Sec­ond is good enough

Bot­ter­ill and Vacy-Lyle team crowned 2017 SA na­tional rally cham­pi­ons

The Witness - Wheels - - RACING -

TOY­OTA Ga­zoo Rac­ing SA’s Guy Bot­ter­ill and nav­i­ga­tor Si­mon Vacy-Lyle se­cured the 2017 South African Na­tional Rally Cham­pi­onship with a sec­ond­place fin­ish at the fi­nal round of the sea­son, the Car­ni­val City Rally. The pair started the event trail­ing cham­pi­onship lead­ers Richard Leeke and nav­i­ga­tor Henry Köhne (Ford) by just four points, en­sur­ing a tight race at the top.

As it turned out, it was Leeke/ Köhne who drew first blood, when they opened up a 10-sec­ond lead on the opening stage af­ter the Toy­ota crew wrongslot­ted. But Bot­ter­ill/Vacy-Lyle fought back on Stage 2, claw­ing back a sin­gle sec­ond — only to lose two more sec­onds to the Ford crew on the next stage.

The cham­pi­onship fight was clearly turn­ing into the bat­tle fans had hoped for.

Leeke/Köhn pushed hard on Stage 4, ex­tend­ing their lead over Bot­ter­ill/Vacy-Lyle by three sec­onds, but the Toy­ota Ga­zoo Rac­ing SA crew re­mained in touch with the early lead­ers, plan­ning on strik­ing back at the start of Day 2.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the fight never reached day two,” said Bot­ter­ill af­ter com­plet­ing the event.

“Richard and Henry’s car wouldn’t start on the open sec­tion af­ter Stage 4. They had an elec­tri­cal prob­lem of sorts, and were forced to re­tire.”

In­ter­est­ingly, Leeke’s re­tire­ment in­creased his lead in the cham­pi­onship, as he now had a DNF score to drop — putting him nine points ahead of Bot­ter­ill/Vacy-Lyle by re­tir­ing from the fi­nal round.

This meant that the Toy­ota Etios crew had to fin­ish on the podium in or­der to en­sure vic­tory in the ti­tle race.

“We knew we couldn’t re­lax en­tirely,” con­tin­ued Bot­ter­ill.

“But at the same time, it took the pres­sure off us in a big way.”

With Leeke/Köne out, Bot­ter­ill/Vacy-Lyle set about their busi­ness in a pro­fes­sional man­ner.

The pair main­tained an ex­cel­lent pace through­out the re­main­der of the rally, but never took any chances.

They fin­ished the event in sec­ond place over­all — 42 sec­onds be­hind event win­ners AC Pot­gi­eter and Nico Swartz (Volk­swa­gen). “This year’s cham­pi­onship was a re­ally tough one. Richard was a fierce com­peti­tor through­out, and it is a pity that the fight didn’t last to the fi­nal day of the sea­son. Even so, we are over the moon with our cham­pi­onship,” said Bot­ter­ill af­ter the rally.

Bot­ter­ill/Vacy-Lyle had won the Class S1600 cham­pi­onship three times pre­vi­ously, but this is their first cham­pi­onship in the new front-wheel-drive era, which sees the former Class S1600 cars as the top-flight of South African Ral­ly­ing.

This means that Bot­ter­ill will now join rally leg­ends such as Leeroy Poul­ter, Serge Dam­seaux, Jan Habig and Her­gen Fekken as a South African Na­tional Rally cham­pion.

Toy­ota Mo­tor­sport South Africa ac­knowl­edges its spon­sors and spe­cial­ist of­fi­cial sup­plier and tech­ni­cal part­ners.

Toy­ota en­joys a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial re­la­tion­ship with To­tal, Toy­ota Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices and the In­no­va­tion Group. Also, Im­pe­rial Toy­ota, SKF, Span­jaard, Ro­bor, OMP, NGK, Don­ald­son, Master­craft, Edge­cam, 3M, Ban­dit Signs, Shat­ter­prufe, Supreme Springs, Smith’s Man­u­fac­tur­ing, TRD, Per­i­tus Forex, RTT and First Na­tional Bat­tery.

PHOTO: MO­TOR­PRESS

Guy Bot­ter­ill and nav­i­ga­tor Si­mon Vacy-Lyle se­cured the 2017 South African Na­tional Rally Cham­pi­onship.

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