After an intense five rounds of the 2022 SA Rally-Raid Championship, it is time for the Parys 400, the final two rounds of the season that takes place on 11 and 12 November from the Parys Airfield in the Free State, and although eyes will be on the battles at the front of the Production Vehicle Category, there will also be focus on the various intricate situations in the overall as well as the FIA T1+, T1, T1.2, and T championships.
With Round Six taking place on Friday and Round Seven on Saturday, two full days of racing awaits competitors and teams. Strategy, clear heads and calm nerves will play fundamental roles in the outcome of the championships while a little luck – or the lack thereof – can eventually make the difference between disappointment and jubilation.
Gunning for their fourth Overall Production Vehicle Championship as well as the FIA T1+ title, will be Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA DKR Hilux T1+), but they will have their work cut out as their team-mates and current class leaders, Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy, would like nothing more than to add these titles to their names after a title drought for a few seasons.
Murphy will, however, not compete at Parys due to a broken arm and will be replaced by Rodney Burke. Both teams have had their share of bad luck during the season and a fierce battle can be expected.
Their team-mates, Shameer Variawa/Danie Stassen and Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle, have both been on the podium and will fight it out for the final step of the overall and FIA T1+ podiums. They will have to do this while keeping an eye on the consistent Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer (NWM Ford Castrol T1+ Ranger) as a good result for the Ford team, could also make a difference in the final standings.
Lance Woolridge/Elvéne Vonk in the second NWM Ford Castrol T1+ Ranger will give it their all to end a disappointing season on a high note while the Horn brothers, Johan and Werner (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid Toyota DKR Hilux T1+), who missed the season opener, will also aim for another good result to round off the season.
The battles in the T1 championship will continue from the front right through the rest of the field, but the class leaders, Eben Basson/Leander Pienaar (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid) can give it horns as they have already secured the title. That will not stop them from aiming for more class victories to add to their three this year while they will eye finishing the season in the overall top five.
Behind them Gary Bertholdt (Toyota Hilux), who has made use of two navigators with Juan Möhr reading him the notes again at the Parys 400, can overtake the German driver, Daniel Schröder, who will miss the event as he will be competing in the Roof of Africa, and a runner-up position in the class is within Bertholdt’s reach. And with a small points’ gap separating the three teams behind them, predicting the final standings could be dangerous.
Chris Visser/Albertus Venter (Red-Lined Motorsport REVO) missed the season opener, but claimed the class victory last time out and fought their way back into fifth place in T1. Like the previous two rounds, another close battle with Basson/Leander might just be on the cards again. Visser/Venter are part of the close trio and are surrounded by their team-mates, the ever consistent Philip Botha/Roelof Janse van Vuren and Johan de Bruyn/Gerhard Schutte, both competing with the Red-Lined Motorsport VK56.
At the recent Nampo 400, Botha/Janse van Vuren, who made their Rally-Raid debut in 2020, added to their record by finishing their 50th race after 50 starts. The team completed a total of 12 500 kilometres under the Red-Lined Motorsport banner.
Also lining up in T1 will be the Blignaut brothers, Fouché and Bertus (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid) as well as Richard Leeke/Zaheer Bodhanya (Leeke Motorsport); Nicolas Pienaar/Carl Swanepoel (Super Energi Race Fuels Red-Lined VK50) as well as Schalk Burger/Henk Janse van Vuuren (King Price Xtreme Mercedes-Benz) while the two international drivers, Thomas Bell and Jürgen Schröder, are also back for more.
Bell, who lives in Dubai and Wade Harris (Red-Lined Motorsport REVO) missed the season opener, but completed the rest of the events despite some challenges and are in the T1 top 10, while the German veteran together with Stuart Gregory will take the Nissan Navara to the battlefield again. Hennie de Klerk/Adriaan Roets (VW Amarok) competed in the first three events and will be in action for the seventh and final round of the 2022 season.
With the retirement of Ernest Roberts (JCP Steel Supplies CR6) and navigator Henry Köhne not competing in FIA T1.2 for 2x4 vehicles, the class leaders, Lance Trethewey/Leonard Cremer (King Price Xtreme CR6) can breathe a little easier and race with the knowledge that they have secured the FIA T1.2 championship. Another class win or two will, however, be just what the former Special Vehicle Champion and navigator Cremer would want, and that might push them into the overall top 10 for the season.
More successful kilometres on the WCT HT2 Toyota Hilux Turbo and good points could result in Simon Murray/Achim Bergmann finishing the season on the T1.2 podium while good results will also push Dewald van Breda/Johann du Toit in a another CR6 up in the class as well as the overall standings.
The Class T title is still up for grabs and although the leaders, scholar Jayden Els (18) and navigator, Armand du Toit (King Price Xtreme Renault Duster) have their grip quite firmly on the trophy, putting a wheel wrong can spell disaster for them. Experienced driver, Johan van Staden, and his son, Sean (KEC Racing Renault Duster) are third in the Class T championship, but with Christo Rose/Arno Olivier not competing due to Olivier struggling with a broken elbow, the Van Staden duo can not only move up the leader-board, but they are a real threat to the leaders.
And after making a successful debut at the Nampo 400, Hendrik du Plessis and his son, Heinrich, are back for another adrenaline rush session in their Ford Ranger.
The Parys 400 starts at 07:30 on Friday, 11 November with the 12 kilometre Pirelli Qualifying Race to determine the starting order for the first of the two 153 kilometre loops with the Start/Finish as well as the Designated Service Park (DSP) and Race Headquarters all situated at the Parys Airfield. Loop One will start at 09:30 with teams returning to the DSP area for a controlled 30 minute service break after which they will complete the loop again.
The seventh and final round of the SARRC will again start at 07:30 with teams taking on the 12 kilometre Pirelli Qualifying Race that determines the starting grid. On both days, the leading ten teams will draw for the line-up for the first loop of the day. On Saturday, a different 172 kilometre loop awaits competitors with the action starting again at 09:30. Teams will break for 30 minutes after completing the loop and upon completion of the final loop of the season, the podium ceremony will be held at the airfield.
Spectators are welcome to follow the action along the route from various vantage points while refreshments will be available at the airfield where enthusiasts can view the action at the DSP. The Parys 400 can also be followed on the RallySafe App that is available as a free download on the App Store or Google Play
Photo: Andre Schoeman