Is this the end for AC?

I fell in love with the sport and when I was 17, my dream became my reality!


“Anybody and everybody’s going to get it. I’m not racing through my division. I’m cleaning it out.” Max Holloway
“I was about 7 or 8 years old when there was a rally on my grandfather’s farm. I fell in love with the sport and when I was 17, my dream became my reality! I have been blessed to have the opportunity to have my own car and amazing sponsors,” said AC Potgieter.
The world of rallying is one of the most competitive worlds one can enter, but to AC Potgieter this world feeds his competitive soul and pushes him to exceed expectations every time he is behind the wheel.
When AC started competing in rallies, he did not have a licence yet. This meant that should the rally have stages that required the drivers to drive on public tar roads, his then navigator, Tommy du Toit, would drive on the tar and as soon as they reached gravel roads, they would switch back.
Tommy started with AC when AC started his career in 2012, but for the last three years Nico Swartz has been driving with AC.
Nico was contacted by AC in 2017 and asked if he would be interested to navigate for him. This came after Nico returned from the 2016 World Rally Championship. Nico studies a rally track for approximately 20 hours before any rally. He starts the weekend before the rally to write his notes ensure he knows exactly where to give what command to AC. After his notes he receives a video of all the stages and with this video he double and triple checks that his notes are correct and that, should there be changes, he can update his notes. Nico and AC also has one chance to drive the tracks, with a normal car and from there his notes are final.
When Nico navigates, he does not say: “Turn left in 50 metres and the turn will be very sharp.” They use a different language as there is no time to waste. Turns are numbered from 1 – 9. The numbers would tell AC if the turn is a sharp turn or a long turn. AC can also tell from what he is told whether or not he can cut a turn or not. Nico will also give AC information about the next two or three turns that are ahead. This is what Nico would say to AC when navigating: “4… 3… 2… 1… 50 stay straight, right 3 tightens to a 6 flat, 60 fork right to a 7 tightens to 9 narrow…”
When AC started to compete in rallies it was much easier. He had time to practice and get the feel of his car. His first car was a Toyota Tazz. As his career progressed and he entered the more competitive circuit, there was less time to practice. He would only test the car before a rally because of the extensive services a car has to go through. He also changed to a higher performance car: an S1600 Volkswagen Polo.
When the car has to go for a service, the whole car gets taken apart and will be put back together by the support team. This means that each and every small bolt and screw will be removed cleaned and put back to ensure that everything is 100% perfect for the next rally.
During a rally, they can only service the car when the organisers allocated an allotted time for a service. To explain it better: in Formula 1 races the drivers have pitstops to change tyres, for example. These allocated times are exactly the same except the time differs. Instead of 3 or 4 seconds, the support team will have 20 or 40 minutes to service the car. In other words, the support team will have to change a gearbox or steering column in 20 or 40 minutes.
If a tyre bursts during a stage, AC and Nico would have to change the tyre by themselves and cannot accept any tools or assistance from anyone. They are also only allowed to use the tools they have in the car. If the shell of the car is dented or hurt in anyway, a new one can be used or just certain parts of the shell will be replaced. AC and Nico once completed a stage with AC’s door (driver’s door) open after an incident occurred. This did not deter these two and driving at the speeds they do, I would have definitely not have driven the car!
I asked AC if he had had any serious injuries. He looked at me shyly and a naughty grin appeared on his face. While grinning, a childlike excitement filled his eyes and he laughed: “No. I have had some bumps and bruises.”
AC has competed with the likes of Guy Botterill, who has approximately 10 years’ experience on AC. Still, AC gives him a run for his money at every rally event.
When asked if he is retiring from rally driving, a simple answer was given: “I cannot confirm or deny that I am retiring from rally driving…” And that was said with a naughty grin on his face again.
I asked him why the rumours of retirement have spread like wildfire, AC enlightened me with a little more detail. He does not go into too much detail, but what it comes down to is that a complaint was lodged against him by another rally driver. The alleged complaint is regarding the new test model 1 litre Volkswagen he was driving this year. The complaint is allegedly regarding a hole, where the number plate is normally mounted, in the bumper. AC said that they will not go down without a fight and has lodged a dispute at Motorsport South Africa to contest these allegations.
AC’s competitive nature has brought him to where he is today, not without any challenges on his path. AC definitely has a bright future ahead of him and whatever he decides to do, retire or to continue driving (we all hope the latter), he will most certainly have the community behind him. Because as they say: “It takes a community…” – Ané Prinsloo

Nico Swartz and AC Potgieter: the winning team!


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