PARYS, FREE STATE – A second-place finish in the final round of the 2022 South African Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC) was enough for veteran racer Giniel de Villiers to win his fourth cross-country title, edging out teammate Henk Lategan, who had a torrid final round of the season. With that said, the Friday of the Parys 400 double-header saw the defending champion and co-driver Brett Cummings emerge victorious, with De Villiers and stand-in co-driver Rodney Burke in second, and Shameer Variawa and Danie Stassen in third, completing an all-TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA (TGRSA) podium for Round 6.

The weekend started with a qualifying race held in cold and very wet conditions, over an already saturated route of 12 km. The mud and incessant rain made it tricky for the crews to find a rhythm, but even so, TGRSA’s crews performed well. Variawa and Stassen set the benchmark time of 8min 1sec, and were followed home by brothers Johan and Werner Horn, driving a privately entered Toyota Hilux T1+, similar to that campaigned by TGRSA. Behind them came the three remaining works crews: De Villiers/Burke; Guy Botterill and co-driver Simon-Vacy-Lyle; and Lategan/Cummings.

Conditions continued to deteriorate as the delayed race start drew near, but when the flag dropped it was flat out racing in Parys. By the time the first race loop, which was severely curtailed due to the conditions, it was Lategan/Cummings who led, with De Villiers/Burke in second, Variawa/Stassen in third and Botterill/Vacy-Lyle in fourth – a power performance by the works squad. Shortly before the end of the loop, the organisers announced that the second race loop would be cancelled due to the deteriorating condition of the track, which saw numerous competitors fail to reach the Designated Service Park (DSP) at the Parys Airfield. And with that, Round 6 was done – setting us up for a spectacular showdown between Lategan and De Villiers for the 2022 title.

Round 7 followed on the Saturday of the weekend, again starting with a qualifying race over a 12 km course. Continued rain over the preceding night meant even more treacherous conditions under foot, but the man who went fastest during qualifying the day before, was again best of the TGRSA crews: Variawa/Stassen posted the second-fastest time, with De Villiers/Burke in fifth place.

When racing got under way shortly after, the tough conditions took their toll. Lategan/Cummings moved into the lead mid-way through the opening race loop, but disaster struck around the 70km mark: An alternator belt was dislodged in deep water, and when the crew attempted to pull off the route, they became severely stuck. Shortly after, Variawa/Stassen fell foul to a similar fate, ending up stuck within sight of their teammates.

Botterill/Vacy-Lyle also lost an alternator belt 6km from the finish. This belt also drives the power steering pump, and with no assistance, the big-tyred Hilux T1+ becomes nearly impossible to drive. Despite this, Botterill managed to wrestle the car home to finish in fourth place overall.

Ahead of Botterill/Vacy-Lyle, De Villiers/Burke drove a faultless race to finish Loop 1 in second place. As with the previous day, the race organisers were forced to cancel the second race loop, cementing De Villiers/Burke’s second position, as well as De Villiers’ championship. This title capped a fantastic season for the South African-built and developed Toyota Hilux T1+, starting with victory on the Dakar Rally back in January this year.

Since then, the car has gone on to win the inaugural World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) in the hands of Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel. Yazeed Al Rajhi and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz also wrapped up the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas in Saudi Arabia this weekend, handing Toyota victory in both of the FIA’s cross-country series.

The team will now turn its attention to the upcoming Dakar Rally, using all the data gained from its various racing activities across the globe in order to fine-tune the Toyota Hilux T1+.