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Going for gold at final round of SA National Cross Country series

Henk Lategan. Image:  Nadia Jordaan

The final round of the 2018 South African National Cross Country Series (SACCS), the Gold 400, that takes place on 2 and 3 November in the Glenharvie area on the West Rand, is the sixth and last chance for title contenders to put their seal on championship aspirations and with new leaders emerging in the Production Vehicle category after the penultimate event, an action packed race can be expected.

Not much separates the teams from each other and anything can still happen. The reliability of race vehicles as well as playing it safe and a meticulously planned strategy, will all play a vital role in the outcome of the results and the final standings in the various championships.

The two Toyota Gazoo Racing SA teams swopped places after the recent Harrismith 400 with Henk Lategan/Barry White taking the lead in the FIA Class. Their team-mates and current overall leaders, Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy will, however, still hope to strike gold to claim the title. The battle will be on in the Toyota camp as newcomers, Lategan/White, would like nothing better than to bag the title and with no team orders, spectacular racing can be expected.

Neither team can afford to lose sight of Chris Visser/Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) who could throw a spanner in the works and pick up the pieces if the battle upfront front boils over. Another wily fox in the equation, former champion Shameer Variawa and Zaheer Bodhanya (Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara) are also capable of an upset.

Variawa/Bodhanya will be joined by three more Red-Lined Nissans in the capable hands of Terence Marsh, currently fourth in the standing and Letshego Zulu, regular international participants Thomas Bell and Patrick McMurren and newcomers Ernest Roberts and Stuart Creevy.

The class is rounded out by Johan and van Staden and Mike Lawrenson in the Elf Renault Duster.  It is a competitive line-up but receiving the chequered flag after 400 kilometres, will be the determining factor in the outcome of the results.

The Class T battle will also be one for the books as the class leaders, Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable (Ford NWM Ranger) will hate to see the title slipping away after missing it by the smallest of margins the past two years. The title and a fourth win this season will be on their to-do list at Glenharvie, but as only nine points separate them from the defending champions, Johan/Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) they will have to play their cards right. The Horn brothers will like nothing more than to defend their title successfully and this season long rivalry will continue at the Gold 400.

Meanwhile Woolridge’s brother and team-mate, Gareth and navigator Boyd Dreyer, took the Class T victory last time out and that pushed them onto the podium from where they now also have a foot in the door for the title. It will not be over until the proverbial fat lady sings and like in the FIA Class, a nail-biting race is on the cards.

They will have to juggle a few balls though as they focus on the title and their battles while not losing sight of the opposition teams. These teams include Gary Bertholdt/Geoff Minnitt (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) who only slipped off the Class T podium after the Harrismith event. They have won earlier this season and can do so again and will be hoping for a final podium result to end off the year. With only 17 points separating the first four teams, the pressure will be on all of them to produce the goods at the Gold 400.

The remainder of the Class T field will be hoping to end the season on a high, none more so than Richard Leeke/Danie Stassen (Speedglas BMW) and Jacques van Tonder/Sammy Redelinghuys (Ford Ranger) who will be high on confidence after their podium finishing performances at the recent Harrismith 400. They have the ability to make life uncomfortable for the championship challengers, while Dylan Venter/Donavan Lubbe will be keen to continue some late season form.

In Class S David Huddy/Gerhard Schutte (Nissan Navara) will aim to end their season on a high, but like so many times this year, they will first have to shake off Jannie Visser and son Chris (Toyota Hilux) who could not complete the Harrismith 400.  Archie Rutherford and son Kent, who missed two events this season will be determined to defend their honour.

While the championship titles are up for grabs, the final overall standings are also still in the balance and teams will be very mindful of their performances.
With so much at stake, no one can afford to put a wheel wrong and if Lady Luck was available to take a ride with each of them, they would not show her away.

The Gold 400 starts on Friday at 14:00 with the Qualifying Race to determine the starting order for Saturday’s racing section. On Saturday, the action will start at 08:00 at the Kloof Recreation Club Glenharvie with the start/finish as well as race headquarters and the designated service park also situated there.

On Saturday, spectators can get to meet their favourite teams and have posters signed during the compulsory 30-minute service halt at the Kloof Club before the national competitors tackle the second of the two loops again at 12:00. With lots of food and refreshments at the Kloof Club and great racing action that can be viewed along the route, the Gold 400 is an event not to be missed on 2 and 3 November.

Enthusiasts at the event as well as those who are not able attend the Gold 400, can follow the racing action on the RallySafe App that can be downloaded free of charge for iOS and Android devices.

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