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Tuesday, September 29, 2020
16.1 C

    Firestorm in the veld

    With the 2019 South African National Rally Championship drawing to a close, the penultimate round was hosted by The Sports Car Club East Rand at the Willem Prinsloo Agricultural Museum in Bronkhorstspruit. The museum’s exhibits of old machinery and horse drawn carriages are always a reminder of how far we have progressed in the motoring field.
    TracN4 Toll Route came on board as a new sponsor, going hand-in-hand with their corporate social investment committing to communities along the route.
    “Being in the road infrastructure industry it made sense for us to sponsor a car race, although it involves speed it does so in restricted areas and only by professionals who are trained and experienced in the sport” explained Trac CSI manager Adri Fourie “We believe this will be a fun, adrenaline filled event that local communities can prosper from and enjoy.”
    To ensure that the event got the mileage it deserves along the N4 Toll route and create a festive atmosphere in the service park, LM Radio broadcast live from the rally.
    Guy Botterill had wrapped up his 2019 championship campaign with his fourth win at the KwaZulu Natal event in August, so it was second and third places up for grabs in the final two events.
    But it was a bit more fluid in the navigator’s championship race. Simon Vacy-Lyle (Toyota Gazoo Etios) topped the leader board, despite missing a round in June. He had Greg Godrich (Rally Technic Mazda2) nipping at his heels after five consistent rallies. Interestingly, all the navigators, except Godrich, have missed a rally for various reasons, making the last two events important for
    the top contenders (no pressure for their drivers!) Vacy-Lyle needed a top three finish to take the championship; if not it would be down to the last event.
    An unexpected last-minute entry from the Zambian Wildcat team brought a S2000 Toyota Auris to the party for Kelvin Mhlanga and Robbie Coetzee.
    Competitors had an early start as they headed out to do the route reconnaissance, most reporting that the roads were very tight and twisty and rocky that could catch out many unwary teams.
    DAY 1 – FRIDAY
    After the 2pm ceremonial on Friday start it was straight into the 10.57km Willem Prinsloo stage
    JJ Potgieter/ Tommy du Toit won class R2N
    • First ever SA Rally win by a black driver
    • Simon Vacy Lyle clinches the SA Navigator’s Championship
    • Coertse’s Mazda2 destroyed by fire
    • TracN4 Toll Road on board as a new sponsor
    • Rally cancelled after fire on stage nine where Botterill/Vacy-Lyle went straight into the lead, 1,8 seconds ahead of AC Potgieter/ Nico Swartz (Lake Umuzi VW Polo) and 6.1 seconds ahead of JJ Potgieter/Tommy Du Toit (Agrichem Ford Fiesta). At service after the first stage both Botterill and Potgieter reported overheating engines. Botterill was not too concerned as he felt the extreme heat could be the cause and after the stage the engine cooled down. Potgieter was rather more concerned as he felt the overheating was affecting the 3-cylinder, one-litre turbopetrol engine he runs. He was proven right, for the temperature stayed in the 110o range over the next two stages.
    Stages two and three were the surprise of the day when Kelvin Mhlanga/Robbie Coetzee (Wildcat Toyota Auris S2000) won both, ahead of Botterill/ Vacy-Lyle, taking over the lead of the rally; clearly the four-wheel drive was more suited to the very dusty, sandy conditions. Van Wyk/ White (Swazi Cowboy Ford Fiesta) finished with the third fastest time, moving ahead of Potgieter/Swartz in the overall standings.
    The classic class was led by Ashley Mackenzie/Lesley Mackenzie (Ford Escort Mk1) followed by Natie Booysen/ Johan Smit (Ford Escort Mk1) and Etienne Malherbe/Raj Jutley (Datsun 160U SSS). That was it for Friday.
    Day two started bright and early on a hot Highveld morning but little did they know of the drama that was to unfold later in the day. Heading to the first stage of the day George Smalberger/Carolyn Swan (Shield VW Polo) discovered they had no drive; the service crew towed them back to service where they found they had a gear selector problem. This was repaired but they had to continue under super rally rules.
    Stage four saw Botterill/VacyLyle run into problems when they broke a driveshaft. They managed to nurse it through to the end of stage, dropping two minutes. With no service before stage five, they made the decision to continue and run carefully. They haemorrhaged another eight minutes but made it through to service. Running ten minutes behind the leader, all they could hope for was to do the repairs and finish the rally to earn points. It was frantic in the Toyota service area, for the mechanics had to change the gearbox due to a damaged differential and replace the driveshafts in the allotted service time.
    Mhlanga/Coetzee, meanwhile, were sailing through the soft sand in their four-wheel drive car that hampered the front wheel drive R2N machines. Winning both stages four and five, they extended their overall lead to 44.2 seconds ahead
    of Potgieter/Swartz who had moved into second overall.
    Potgieter/Swartz overcame their overheating problems to set the second fastest time in Saturday’s first two stages, beating namesake Potgieter/ Du Toit and proceeded to take the win in stage six. Stage seven once again belonged to Mhlanga/ Coetzee.
    The front wheel drive cars were still battling through the thick sand and it was a fine balancing act to maintain speed through the rough terrain without destroying their cars.
    Van Wyk/White suffered clutch issues in stage seven but still managed the second fastest time ahead of Potgieter/Swartz and Potgieter/Du Toit. They made it back to service for their
    crew to change the clutch.
    In the classic class, Etienne Malherbe/Raj Jutley had several punctures, slowing their progress, but at the end of stage seven they were ahead of the other two classic cars of Booysen/Smit and the two Mackenzies.
    Stage nine was where all the drama was to unfold!
    Continued pg 11
    Simon Vacy Lyle won the SA Navigator’s Championship
    A sad sight. A spectator tried to tow Coertse’s car to safety but both got stuck in soft sand and were destroyed
    Classic class win for Natie Booysen/ Johan Smit
    Godrich, lying in fifth overall in their neat little Mazda, had a slow roll and landed on the grass edge. The heat from the car set the dry grass alight; a spectator rushed to try to tow their car out but both got stuck in the soft sand and unfortunately both caught alight. Despite desperate attempts by fellow competitors behind Coertse, they were unable to extinguish the flames. Fortunately, a farm water tanker was within proximity to stop the fire spreading to other spectator cars. Both cars were destroyed,
    a sad sight for South African rally fans and competitors…
    The decision was made by the Rallies Commission to cancel the last two stages on safety grounds as most competitors had use their fire extinguishers to assist the stricken Coertse; a really sad end to a really tough rally.
    This incident put a damper on podium celebrations, but it was an elated Wildcat team of Kelvin Mhlanga and Robbie Coetzee that took the overall win. A first national title for
    Mhlanga even though it wasn’t his home country. More drama was to play out after the finish, when a protest was lodged against Potgieter/Swartz for a nonhomologated modification to his car. They were excluded and the win for the R2N class went to JJ Potgieter/Tommy Du Toit with Jono Van Wyk/Barry White in second and Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle in third.
    And the “non-homologated modification” on car? Well, with the Polo still very much in a development phase, they cut a small hole in the front bumper to aid cooling…
    The third-place finish for Botterill/ Vacy-Lyle meant that Vacy-Lyle now joined Botterill with a third National title win and a sixth rally championship in a row.
    The classic class was won by Etienne Malherbe/Raj Jutley, with Booysen/Smit in second and the Mackenzie’s in third. – SUE VACY LYLE – Motorsport Monday


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    Firestorm in the veld