KZN duo bag S1600 honours
Pace and consistency of defending champs Botterill and Vacy-Lyle pay handsome dividends
IT was a tough season and a tight battle in Class S1600 of the South African National Rally Championship, but in the end the pace and consistency of defending class champions Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle paid handsome dividends.
The KwaZulu-Natal based Yato Tools Toyota Etios duo won their second consecutive S1600 championship after scoring four well-earned victories, a third and fifth position and retiring from two events in the eight rounds of the 2015 season.
The year did not start particularly well for the pair, as a puncture and brake problems forced them to settle for a distant third in their home event, the Tour Natal Rally, in March.
The first event of season was won by Paulus Franken/Henry Kohne (Manitou Group VW Polo) who capitalised on the extreme bad luck of fellow Capetonians Ashley Haigh-Smith and Damian van Ass (Castrol Ford Fiesta) who were forced to retire two kilometres from the end with a broken wheel on their car.
They eventually finished over a minute ahead of Matthew VacyLyle/Schalk van Heerden (Fragram Tools Toyota Etios), Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle’s team-mates.
The treacherous conditions in the Sasol Rally in Mpumalanga saw a high attrition rate in S1600, but Chad van Beurden/Nico Swartz (Jem Sport VW Polo) gave good account of themselves by finishing first in the class and eighth overall, beating log leaders Franken/Kohne by more than two minutes.
However, Franken and Kohne was still leading the class on 28 points, followed by Vacy-Lyle/ Van Heerden and Van Beurden/ Swartz a further 2,5 points adrift.
Botterill bounced back in the Secunda Motor Rally in Mpumalanga, delivering an impressive performance to win the class in style, more than a minute ahead of Richard Leeke Jr. and Rikus Fourie (ATS Ford Fiesta R2), and finishing a fine sixth overall.
Third in class after a steady run was Vacy-Lyle/Van Heerden in their Etios, but Marko Himmel/ Francois Schoombee (North Panelbeaters VW Polo R2), while competing under Superally rules, showed some good sportsmanship by stopping to assist Nico Higgs/Etienne Lourens after their VW Polo caught fire in a stage.
Botterill and Vacy-Lyle celebrated their second consecutive class victory in the Bela-Bela Motor Rally, followed by Van Beurden/Swartz (now in a Jem Sport Ford Fiesta R2) and Matthew Vacy-Lyle/Van Heerden.
This moved them to the top of the leader board with 43 points — four clear of Vacy-Lyle/Van Heerden, with Van Beurden/ Swartz third on 33,5 and Franken/ Kohne down in fourth position on 28,5 — only 1,5 points clear of Leeke/Fourie.
However, the waterlogged and shortened Volkswagen Rally in the Eastern Cape saw the demise of most front-runners, while Franken and Kohne stayed out of trouble, securing the class win ahead of Vacy-Lyle/Van Heerden — the only other team in the class to see the chequered flag.
This also meant that after five rounds completed earlier points leader Simon Vacy-Lyle’s brother, Matthew, and co-pilot Van Heerden had moved to the top of the log on 51 points, followed by Franken/Kohne on 44,5 points.
Unfortunately Vacy-Lyle/Van Heerden’s class lead did not last long, as in the next event, the Imperial Toyota Tshwane Rally, they rolled out of the rally in spectacular fashion, virtually destroying the Fragram Tools Etios.
Meanwhile their team-mates Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle did not put a wheel wrong in their dice with Van Beurden/Swartz, gaining another victory to again lead the class (59 points) — only 2,5 points clear of Tshwane Rally runners-up Franken and Kohne.
Still in striking distance, with two events remaining in the 2015 championship, was Matthew Vacy-Lyle/Van Heerden on 52 points, followed by Van Beurden/ Swartz (45) and Leeke/Fourie (34).
Botterill/Vacy-Lyle all but wrapped up the season in the penultimate event, the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally, winning the class by a huge margin over teammates Matthew Vacy-Lyle/Van Heerden in a borrowed Fragram Tools Toyota Etios.
All that now remained for the pair (on 75 points) was to finish sixth or higher in the final event, the Polokwane Motor Rally, in order to secure the championship.
They were now 11 points clear of Vacy-Lyle/Van Heerden, with Franken/Kohne only 7,5 points further in arrears and Van Beurden/Swartz fourth on 45 after sitting out the Cape round.
The Polokwane event saw Namibians Marko Himmel/Gert Nienaber making a strong return by winning the class, followed by Haigh-Smith, also making a return with Patrick Brides as codriver, and Leeke/Fourie.
However, by finishing fifth in class Botterill and Vacy-Lyle did enough to secure their second consecutive championship, as well as the S1600 drivers’ and navigators’ titles.
The 2015 NRC4 Challenge for older S2000 four-wheel drive two-litre rally cars wasn’t that well supported, but with one event left one of three crews could still win the challenge — Piet Bakkes/Shaun Visser (Accident Guru Toyota Auris), Wilro Dippenaar/Kes Naidoo (Northern Panel Beaters Toyota Auris) and Theuns Joubert/Mari van der Walt (Salom Agri Toyota Auris).
Dippenaar/Naidoo did not enter the Polokwane event, and with Bakkes/Visser retiring from the event it was Joubert/Van der Walt, who drove a steady rally to finish sixth overall, to win the challenge and the 2015 Class NRC4 series.
Durban-based driver Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle drove their Yato Tools Toyota Etios to a second consecutive S1600 championship this year.