The Parys 400, the final two rounds of the 2022 SA Rally-Raid Championship, will be remembered as the championship finale where competitors and teams were tested to the limit by some treacherous weather conditions, with rain and mud that persisted on both the penultimate round on the Friday as well as the seventh and final round on the Saturday.
It will also be remembered as a season finale that ended an exciting and nail-biting SARRC, where the lead and the standings in the overall Production Vehicle Category as well in the FIA T1+, T1 and the T1.2 that was introduced from the second round, and the Class T championships were in seesaw mode. In the end, minimal points separated the teams and the champions had to work hard for their titles.
Veteran rally-raid driver and multiple Dakar achiever, Giniel de Villiers (Toyota Gazoo Racing DKR Hilux T1+) overcame a few set-backs during the season to claim his fourth Overall Production Vehicle Drivers’ Championship title with the team owning the overall podium. De Villiers made use of the services of stand-in navigator, Rodney Burke, for the final two rounds as his regular navigator, Dennis Murphy, had to withdraw due to a broken arm.
This resulted in Brett Cummings, the defending overall navigators’ champion reading the notes for Henk Lategan in a similar DKR Hilux T1+, claiming the title for the fourth consecutive year. Lategan/Cummings, who were in a season long battle with De Villiers/Murphy for the overall and T1+ titles, won round six at Parys, but could not finish the final round. Lategan trails his team-mate by 13 points on the overall standings with another Toyota Gazoo Motorsport team, Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle, who finished third after their first full national SARRC season.
In the Overall Navigators’ Championship, Murphy dropped to the runner-up position and ended a mere three points ahead of Vacy-Lyle.
Behind them, the NWM Ford Castrol T1+ Ranger team of Gareth Woolridge/Boyd Dreyer, who won the final round of the Parys 400, finished fourth overall, four points off the podium and five points ahead of yet another Toyota Gazoo Motorsport team, Shameer Variawa/Danie Stassen who blotted their perfect 2022 scorecard by not being able to finish the final round.
Also in the overall top ten were the new FIA T1 champions, Eben Basson/Leander Pienaar who finished sixth, four points ahead of their #TeamHilux Rally-Raid team-mates, Johan and Werner Horn (DKR Hilux T1+) who missed the season opener and were seventh. Behind them the teams are somewhat scrambled due to the musical chairs situation.
Chris Visser (Red-Lined Motorsport REVO) also missed the first race and made his mark during the second half of the season together with Albertus Venter. He is eighth overall of the drivers followed by the new T1.2 champion, Lance Trethewey (King Price Xtreme CR6) and the German driver, Daniel Schröder (Nissan Navara) who dropped down on the overall standings due to the team missing the final two races as Schröder competed in the Roof of Africa in Lesotho.
In the Overall Navigators’ Championship, Burke, who scored points next to Trethewey in the beginning of the season, finished eighth, followed by Leonard Cremer who saw the season out next to Trethewey. Venter rounds off the top 10 of the navigators.
In the various class championships, competitors received an additional five points for starting a race and together with the seat hopping, the final standings make for interesting reading. De Villiers is the 2022 T1+ Drivers’ Champion albeit only winning the TGRSA 1000 Desert Race. Lategan, who has five class victories behind his name, finished second. Woolridge rounds off the T1+ podium, one point ahead of Botterill while Variawa finished fifth; Horn sixth and Lance Woolridge seventh after a disappointing season where the team could only score points at the final two races.
Looking at the T1+ Navigators’ Championship, Cummings defended his title successfully and with some breathing space, but a real battle for positions brewed behind him. Dreyer finished as the runner-up, only one point ahead of Vacy-Lyle and Murphy dropped off the podium to fourth place, a single point ahead of Stassen with Werner Horn in sixth; Lance Woolridge’s navigator, Elvéne Vonk, in seventh and Burke in eighth place.
Basson/Pienaar secured the T1 title going to Parys and added more points to their tally that included three class victories. Visser/Venter shot up the standings during the second half of the season and finished second after winning twice and finishing second in the class on three occasions. Their Red-Lined Motorsport team-mates, Johan de Bruyn/Gerhard Schutte (Red-Lined VK56) won round six and complete the T1 podium.
In the T1 Drivers’ Championship, Philip Botha (Red-Lined Motorsport VK56) finished fourth followed by Gary Bertholdt (Toyota Hilux), who made use of the navigating services of Philip Herselman and Juan Möhr, in fifth place. Bertholdt beat Schröder by one point with the rest of the top 10 covered by only seven points. Thomas Bell (Red-Lined Motorsport) is seventh; six points ahead of both Richard Leeke (Leeke Motorsport) and Nicolas Pienaar (Super Energi Race Fuels Red-Lined VK56) with newcomer, Fouche Blignaut (#TeamHilux Rally-Raid) a single point further back.
Ryan Bland, who sat next to Schröder, is fourth of the T1 navigators followed by Roelof Janse van Vuren who missed the season opener next to Botha, fifth. Wade Harris, who navigated for Bell, finished sixth; Möhr is seventh; Pienaar’s navigator, Carl Swanepoel, is eighth, one point ahead of Fouche’s brother, Bertus and Zaheer Bodhanya, regular navigator to Leeke, completes the top 10.
Regular participation was the name of the game in the new FIA T1.2 for 2x4 vehicles where team Trethewey/Cremer earned the title. Ernest Roberts/Henry Köhne (JCP Steel Supplies CR6) finished as the runner-ups with their team-mates, Malcolm and Frans Kock, third. Brian Baragwanath (Century Racing CR6) also made use of the services of Burke with the team only competing in the TGRSA 1000 Desert Race in Upington – and won – to finish fourth. Simon Murray/Achim Bergman (WCT HT2 Toyota Hilux Turbo) got underway at the third round and finished the season in fifth place.
The battle for the Class T honours was between the young driver, Jayden Els, who turned 18 in 2022, together with his navigator, Armand du Toit (King Price Xtreme Renault Duster) and the father and son duo of Johan and Sean van Staden (KEC Racing Renault Duster) with Els/Du Toit being crowned the champions ahead of the Van Staden pair. Christo Rose/Arno Olivier (Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger) finished third followed by another family, Hendrik and Heinrich du Plessis (Ford) who made their debut at round four and five. Bernard and his wife, Minette Johnstone (Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger) finished fifth.
Toyota is again the winning Manufacturer followed by Ford; Nissan, Century; Renault; Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz.
The 2022 SARRC was dealt a few curveballs including a race that was cancelled due to a tropical storm and atrocious weather conditions that forced drastic changes at the Parys 400. The thrilling season was also characterised by competition at the highest level and deserving champions predicting an even tougher 2023.
Images: Andre Schoeman