s e k a r b d Han &Hairpins
2009 Edition 95 August
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inside this week:
Thrilling IRC action from Czech Rally
Interview with Theuns Joubert
Contents / Issue 95 Welcome to H&H! News • • • • • •
WRC Rally Australia boasts 45 entries Alfie Cox returns to racing Petter Solberg tests Citroen C4 WRC Cape rally has new name David Higgins takes on China again P-G Andersson wins again in Sweden
Features • Theuns Joubert: The Interview • Volkswagen test Race Touaregs
Event Reports • • • •
SANORRC Highveld 400 Preview IRC Barum Czech Rally Zlin Review SANRC Osram Rally Review BRC Ulster Rally Review
Welcome to issue 95 of HANDBRAKES & HAIRPINS, your FREE weekly insight into the world of rallying! Alfie Cox is making a return to off-road racing this weekend, Petter Solberg is testing a Citroen C4 WRC and the upcoming SANRC rally in the Western Cape has a new name... Rally news is up-to-date, informative and entertaining this week! For more in-depth reading, Handbrakes & Hairpins is pleased to bring you and EXCLUSIVE interview with Theuns Joubert, a rising Class S2000 driver in the SASOL South African National Rally Championship. Inside too you’ll find a full Osram Rally event review, IRC Barum Czech Rally Zlin review and a BRC Toddsleap.com Ulster International Rally review, as well as a preview ofr this weekend’s Highveld 400 Off Road Race. With the calendar year now entering its fourth quarter, rally championships reaching their exciting closing stages and drivers and co-drivers changing teams and drives, the fast-paced world of rallying waits for noone! As always, I hope you enjoy this week’s exciting edition! Yours in Rallying, Evan Rothman
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Repco Rally Australia boasts 45 WRC entries for next month’s event
Alfie Cox set to return to off-road action at Highveld 400 race
Forty-five cars in the hands of many of the world’s best drivers will start in the inaugural Repco Rally Australia next month – and the field includes a strong line-up of Australians determined to prove their speed in the sport’s ultimate arena.
Off road legend Alfie Cox will be back in action in the Production Vehicle category at the Highveld 400, round six of the Absa Off Road Championship at Carnival City on August 28 and 29, with a bigger picture in mind.
Five-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb, driving for Citroen, and Ford’s current championship leader Mikko Hirvonen top the list of 27 international entries, while the 18 Australian-based entries include multiple national champions Neal Bates and Cody Crocker. In all, the drivers will represent 16 countries and drive seven different brands of car.
Cox, who has won more national championships on two and four wheels than any other South African, and German businessman Jurgen Schroder will share a PS Laser Nissan Navara in the premier SP Class on the Highveld 400. The pair will also compete on the Toyota Dealer 400, using both races as Dakar Rally shakedowns for the new Nissan Navara built by Glynn Hall and his team at Nissan Motorsport’s headquarters in Midrand.
Rally Australia Chairman Alan Evans said the entry list confirmed the New South Wales Northern Rivers would host a truly world-class sporting spectacle on 3-6 September. “Repco Rally Australia is going to showcase the world’s best rally drivers and cars and the magnificent natural beauty and attractions of the Tweed and Kyogle shires,” Mr Evans said. “It will be an unforgettable experience for spectators and a major boost for the local economy, which has never experienced an event of this significance. Tens of millions of people around the world will follow it on nightly television.” Bates’ last-minute entry in a Toyota Australia-backed Corolla S2000 promises to be a highlight for local fans. Developed by his Canberra-based team, the all-wheel drive Corolla won the 2007 and 2008 Australian Rally Championships, but has only just received technical approval (homologation) to compete at international level. Bates, a four-time Australian champion with co-driver Coral Taylor, has been given a wildcard entry by the rally organisers, allowing him to score points in the Production World Rally Championship. He hopes a strong performance will result in international sales for his unique Toyota. The team will run a second, identical car for Queensland-based Briton Stewart Reid. A second P-WRC wildcard has been given to Crocker, Australia’s most successful current driver, who has won three straight Australian Championships followed by three FIA Asia Pacfic Rally Championships in Subaru Imprezas. Other Australians will be competing as privateers, in the Production World Rally Championship, in the Pirelli Star Driver shootout and in the National Division for Australianspecification cars. The nine manufacturer drivers at the head of the Repco Rally Australia field are, Loeb and Dani Sordo (Citroen Total World Rally Team), Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala (BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team), Matthew Wilson and Henning solberg (Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team), Conrad Rautenbach and Sebastien Ogier (Citroen Junior Team) and Federico Villagra (Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team). - Credit: rallybuzz.com
