The Waterberg 400, final round of the 2023 South African Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC), offered a last chance for Guy Botterill to clinch the overall title. Partnered with Brett Cummings for this event, Botterill needed a win in order to make his SARRC dreams come true, and the pair started their challenge perfectly, when they won the qualifying race on Friday. This allowed them to choose their starting position for the main race, and they elected to go out as the second car on the road, following in the tracks laid down by teammates Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy, driving an identical Toyota Hilux T1+.
“The decision for Giniel and Dennis to open the road, with Guy and Brett following them, was a strategic one,” explained TGRSA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, of SVR/Hallspeed. “We needed to work together as a team in order to give Guy the best possible chance to win the race, and that’s what we did. “
Initially, the plan worked to perfection, as Botterill and Cummings set about the task at hand. But things unravelled when De Villiers/Murphy reached a closed gate, which saw them lose time. This allowed Botterill/Cummings to catch up and pass their teammates on the road, putting them in clear air at the head of the field, but also forcing them to find the route. Shortly after passing De Villiers/Murphy, however, Botterill/Cummings lost time due to a wrong turn, allowing their teammates back into the lead. This meant that De Villiers/Murphy were forced to stop again, in order to allow Botterill/Cummings back into the lead position.
At the mid-point of the race, Botterill/Cummings started the second loop, but was called to a halt by the team after they discovered a problem with a turbo boost pipe on the normally reliable Hilux T1+. The pair were forced to pull over shortly after the time control for repairs, and lost the best part of seven minutes as a result. They soldiered on once the problem was sorted, only to be further waylaid by a steering ball joint problem.
“Guy and Brett gave it their best shot, but in the end we just couldn’t make it stick,” said Hall after the race.
Further back, young Saood Variawa and his new co-driver, Frenchman Francois Cazalet, were posting Top 3 times throughout the race. They were looking good for a podium finish, when a problem with their front brakes saw them slide off the road and into a ditch. The impact caused significant damage to the front of their Toyota Hilux, and while the crew were uninjured in the crash, they were forced to withdraw.
This left De Villiers and Murphy to fly the flag for TGRSA, and despite losing time earlier in the day, the pair fought back valiantly to finish in fourth place. Suffering a puncture during the second race loop didn’t help their cause either.
“In the end, Gareth (Woolridge) won the race and the title, and we would like to congratulate Neil Woolridge and his team on a solid victory and a well-deserved title,” concluded Hall.
The next stop for TGRSA is a comprehensive test session in Namibia later this month, as part of the team’s final preparations for the upcoming Dakar Rally, which starts early in January in Saudi Arabia.