• The recent Total Agri 400 rally event brought about lots of excitement.
• The Century Racing team challenged Toyota Gazoo Racing for the outright win.
• Brian Baragwanath and Taye Perry drove a fantastic race in the CR6.
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It's been an exceptional weekend of racing for Century Racing at the recently concluded Total Agri 400 rally.
The proudly South African racing car manufacturer was able to finish two brand new CR6s for export and prep three cars to go racing over said weekend, all the while trialing new set up solutions on their flagship CR6 two-wheel-drive cars.
All this hard work was handsomely rewarded though, as in only their second race as a team, the duo of Brian Baragwanath and Taye Perry delivered an absolutely sterling performance.
Brian and Taye at the start of the event (Nadia Jordaan)
The weekend started with the obligatory 40km qualifying race/prologue on Friday, where Brian and Taye pushed their #388 car to qualify second for the race; only 28 seconds off the current series' pace leaders, the Toyota Gazoo Racing team Hilux of Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings. Having one car qualify so well is in itself was very impressive but not to be outdone, and after a very long absence, Century's slightly rusty Mark Corbett, with Navigator Rodney Burke, proved that they are also a force to be reckoned with, piloting Century's second CR6 (car #346) into the top 10.
But things are not always that easy in racing, and Century's jubilation was short-lived. The first tragedy befell the third Century Car of Guy Henley and Leonard Cremer, racing in the special vehicles category, who had rolled their CR2 in the prologue, requiring an almost complete rebuild overnight.
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The second tragedy from a small error of Brian and Taye's during the prologue led to them receiving a five-minute penalty. While not enough time to brew a proper tea cup, five minutes in the incredibly competitive FIA Class pushed Brian and Taye from second to 21st.
Elation has turned to despair with Century's fans who knew that because the prologue time gets added to the overall time to determine the winner, Brian and Taye now had the unenviable job of remaining competitive and making up significant time to get back to the podium.
A new day
The dawn of a new day brought the start of the main races, but nothing quite prepared Century or their fans for what was about to unfold. In true champion style, Brian and Taye not only passed eight cars, but clawed back more than the 5min28s on the leaders and had taken the lead by the half-way mark!
Having caught up and passed the leaders, the second race of the day became a straight fight for Brian and Taye against the Toyota of Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings. Brian and Taye pushed as hard as they could, but with worn tyres, extra heat, and some level of exhaustion from their fight from 21st to first, they struggled to repeat the first loop pace.
For all present, it was a battle that hasn't been seen for many seasons between the dominant Toyota Team and Century, but in the end, it came down to the last 50km.
Staying on the limit for most of the lap and despite a puncture 7km from the finish, the Toyota duo of Lategan and Cummings narrowly managed to get the victory in the end, beating Bryan and Taye by two minutes. In the other CR6, it was a masterclass in consistency from Mark Corbett and Rodney Burke, advancing to end the race with an excellent seventh Overall, improving their prologue performance.
Beside this stellar display in the premier FIA Class, Century's team performance was rounded off in style by Guy Henley and Leonard Cremer in the rebuilt CR2, who went on to win class P and come third in the special vehicle category.
Mark Corbett and Rodney Burke in car #346 (Nadia Jordaan)
Be warned, Toyota
It may not be the winner's trophy this time for Century's Brian and Taye, but they have firmly thrown down the gauntlet to Glyn Hall and the mighty Toyota Gazoo Racing Team.
For the first time in a long while, an end of season battle lies in store at Parys on the 23rd and 24th of October, followed undoubtedly by another exciting Dakar in 2021, where Brian and Taye aim to represent South Africa against the world's best.
But before you go - Why is this success from a 2WD in this Rally so impressive?
It's reasonably impressive simply because, throughout the history of off-road racing in South Africa, 2WD cars have always battled to match the speed of the 4WD vehicles due to the nature of the terrain with many tight corners. The main advantage of a 2WD is that they are allowed slightly more suspension travel, are 250kg lighter, and have 37-inch size wheels vs. the 33-inch 4WD size wheels.
This makes them faster on the long straights and through bumpy terrain. The CR6 is truly set to shine at the upcoming Dakar Rally, where this should come into play as the average stage speeds are over 100km/h.