The Cox/Schroder partnership first started six years ago when the German attended a KTM Adventure Tour run by Cox. The two became firm friends with Schroder fulfilling a dream when he and Cox competed in last year’s Dakar Rally in Argentina. “Jurgen bought a package from the SMG team and we raced a buggy last year,” said Cox. “We had endless technical problems and one night, while sitting around a bonfire waiting for our support truck to arrive, Jurgen said we had to do the race again in 2010 – but properly this time.” Cox, who won two SA championships in Nissans, wasted no time selling Schroder the merits of a Hall-built Nissan Navara. This was helped by fourth place on the Dakar for Ivar Tollefsen and Quin Evans, regulars in the Absa Off Road Championship, and fifth place for a Polish team in Nissan Navaras built in Midrand. “After the Dakar successes it was not difficult to sell Jurgen on the idea,” said Cox with a smile. “He now owns a Dakar Rally spec Nissan Navara and we are looking forward to the Highveld 400 and the Toyota Dealer 400. “We will be using both events to fine tune the vehicle and iron out any teething problems. With Glynn’s superb track record we don’t expect any major hiccups, and I am very lucky to have been given an amazing opportunity by Jurgen to again compete on the Dakar Rally.” Schroder’s only previous navigating experience was on last year’s Dakar. For the Highveld 400 and Toyota events former South African champions Francois Jordaan and Hennie ter Stege will help familiarise the German with how to use the South African road book. “Francois and Hennie are just about the best in the business, and Jurgen could not hope for better mentors,” said Cox. “I may be a little rusty after a long lay-off but you never lose the competitive urge and, apart from using the two races as test sessions, hopefully Jurgen and I can come up with a pair of
THE LATEST NEWS FROM THE WORLD OF RALLYING Featuring European rally championships, British rally championships, Rally America events, international rally results and videos, as well as S2000 and WRC news.
good results.” - Credit: saoffroadracing.co.za
Cape rally has new name The seventh and penultimate round of the 2009 Sasol South African National Rally Championship to be held in the Western Cape on the 18 and 19 September 2009 will be officially known as the BP Ultimate Rally. C.P.M.C.C., the promoting club, is delighted to have BP (the petroleum company0 as a sponsor for this popular event. The event’s format has been changed from the past and will only have three stages on the Friday, all in and around Killarney. Starting at Burchmore’s in Montague Gardens competitors travel to a gravel stage alongside the N7/Potsdam interchange. Spectators will be treated to action like never before so close to the N7. Crews then return to Killarney for two tar stages and then overnight parc ferme. On Saturday 19 September at 07h45, the competitors head out towards Moorreesburg where crews will face four testing stages before returning to the N7 stage and the final at Killarney. Overall distance this year is approximately 400km, of which 165km are are competitive stages. -Credit: C.P.MC.C. Organising Committee
Petter Solberg tests Citroen C4 WRC on French gravel roads Petter Solberg tested a Citroen C4 WRC yesterday on gravel roads in the south of France, according to wrcisfree.com and www.rallybuzz.com. Solberg reportedly completed many miles in the car during the test and PSWRT technical director Francois-Xavier Demaison was present at the session. The C4 Solberg used was the car Conrad Rautenbach drove last year for the PH Sport team. The Petter Solberg World Rally Team had been offered a deal to rent a C4 from Citroen at the beginning of the season, but the cost was too high for the Norwegian. Meanwhile, Malcolm Wilson stated to Motorsport News that he would be prepared to offer a Ford Focus WRC for Solberg to use on Rally GB in October: “Yes, sure we would be interested,” Wilson said. “It would be a big ask for him to get into the car and win first time out. But I’m sure he could get a good result because, historically, ours is quite an easy car car to get into and drive quickly. But it would be a commercial arrangement and we could not control where he finishes.” - Credit: Motorsport News, wrcisfree.com and rallybuzz.com
