BRONKHORSTSPRUIT, GAUTENG – Defending South African Cross-Country Series champions, Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings, picked up right where they left off five months ago: With victory on Round 2 of the 2020 season, which took place in Bronkhorstspruit on 14 and 15 August. The pair lead from flag to flag, despite some challenges, adding valuable points in their quest for a second consecutive championship.
The race got under way with a short qualifying race on the Friday; followed by two race loops of roughly 150 km each on the Saturday. Lategan/Cummings made their intentions clear by winning the qualifying race by more than 20 seconds over Chris Visser and navigator Danie Stassen, also in a Class FIA Toyota Hilux.
“We got off to a slightly shaky start,” said Lategan after the qualifying race. “I had forgotten my water bottle in the footwell of the car, and I had to fend off the errant bottle throughout the first part of the stage. But then, in a controlled zone, I managed to get everything squared away, and we picked up the pace towards the end.”
The pair put their Hilux, sporting some upgraded and new components, on pole position for the main event, and made the most of their position despite having to open the route – quite literally, in one instance.
“During the first loop, we got stuck behind a closed gate,” explained Lategan mid-way through the race. “Brett had to get out and open the gate, and we lost about one-and-a-half minutes in the process. In the end, the stewards gave us that time back, so no harm done.”
Things nearly came undone when the pair reached a dam wall mid-way through the second loop. Lategan drifted slightly wide when turning onto the wall, and the Hilux slid down the bank, nearly rolling into the water. He managed to keep the car dry, but it was precariously balanced over the water.
“We both climbed out of the car to assess the situation, and then decided to try to extricate the Hilux. I got back in, while Brett waited on the side. Plenty of power and a bit of luck saw us back on the road, and we had a clean run to the finish from there,” continued Lategan.
The pair brought the car home in first place, after a ding-dong battle with Visser/Stassen, who held onto their starting position to finish in second place. Third place went to TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA’s Giniel de Villiers and stand-in navigator Juan Möhr.
The pair qualified in third place, and found themselves unable to close the gap to Visser/Stassen during the race.“Juan and I worked well together, but it is always a challenge to race with a new navigator,” said De Villiers after the race. “Chris and Danie were really quick, and we just couldn’t catch them in the end.”
The third TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA Hilux was again in the hands of Shameer Variawa and former champion navigator, Dennis Murphy. Variawa, himself a former champion, found the going tough in places, suffering a number of overshoots both during qualifying and the race itself. As a result, Variawa/Murphy posted the 6th-fastest time in Class FIA during the qualifying race and managed to move up one place to finish in 5th during the main event.
The next round of the 2020 SACCS season is the Nampo 400, which takes place around the Freestate town of Bothaville, on 18 and 19 September, 2020.