panagiotis (36 points) who were seventh at the TGRSA 1000 Desert and Jerome/Anne Galpin (32 points), who both competed with Century Racing CR6 vehicles. Three more teams have their work cut out for them to add to their five points – JCP Steel Supplies team-mates, Ernest Roberts/Henry Köhne and Malcolm Kock/Jaco van Aardt as well as Dewald van Breda/Johann du Toit who all competed with Century Racing CR6 vehicles.
There are new leaders in Class T. A first class victory at the desert race for the young driver, Jayden Els and navigator Armand du Toit (King Price Xtreme Renault Duster) saw the team taking the lead (51 points) ahead of Christo Rose/Arno Olivier (Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger) who trail them by five points. The father and son crew of Johan and Sean van Staden (KEC Racing Renault Duster) survived a brutal desert race and rounds off the podium (32 points) while the Johnstone couple, Bernard and Minette (Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger) is fourth (25 points) after not being able to finish the TGRSA 1000 Desert Race. Wors Prinsloo/André Vermeulen (Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger), have commissioned a new vehicle, and did not compete at Upington are fifth (23 points).
Toyota (275 points) has taken a commanding lead in the Manufacturers Championship with Century Racing (72 points) second; Nissan (63 points) third; Ford (61 points) fourth and Renault (22 points) rounding off the top five. Volkswagen is sixth (5 points).
- Points in the overall and T1+ class are provisional, pending a protest.
The third round of the SA Rally-Raid Championship takes place on 19 and 20 August at Bronkhorstspruit on the outskirts of Gauteng.