Proton Satria Neo S2000 cars suffer engine problems ahead of rally The two all-new Proton Satria Neos of Guy Wilks and Bryan Bouffier were casualties almost before the rally began. Bouffier suffered a catastrophic engine failure on Friday morning’s shakedown stage ahead of the Barum Czech Rally Zlin event, and was unable to take the ceremonial start. Wilks’s rally did not last much longer, after the engine dropped a cylinder during last night’s city centre stage and the team was unable to repair the problem before this morning’s restart. A team spokesperson said that while the cars would be fully assessed back at the Mellors Elliott Motorsport headquarters in the UK, it appears likely that a software problem had caused both cars to suffer very similar faults. - Credit: rallybuzz.com
More new mileage for David Higgins in Chinese Rally Championship David Higgins and Ieuan Thomas have set off on their travels again for the third round of the Chinese Rally Championship, the Fogang Rally. The event is based in the Guangdong region and is yet another completely new event for the 2009 season. “From what we have heard it will be a tough rally,” said David. “The stages are either fast, wide and bumpy, or narrow with drops on the side of the road. The plan is to get a good base set-up from the asphalt events we have done before and modify that for the different stages. “There have been a lot of emails going back and forth between us and the engineers in China, but it’s always hard when you’ve not actually seen the roads. We’ve always done well before on new events though, and you have to remember that it’s a new event for the whole field, not just us.” David finished second in the opening round of the championship and won round two, which has helped to put the WY Rally Team at the top of the points tables going into round three, joint on points with the KST team. With crews from all over the globe contesting the Chinese series this year, David and Ieuan will be joined by some more familiar faces on the Fogang. “My brother Mark is doing the rally for the KST team,” said David. “He’s one of the best asphalt drivers in the world, but we will need to take more points than him. There is also a rumour that Nial McShea will be doing the rally for another team in a new Subaru.” The Fogang Rally takes place on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th of August. - Credit: davidhigginsrally.co.uk
P-G Andersson has won second successive Swedish Rally in 2009 P-G Andersson won his second successive Swedish rally championship event at the weekend on the Snapphanerallyt. Although PG was 10.8s down after two stages on Friday evening, he fought back with some impressive driving in his Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. During Saturday’s seven stages he was able to take the victory by 6,5sec from Mats Jonsson and win Group N by 01min 13,4sec from Jimmy Jorge. P-G’s next rally will be the Kolsvarundan Rally on 18 and 19 September 2009. FINAL AM-TRYCK Snapphanerallyt Classification: 01) P-G. Andersson/A. Fredriksson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) - 48min 21s 02) M. Jonsson/J. Johansson (Ford Escort WRC) + 06,5s 03) M. Lindqvist/P. Andersson (Ford Focus RS WRC 99) + 29,0s 04) J. Joge/M. Johansson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) + 01min 21,9s 05) J. Nyman/B. Holmstrand (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) + 01min 24,7s 06) J. Wigren/J. Magnusson (Ford Focus RS WRC 01) + 01min 50,6s 07) T. Vestlund/F. Prosen (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII) + 03min 03,7s 08) J. Carlstrom/J. Norman (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII) + 03min 34,9s 09) H-E. Weng/R. Gunnarsson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X) + 03min 54,7s 10) P. Zachrisson/J. Svanstrom (Volvo 940) + 04min 06,7s
- Credit: pgandersson.se
Welshman Stuart Jones becomes first British driver to win Rally Reykjavik Welshpool based Stuart Jones became the first British driver to win the very specialized Rally Reykjavik in Iceland last weekend. The 30th International Rally Reykjavik consisted of 260km of
stages over three days, made up of a mixture of asphalt and gravel stages varying from super smooth and fast Finnish style roads to the famous 39km rocky and twisty Kaldidalur stage which saw the crews climb to over 1000m above sea level. A new car, a new co-driver and completely new stages saw Stuart elect to make a cautious start and after the opening leg 24 year old Jones was lying second overall and 17sec adrift of the leader. Back at the service park, Stuart set about making a few suspension changes to improve the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X’s stability for the faster stages of leg two. “The car was moving around a little too much at high speed, which made it difficult to commit to my notes. But, I am happy with my position going into leg two as there is a lot of loose gravel tomorrow.” Fastest by four seconds on the opening short tarmac test in the morning followed by equal fastest on the following, keeping pressure on the leader as the crews headed for the huge 39km Kaldidalur stage. A time 20 