Extreme heat and tough stages push rally teams to the limit in Tour Natal
This weekend sees the “made-in-Marritzburra” Ford Rangers take on the mighty Toyota Hilux in the rolling hills and rocky valleys around Dullstroom, Mpumalanga as part of the first leg of National Cross Country Cars championship.
March 17: Bishopstowe in Durban hosts the Powasol City2Sea under Motorsport SA’s non-circuit motorcycle racing.
March 31: Team KZN lead by team captain Kurt Volmink take on all comers in the Battle of the Provinces, to be hosted in Kimberley. The drivers will compete in the crowd-pleasing Driftkhana format. Top spinners and “drift outlaws” will their precision driving skills in the competition, as well as show commitment to the sport, as all will travel far to compete for little more than honour and a set of tyres.
THE opening round of the South African National Rally Championship produced some high drama in the chase for podium placings with Richard Leeke and Henry Kohne (Ford Fiesta) winning the Trade Brand Tour Natal Rally at the weekend.
The pair brought their Ford Fiesta to the finish 42,5 seconds ahead of AC Potgieter/ Nico Swartz (VW Polo) with Matthew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk van Heerden in last year’s championship winning Toyota Etios in third place.
This, after reigning champions, Durban’s, Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle were forced to withdraw from the lead when the clutch on their Toyota Gazoo Racing Etios failed.
Leeke and Kohne were 4,8 seconds quicker than Botterill in the first stage with JJ Potgieter/Tommy du Toit in their Ford Fiesta in third place some seven seconds off the pace and comfortably ahead of AC Potgieter/Nico Swartz who were followed by Tjaart Conradie/ Mari van der Walt (Toyota Etios) and Matthew Vacy-Lyle/ Schalk van Heerden.
Although still second to Leeke on Stage 3, Botterill picked up the pace despite the fact the team did not have enough time after changing the gearbox to fully sort the electrics, meaning he had to use the clutch for every gear shift.
Only a second behind on that stage, he went up a notch on Stage 4 and took 0,9 seconds away from Leeke and then dropped a couple of seconds on Stage 5, the quick blast around a shopping centre parking lot.
Botterill made his intentions quite clear in the opening blast through the first stage of day two, taking 12 seconds off Leeke who managed only third the stage six seconds adrift of AC Potgieter, with JJ Potgieter finishing fourth quickest on what would be his last stage for the event.
Chris Coertse had a good run to finish fifth quickest, just a second up on Tjaart Conradie with Matthew Vacy-Lyle seventh fastest.
Botterill then took another 10 seconds off Leeke through Stage 7 and a further nine seconds on the following stage, putting himself well into the overall lead of the event – only to have it all come to nought on the next stage when the clutch packed up and forced him into retirement.
“Everything was going really well and we were taking a second a kilometre off Leeke,” he said. “Then, with warning at all the clutch just went. Hopefully we will have enough time before the next event to sort out all these problems.”
When Botterill went out, Leeke reclaimed the overall lead in the rally — his final finishing time just 42,5 seconds ahead of AC Potgieter – and one he admits involved a lot of luck.
“We had no problems with the car,” he said. “The problem was inside the car. I simply could not get into a decent rhythm and struggled to find pace the whole day so were sitting ducks for Guy (Botterill) from the very first stage of the morning.”
AC Potgieter could not have been more delighted with second place, saying: “With the fuel pump problems on day 1, I had doubts we would get through to the end. So, second place, I’ll take it.”
Matthew Vacy-Lyle upped his efforts and got going quick enough to win Stage 10, take second quickest on Stage 11 and to move himself and Schalk van Heerden up to third and the final podium placing.
Regional honours went to Rademeyer/Kohler with Luke Snyman and Edward Strydom (Toyota Tazz) finishing in second place ahead of Dean Redelinghuys/Amon Meyiwa (VW Polo), and the only Classic entry, the VW Golf of Hubi von Moltke and Terry Illman.
Redelinhyus told Wheels the punishing stages and extremely hot conditons gave their budget racer CTH Transport Polo a beating, with one broken rear shock and a seized fuel pump part of their woes.
• The second round of the SA Championship will be the York Rally in Sabie on April 20 and 21.
Matthew Vacy-Lyle and Schalk van Heerden in the Yato Tools Toyota Etios in action during the opening round of the South African National Rally Championship around Ballito last weekend.
No champagne for racers on a budget: Team CTH Transport’s pit crew Robert Hlehla (left) and Japhet Zunidza celebrate their regional podium with co-driver Amon Meyiwa (right).