TOYOTA GAZOO Racing South Africa recorded a double-podium finish at the Renergen 400, which took place on 6 and 7 October 2023, in the area surrounding the Free State town of Welkom. The Renergen 400 was Round 6 of the 7-round South African Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC), and saw Guy Botterill and co-driver, Simon Vacy-Lyle, finish in second place overall. At the same time, Saood Variawa and Danie Stassen brought their Toyota Hilux T1+ home in third place overall – a stunning result for the team.
Botterill/Vacy-Lyle drove a clean and steady race, running just outside the Top 3 for the bulk of the weekend, and reaped the rewards when the crews ahead of them experienced some challenges. Two of TGRSA’s own crews were ahead of Botterill/Vacy-Lyle, but first Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings; and then Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy, fell foul to the route in Welkom.
“Henk and Brett were leading the race, and looked on for a win that could prove critical in their championship fight,” said TGRSA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, of SVR/Hallspeed. “They were just three points behind Gareth Woolridge of Ford coming into the penultimate round, and a win here would’ve given them the edge in the title fight. But a misstep at a tricky section saw them crash out of the event.”
Cummings emerged unscathed from the roll, but Lategan needed medical attention. His injuries were not life-threatening, however, and he was transported to a specialist doctor in Pretoria to attend to his shoulder, which was injured in the crash.
With Lategan/Cummings removed from the equation, it fell to De Villiers/Murphy to fly the flag for TGRSA. The defending champions were on song, pushing their Toyota Hilux T1+ to the limit in pursuit of victory. However, they too fell foul to the Renergen 400’s terrain, damaging their car in an unseen ditch. They were forced to retire, dropping down the order in the championship standings as a result.
This left Botterill/Vacy-Lyle as the leading TGRSA crew, and they finished the tough race in 2nd place, just shy of three minutes behind the eventual winner, Gareth Woolridge (Ford). Teammates Variawa/Stassen finished a minute adrift of their teammates, showing good pace throughout the weekend.
While the updated championship points are yet to be ratified by Motorsport South Africa, an unofficial view leaves Botterill/Vacy-Lyle as the best-placed TGRSA crew, some 17 points behind the championship leaders. With 30 points on offer for victory, and 23 points available for second place, the title fight will go down to the wire, with a final showdown at the Waterberg 400 on 10 and 11 November, 2023.
“As with the Renergen 400, the Waterberg 400 will feature and all-new route, which offers a level playing field for all involved,” concluded Hall. “This might be just what we need in order to secure the championship, but we do recognise that it’ll be a tough fight, and Guy and Simon will have to dig deep at the final event of the year.”