seconds quicker than anyone else combined with the overnight leader Jon Bjarni suffering a puncture, saw Stuart return to the midday service with a two minute lead. Jones then set out about extending his lead and a big attack on the same 39km stage run in the opposite direction saw the former BRC challenger more than double his lead to over four minutes. “That stage is just awesome, we had a great rhythm from the start and pushed hard all the way through the stage. We’re in a good position now but were only half way through the rally so there is still a lot to do” A string of stage wins during the afternoon saw Jones end the day with a lead of over five minutes. “It has been a great day for us, Isak was great on the notes and with his experience of the stages he was able to warn me of the bad corners which really allowed me to attack the stages build this lead!” The final leg was made up of eight stages and Jones continued his impressive pace to take the rally win by exactly eight minutes. Stuart commented: “The SJR-run Evo X is such a well balanced package now, it was easy to find a good pace on all the different stage surfaces and really responded well the harder I pushed it, the stages were very demanding on the car and it didn’t miss a beat which made the win so much easier. “A huge thanks to Daniel Sigurdarson for the loan of the car the organisers and marshals from the Icelandic motor club, BIKR, for the invitation to compete and the assistance they gave to make this possible.” - Credit: rallybuzz.com
MML Sports Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X will be undergoing further testing Mitsubishi rally specialists MML Sports Ltd will not be running its Group N Lancer EvoX on the Kerzume Rally next week as originally planned. The company has three other conflicting
programmes on the same weekend, according to Managing Director John Easton and therefore, the EvoX’s next outing will be either in the UK or Latvia later in the season. The Kerzume Rally was originally planned to be the next official outing for the MML Sports Lancer EvoX following its debut in Latvia in May. The car showed great potential at the hands of reigning British Rally Champion Guy Wilks but was hampered by faulty components and Kerzume was chosen as the next outing, following a comprehensive development programme over the summer. However, since then, the MML Sports orderbook has filled up quickly and it has had to redirect resource to other existing and new customer projects over the same weekend and as such, can no longer run its own car on that particular event. It will, however, be running local Ivars Vasaraudzis and codriver Peteris Spredzis on the event. Ivars and Peteris will be standing in for regular Raimonds Kisiels, who cannot make the event, but they are no strangers to rallying in Latvia or the Mitsbishi Lancer WRC05. The pair won the Talsi Rally earlier this year in the Lancer, so will be firm favourites for next weekend. However, they won’t have it all his own way, since one of former FIA World Rally Championship driver Markko Martin’s proteges will also be entering the event, in a Ford Focus World Rally Car. Therefore, the level of competition should be high, guaranteeing exceptional action for the fans. MML Sports will also have several of its technicians in Indonesia, as it assists a local organisation prepare four Group N Lancer EvoXs for the domestic and Asia-Pacific championships, three of which will be running during September. As if that wasn’t enough, the company will also be repairing the damage caused when reigning Hungarian Rally Champion Csaba Spitzmuller went off on the last round of the championship, the Allianz Rally two weeks ago. Spitzi apparently lost concentration in a medium-speed series of bends, slid wide on a second-gear corner and got stuck in a two metre-deep ditch and retired. While the damage caused to the car is repairable, the tight timescales between the last and next round of the championship and the fact that the car had to return to the UK entailed a re-shelling exercise rather than more time-consuming repairs. The original shell will subsequently be repaired and returned to action when the work is complete. Commenting on the news, MML Sports Managing Director John Easton said; “Of course I’m disappointed that we won’t be able to enter the Kerzume Rally with the MML Sports EvoX but with everything that we have on at the moment, we cannot spare the resource to get the car ready or to the event. As frustrating as it is to miss that event, it’s encouraging that we are so busy. “Clearly, the end of August and September are very busy for us. We have to concentrate on giving Spitzi the best chance to win his second title in a row, which is definitely possible. He is still second in the championship to Norbert Herczig with two rounds to go. With the dropped scores, he does need to beat Herczig on the last two rounds though, so that’s one area of focus.
