Wheeled events

Ex­treme heat and tough stages push rally teams to the limit in Tour Na­tal

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - COLIN WINDELL

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.

PHOTO: JEANNIE HABIG

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.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

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).

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