The 2017 South African Cross Country Series (SACCS) proved to be another vintage year for Toyota. On the factory side, Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dennis Murphy wrapped up the overall and Class FIA championship with a round to spare.
At the same time, brothers Johan and Werner Horn go to the last round in their Malalane Toyota Hilux with a lead of 26 points in Class T. Finally, the father-and-son pairing of Jannie and Chris Visser Jnr. Have amassed points in their Class S Toyota Hilux that they may already be champions – depending on the number of competitors that enter the upcoming Atlas Copco Gold 400, final round of the 2017 SACCS.
“Yes, it has been a really great year for Toyota in the SACCS,” says Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “At the same time, we were disappointed that Leeroy Poulter couldn’t see out the season due to health concerns. We continue to work closely with Leeroy, and wish him well with his recovery.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing SA is in the midst of preparations for Dakar 2018, and as such will be fielding the all-new mid-engined Toyota Hilux at the Atlas Copco Gold 400. De Villiers will also have his Dakar navigator, Dirk von Zitzewitz, beside him in the car.
“We’ve done a lot of testing and development on the new car since the Sun City race,” says De Villiers. “The car feels fantastic, and we can’t wait to validate the changes we made during testing at the upcoming race.”
Despite the team tackling the final round of the SACCS as an intensive test session, De Villiers will be keen to preserve Toyota’s unbeaten record in the series, which dates back to 2015.
For the Malalane Toyota crew of Johan and Werner Horn, the Class T Championship is within their grasp. They’ll be starting the event 26 points ahead of Ford’s Lance Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer – the only crew with a mathematical chance of catching the Horns. With the Malalane crew needing only a top ten finish to secure the championship, however, the Ford crew needs a win – and for the Toyota Hilux to not finish the race.
Class S has been the domain of Jannie Visser and his son Chris in 2017, and the pair have racked up win after win this year. They start the Atlas Copco Gold 400 with a 22 point lead over David Huddy and Gerhard Schutte (Nissan), though the points system in the SACCS is based on the number of cars entered in each category. If there aren’t enough entries, the Vissers may already have won the championship – otherwise any points finish will push them clear of their nearest competitors.
The Atlas Copco Gold 400 takes place on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 October, in the area near Glen Harvie, Gauteng. The HQ is only a 45-minute drive from Johannesburg, and the race is usually very popular with spectators. Access to all spectating points, as well as the Designated Service Park (DSP), is free of charge. The race starts with a prologue, to determine start positions, at 14:00 on Friday, with the main event getting under way at 08:00 on Saturday.