SA Rally title hopes set to sink or swim in Lake Umuzi Rally

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The Bulletin News
AC Potgieter/Nico Swartz Photo: Dave Ledbitter

The destination of the 2018 SA Rally Championship reaches a crossroad in Secunda on the weekend of 28 and 29 September with two teams in contention for the title. The Lake Umuzi Rally will either see Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy Lyle (Toyota Gazoo Racing Etios R2) add another title to their impressive CV or AC Potgieter/Nico Swartz (Lake Umuzi Volkswagen Polo R2) take the title fight to the final round in October.
With four consecutive victories and a seven point lead to their credit, Botterill and Vacy Lyle start the Secunda event as outright favourites for overall honours. Victory for the current champions will result in the KwaZulu Natal team raking in their fifth consecutive title, emulating the feats of Serge Damseaux (92-95) and Sarel van der Merwe (77-85).
To stop this happing, AC Potgieter must win his home rally and Botterill must end second or lower. While Botterill’s four victories look impressive, he has had gearbox problems on several events so victory is not a foregone conclusion. Potgieter has banked four second-place finishes and one third place result. An overall victory has eluded the 24-year-old building contractor so far; achieving this at home would be a hugely popular result.
Out of the title hunt after winning the season’s opening event, Richard Leeke/Henry Kohne (Speedglas Ford Fiesta R2) will be out to spoil the party and consolidate their third place on the overall log. Two non-finishes this season scuppered their chances of fighting for the overall title, leaving bragging rights on individual events as their main aim now.
Chris Coertse/Greg Godrich (Electrothread Mazda R2) won the Secunda Rally last year on the Mazda’s debut. The pair earned a single podium so far this season and lie fourth on the championship log, tied with Tjaart Conradie/Mari van der Walt (Silverton Engineering Toyota Etios R2) who has scored points on every round.
Mathew Vacy Lyle will have Schalk van Heerden reading notes in Secunda; he led the championship after two rounds but three non-finishes have dropped the Yato Tools Toyota Etios R2 driver to sixth in the standings.
Two teams capable of causing an upset in the form book are JJ Potgieter/Tommy du Toit (Verco Ford Fiesta R2) and Jono van Wyk/Barry White (Swazi Cowboy Ford Fiesta R2). Both teams are super-quick and capable of finishing on the podium, given a turn in luck. George Smalberger/Carolyn Swan (Shield Car care Volkswagen Polo R2) will be chasing their first podium of the year.
For overall rally line honours, Theuns Joubert/Chris Brand (Salom Group Toyota Auris S2000) will be the team to beat, although they don’t qualify for championship points.
The Open class should see a four-way fight between Rory Eland/Robbie Coetzee (Subaru Impreza STi), Natie Booysen/Johan Smit (Ford Escort Mk 1), Ashley/Les McKenzie (Ford Escort Mk 1) and Sybrand van den Berg/Chantelle Burrows (Toyota Tazz). Local farmer Kosie van der Merwe/Coen van Zyl won the class last year and should give their competitors a run for their money this time around.
The Lake Umuzi Rally gets underway on Thursday with a shakedown stage opposite Graceland Casino, followed by scrutineering at Eastvaal Ford/Mazda in Secunda. The rally proper starts on Friday at 3 pm from the dealership. Crews will face four stages, with the final stage run at night and in reverse road order. The 8 am Saturday start sees teams tackle eight-speed tests; the highlight will be back-to-back runs over the superspecial stage, with two cars competing side-by-side, starting at 13h00. The rally is set to finish at Lake Umuzi at 15h30.
The Lake Umuzi Rally is the centrepiece of a festival in Secunda, featuring local musicians, food stalls, kids entertainment and much more. See http://lakeumuzi.co.za for details
Spectator guides will be available at the start and from www.sarallying.co.za as well as the Bulletin News.
For further information contact William Louw on 072-183-0744
Dave Ledbitter

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