TRAGEDY STRIKES

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - TEST -

As men­tioned in the main ar­ti­cle, the class T At­las Copco VW Amarok was due to head to Botswana to com­pete in the most im­por­tant cross coun­try rac­ing event of the year, the Toy­ota 1000 Desert Race.

A day af­ter our test, the Amarok headed to Botswana. Gary Bertholdt and co-driver Phillip Hersel­man com­pleted the 61km pro­logue sprint in sixth po­si­tion over­all, and fourth in Class T. The next day the team lined up for the first of two gru­elling race days, to com­plete a total dis­tance of over 900km.

Although the day started out well and the At­las Copco Amarok was keep­ing up with the lead­ers, it went pear-shaped about 20km be­fore the end of the day, when the Sadev se­quen­tial gear­box cried enough. Gary and his team set about try­ing to get the VW back on the road for the last day’s ac­tion and they man­aged to se­cure some welded gears to re­pair the ‘box.

So the race’s last day dawned. About 30km into the day’s sec­ond loop, and with the patched gear­box hold­ing up, co-driver Hersel­man no­ticed flames leak­ing out from un­der the VW’s bon­net, and he im­me­di­ately told Gary to stop. The lads got out just in time.

A fuel leak had caused a fire, and within sec­onds an in­ferno en­gulfed the Amarok. There was noth­ing Gary and Phillip could do but watch as the pris­tine rally bakkie was re­duced to ashes.

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