TOYOTA GAZOO Racing South Africa (TGRSA) will be heading to the Free State town of Parys, for Rounds 4 and 5 of the 2023 South African Rally-Raid Championship season (SARRC) this weekend, with the aim of scoring maximum points towards the championship.
Image supplied by Toyota South Africa
All four crews will be doing battle once again, with the unique format of the weekend adding extra pressure.
“We had a disappointing outing at our home race in Botswana last month,”
says TGRSA Team Principal, Glyn Hall of SVR Hallspeed.
“As such, we now find ourselves with a bit of work to do this weekend, and we’ll be aiming to get as many of our cars onto the podium as possible. With that said, this weekend is a double-header, with two rounds of the championship taking place on one weekend, so while there are effectively double points on offer, the challenge is also considerably bigger than usual.”
The Parys 400 features two full rounds of the 2023 SARRC, with a qualifying race and two race loops scheduled for this Friday. Another qualifying race, followed by two race loops, take place on Saturday, with the full complement of points available in each round.
“This means that we have to complete Round 4 on Friday, then repair all four cars as needed overnight, so that we can go racing again on Saturday,”
“While we as a team are quite used to the pressure thanks to our considerable experience in the Dakar Rally, it may still be a big ask, depending on how much damage the cars sustain on Friday.”
TGRSA will again be fielding four cars this weekend, with the same crews as in last month’s TGRSA 1,000 Desert Race. Henk Lategan and co-driver, Brett Cummings, continue to lead the charge for the team. The former champions are in second place in the Production Vehicle Championship after three rounds, just 15 points behind the leader, Gareth Woolridge (Ford).
While Lategan/Cummings will be looking to reel in the crew ahead of them, teammates Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dennis Murphy will be keen to improve on their own third-place in the title fight. They are just 3 points adrift of the Toyota Hilux T1+ crew ahead of them, and with the points for two rounds on offer this weekend, the fight within the team may well be one to keep an eye on.
As if the tussle between De Villiers and Lategan isn’t enough, the team’s third car will again be in the hands of Guy Botterill and co-driver, Simon Vacy-Lyle this weekend. This pairing has shown significant pace this year, and are just 7 points behind De Villiers/Murphy, so a three-way fight within TGRSA is a strong possibility.
While not part of the championship fight, youngster Saood Variawa and his experienced co-driver, Danie Stassen, will be fielding a fourth Toyota Hilux this weekend. Variawa took part in his first national rally-raid event last month, and showed exceptional speed and skill. He will be looking to score his first points for the team this weekend, and if his Desert Race performance is anything to go by, the teams at the head of the field may just have to watch their backs in Parys.
As has been the case throughout the 2023 season to date, Toyota will also be represented by a number of fast privateers, driving in the T1+ and T1 classes. Notably, brothers Fouche and Bertus Blignaut will be in action in their brand new Class T1+ Toyota Hilux, while defending Class T1 champions, Eben Basson and Leander Pienaar, will be looking to extend their lead at the top of the table.
This weekend’s racing will get under way at 7:30 on Friday morning, with a qualifying race to determine the starting positions for the Round 4 main event. This follows at 9:30 on Friday morning, while a new route will be used for Saturday’s Round 5, which also starts with a qualifying race at 7:30, and the main event at 9:30.