SA rookie driver comes out tops in what veter­ans call the tough­est edi­tion of the Dakar race yet.

SA duo emerge first from the dust

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

SOUTH African duo Hen­nie de Klerk and Ger­hard Schutte last week­end gave the dreams of other as­pir­ing rac­ers a boost by win­ning the rookie cat­e­gory of the 40th and tough­est Dakar yet in their made-in SA, Ford-pow­ered, Trea­suryOne Amarok.

The Pretoria crew were ec­static, al­beit to­tally ex­hausted as they mounted the fin­ish­ing ramp in Cor­doba, Ar­gentina, in the in­cred­i­ble cul­mi­na­tion of a five-year dream.

A for­mer track racer and now CEO of Trea­suryOne, a fi­nan­cial ser­vices provider that has Re­serve Bank au­tho­ri­sa­tion to act as a for­eign ex­change in­ter­me­di­ary, De Klerk sought ad­vice on how he should go about tack­ling the Dakar and was told to go and race the lo­cal cross coun­try cham­pi­onship, which he did. He gained ex­pe­ri­ence and last year built the Trea­suryOne Amarok. The Ford V8-pow­ered ma­chine was con­ceived with one mis­sion in mind — to fin­ish the Dakar. Then in June last year, De Klerk won the Dakar Chal­lenge award in the Toy­ota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana, a prize which cov­ered Dakar’s en­try fee and the cost to get the Amarok to and from South Amer­ica to com­pete. From there it was a blur as the team pre­pared flat out to ready the bakkie to leave in Novem­ber, be­fore jet­ting into Peru for the start at La Paz.

For the Dakar, De Klerk teamed up with a for­mi­da­ble co-driver in Ger­hard Schutte, pop­u­larly known as “MacGuyver” in cross coun­try cir­cles. Schutte brought the nec­es­sary Dakar ex­pe­ri­ence to the team, hav­ing had a ma­jor part in get­ting his car to the fin­ish the Tak­li­makan Rally in China — a 13-day race us­ing Dakar nav­i­ga­tional stan­dards last year. The Trea­suryOne team’s ob­jec­tives were sim­ple — to stand on the podium at the fin­ish at Cor­doba, but lit­tle did they know that this would end up be­ing recog­nised as one of the hard­est Dakars ever — per­haps the tough­est yet in the 10 years the race has run in South Amer­ica.

The race started well for De Klerk and Schutte and by the sec­ond day’s rac­ing they sat 34th over­all, but Dakar bared its teeth on Wed­nes­day’s third day as the duo lost time look­ing for an im­por­tant way­point be­fore they ex­pe­ri­enced brake and power steer­ing is­sues that saw them spend­ing nine hours in the stage.

But they were not the only ones in trou­ble in a Dakar that this year saw more than half of the en­tries fall by the way­side, and when they stum­bled into the camp that night, they were 32nd over­all and lead­ing a tight dice for an un­ex­pected rookie lead into the rest day.

Satur­day’s sixth and the first day of a no-ser­vice marathon stage, how­ever, proved the team’s neme­sis as De Klerk struck a rock in thick dust be­hind a T5 truck.

That was when Schutte showed why he is called af­ter the char­ac­ter that can fix any­thing with any­thing­came, pulling off a mi­nor mir­a­cle to get the Trea­suryOne Amarok go­ing again with a lit­tle help from De Klerk and an ea­ger band of lo­cals.

They lost 10 hours and were un­lucky to in­cur an ex­tra four-hour penalty for be­ing just six min­utes late into the im­pound, but the Trea­suryOne guys were still in the Dakar, in 36th over­all and third, al­beit well back in the rookie race.

They took it easy on Sun­day to make sure the road­side-re­paired Amarok fi­nally reached ser­vice, but one of their rookie ri­vals re­tired and the other lost sev­eral hours.

Mon­day was can­celled due to bad weather and the team had a good run on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day, in spite of an ac­ci­dent with a four-wheeler hid­den over a dune, caus­ing yet an­other all-nighter for the crew to fix the dam­age.

Al­though fight­ing off the chal­lenges of ex­haus­tion, they en­joyed an­other pos­i­tive day on Thurs­day to re­take the rookie lead as their main ri­vals there had a dif­fi­cult day in the dunes, be­fore avoid­ing all the trou­ble so rife on Fri­day’s cruel 13th day to bring it home 28th over­all, leav­ing only the WRC stage in to re­alise that dream in Cor­doba on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

They took it easy to the fin­ish and duly parked the Trea­suryOne Amarok with its Ford V8 en­gine (and a Hilux head­lamp too) on the Dakar fin­ish­ers’ podium to re­alise an in­cred­i­ble dream.

Forty-three of the 95 cars that started fin­ished the race and only two of the 16 rook­ies made it through.

De Klerk and Schutte were ec­static to de­liver on their aim of fin­ish­ing the Dakar on de­but, but they did not ex­pect to be a ma­jor fac­tor of the rookie race through­out the two weeks of Dakar, let alone win the rookie race to Cor­doba.

“I am lost for words, an ec­static De Klerk ad­mit­ted.

“We came here to fin­ish and that’s what we did — the rookie win is a huge bonus and I’d like to ded­i­cate it to my team and our in­cred­i­ble crew, our fam­ily, friends and fans who have sup­ported us so bril­liantly all the way.

“The Dakar has been an as­tound­ing ex­pe­ri­ence — an ab­so­lute test of man and ma­chine across the tough­est roads and ter­rain in the world and we have done it. We are so proud on what is prov­ing to be a very spe­cial day for South Africa at all lev­els!”

PHOTO: MO­TOR­SPORT­MEDIA

Dakar rookie win­ners Ger­hard ‘MacGuyver’ Schutte and co-driver to Hen­nie de Klerk on the Trea­suryOne bakkie — which is an Amarok out­side, a Ford V8 un­der the hood with a Hilux’s head­lamp.

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