Extremely tough competition expected at SA Rally-Raid championship season opener at Dullstroom

The Mpumalanga 400 is a Super Event that starts with a short 20 kilometre Pirelli Qualifying Race on Friday morning, 25 March to determine the starting order for the first 80 kilometre loop that follows on the same day.

Extremely tough competition is going to add to the excitement of the Mpumalanga 400, the opening round of the 2022 SA Rally-Raid Championship that is taking place on 25 and 26 March in the Dullstroom area and to predict an overall or even class winners in the Production Vehicle Category, might not be such a good idea.

New competitors and vehicles; different team combinations as well as a challenging route all contribute to the fact that the Mpumalanga 400 will be an event for the books and not to be missed.

Competitors are quite familiar with all the eventualities the Mpumalanga 400 has had to offer during the years as it will be the fifth running of this popular event in the Dullstroom area.

What will be new, is a different looking FIA Class with the FIA T1+ Class for vehicles with bigger wheels and adapted suspension à la Dakar Rally style while the FIA T1 Class is still for those competing according to the FIA regulations of recent years.

And for this first event of the season, the names of no less than two international drivers and two co-drivers as well as a familiar Zimbabwean driver appear on the Production Vehicle Category entry list. The new FIA T1+ Class brims with teams who have successfully returned from the recent Dakar Rally and also includes two new teams whose progress will be watched with great interest.

The defending champions, Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA) are back to defend their titles and they will be in the cabin of their well-known Toyota DKR Hilux T1+. They will be joined by team-mates, Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy and Shameer Variawa/Danie Stassen who also completed the 2022 Dakar Rally.

Henk Lategan – Courtesy of TGRSA.

Guy Botterill, who endured a baptism by fire when he stood in for the injured Lategan at the 2021 Mpumalanga 400, is also back for more.

The team of multiple SA National Rally Champions will see Botterill’s regular navigator, Simon Vacy-Lyle, reading him the notes. Also in a Hilux T1+, are former Class T champions, Johan and Werner Horn (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid) who take the big leap from Class T to the new FIA T1+ Class.

The winners of the 2021 Mpumalanga 400, Lance Woolridge/Elvéne Vonk (NWM Ford Castrol Team), have also moved to the FIA T1+ Class with an extensively modified and upgraded Ford Ranger EcoBoost 3.5 V6.

The team would like nothing more than to add to the history they made last year when they became the first non-Toyota team to claim the victory at the Mpumalanga 400 and another win in Dullstroom will be a perfect start to their season.

The team will be completed by Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer in a similar vehicle who will also be looking to open their season with a good result. Brian Baragwanath/Leonard Cremer (Century Racing CR6), also returned to South Africa in January with a successful Dakar Rally result, and will compete in the new FIA T1+ Class, and taking their performance during the 2021 season into consideration, they will be a team to keep a close eye on.

The FIA T1 Class will be as competitive with teams vying for the overall podium. The list of regulars comprise no less than four Red-Lined Motorsport teams with Philip Botha (Red-Lined VK56) aiming to continue his streak of race finishes. He teams up with Riaan Greyling for the Mpumalanga 400. Joining them will be newcomer Johan de Bruyn and the experienced Gerhard Schutte in a similar vehicle as well as the international team from the Netherlands, Dave Klaassen and Tessa Rooth. Klaassen and Rooth are regular competitors in Europe and it will be their first SA Rally-Raid Championship attempt.

The Zimbabwean-born Conrad Rautenbach will also be back behind the wheel with Wade Harris reading the notes in their Red-Lined REVO. Gary Bertholdt (Toyota Hilux) has teamed up with his former navigator, Philip Herselman. The proficient Herselman now resides in Bangkok and adds to the list of international competitors together with the German driver, Daniel Schröder (WCT Engineering Nissan Navara) who, together with Ryan Bland, also completed the recent Dakar Rally successfully. Schröder has competed in SA on numerous occasions in the past.

NWM Ford Castrol T1 Ranger – NWM Ford Castrol Team.

Richard Leeke/Zaheer Bodhanya (BSpeed Leeke Motorsport) are no strangers to the FIA Class and a good start to the season will boost their confidence. Last year, the Mpumalanga 400 was the first national outing for Eben Basson who can now look back on a tough, but successful learning curve.

With his eye on participating in the Dakar Rally, Basson will be out in the all new #TeamHilux Rally-Raid Toyota with Leander Pienaar reading the notes. The 2018 Dakar Rally Rookie Winner, Hennie de Klerk, also plans to enter the Dakar Rally and together with the defending Special Vehicle Navigators’ Champion, Adriaan Roets, the team embarks on an intensive preparation program that includes participating in the SA Rally-Raid Championship with the VW Amarok.

Roets and Lance Trethewey claimed the 2019 and 2021 Special Vehicle Championship and after competing in the Production Vehicle Championship at the end of the 2021 season, Trethewey was hooked. The multiple Drivers’ champion will take on the 2022 season with the King Price Xtreme Ford Ranger together with the 2021 Class T Navigators’ Champion, Frans Kock and this combination can also cause a few upsets.

Class T has attracted three entries for the Mpumalanga 400 event. Two of the Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger teams, Wors Prinsloo/André Vermeulen and Christo Rose/Arno Olivier, will come under starting orders together with the young team of Jayden Els/Armand du Toit (King Price Xtreme Renault Duster) who had their first taste of the Rally-Raid Championship racing at the end of the 2021 season.

With many well-known teams as well as various new combinations, of teams and vehicles, the unexpected cannot be ruled out. With all of these factors in mind, lots of action can be expected at the Mpumalanga 400 and one might just miss some of the racing entertainment with the blink of an eye.

Red-Lined VK56 – Courtesy of Red-Lined.

The Mpumalanga 400 is a Super Event that starts with a short 20 kilometre Pirelli Qualifying Race on Friday morning, 25 March to determine the starting order for the first 80 kilometre loop that follows on the same day.

The Start/Finish as well as Designated Service Park (DSP) and Race Headquarters will be at the Village Green Cricket Oval in Dullstroom where spectators will be welcomed.

With a total 100 kilometres of racing done on Friday, two more loops of 125 kilometres each await competitors on Saturday with the action starting at 08:00.

Teams will return to the DSP for a compulsory 30 minute service break after the first loop, and the race will also finish at the cricket oval.

The action can be followed on the RallySafe App where maps and information will be available. The RallySafe App can be downloaded free for iPhone and Android devices from the Google Play Store or the App Store.

Source: SACCS

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