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“I think the next outing for the EvoX may well be in the UK, perhaps the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire, the last round of the British Rally Championship at the end of September. We may also enter the final round of the Latvian Championship, Rally Latvia, as it’s the flagship event and the most competitive. That will really give us an idea of where the car is, in terms of its competitiveness.” Just one week before the Trackrod Rally, the company will be in action running both the Group N EvoX and the Lancer WRC05 at Rallyday, with former Mitsubishi works driver Alister McRae at the wheel. - Credit: MML Sports
03) 04) 05) 06) 07) 08)
J. Marchetto (Mitsubishi) + 01min 08,7s D. Domínguez (Mitsubishi) + 02min 57,8s G. Padilla (Mitsubishi) + 04min 48,4s M. Baldoni (Mitsubishi) + 04min 49,9s J. Gil de Marchi (Mitsubishi) + 05min 41,4s O. Kovacevich (Mitsubishi) + 06min 57,3s
- Credit: rallybuzz.com
3D movie of X Games hits USA theatres countrywide for one week
Nicolas Madero claims first victory at Rally Vuelta de la Manzana Tango RT driver and local hero Nicolás Madero clinched for the first time the classic Rally Vuelta de la Manzana, Argentinean National Championship’s sixth round, to reclaim the Championship leadership after obtaining his third victory of the season. Forecasts had anticipated a tight battle among the four drivers who arrived at this round enclosed in eight points, but the race’s plot didn’t come up to the expectations. Only Madero was the one who succeeded in completing the fifteendemanding stages to finally win the race to make his getaway in the Championship. His team-mate Marcos Ligato drove his Mitsubishi into second position 01min 08,3s adrift. Federico Villagra lost the first position in the standings after being involved in a really dramatic situation. The VRS driver slammed his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X into a horse when he was leading the competition but fortunately he and his codriver Diego Curletto managed to escape uninjured. However, two stages afterwards his machine suffered the consequences of the impact and Villagra was obliged to abandon. With Villagra backed off the race, Baratec drivers Gabriel Pozzo and Claudio Menzi neither couldn’t follow Madero’s pace and missed out a great opportunity to pick up important points. Menzi cleaved a break disc and decided to retire from competition after dropping to many positions, whereas Pozzo’s Subaru broke down in the last liaison when marching fourth. Luciano Bernardi (VRS) and Alejandro Cancio (Tango) also deserted, enabling Ligato and young Juan Marchetto to climb up to podium position. Finally, the second place was decided in an incredible final showdown held in the last special stage, where Tango’s owner tilted the scales in his favor by only four tenth. For sure, the 39th edition of this unique event will be remembered as one of the roughest of the history since only 24 drivers out of 94 who started the race managed to complete the rally. The next round will be held in September (11-13) in Concepcion del Uruguay, in the province of Entre Rios.
This week rally racing broke onto thousands of theaters around the country as a segment in the new 3D X Games movie! For one week only, “Golden Boy” Travis Pastrana, who drives for Subaru Rally Team USA, represented rally in this amazing 3D film covering the sports in the X Games events. Rally America was fortunate to be invited to the 3D X Games movie premiere held at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles before X Games 15 competition, and seeing rally cars in 3D was spectacular! Groundbreaking techniques really brought out the dust and gravel in ways never experienced before in 3D movies. A lot of filming occurred at the Olympus Rally (Round 3 of the Rally America Championship Series) in Washington State earlier this year and you can see the 3D results in the movie. The movie is only in theaters for one week and is an experience that can’t be missed as a rally fan. It isn’t often you get to see rally on the big screen and in 3D! For more information and to see a movie preview, please visit: http://promo.espn.go.com/espn/specialsection/ xgames3dmovie/index - Credit: rally-america.com
FINAL Rally Vuelta de la Manzana CLASSIFICATION: 01) N. Madero (Mitsubishi) - 01hr 35min 24,4s 02) M. Ligato (Mitsubishi) + 01min 08,3s
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FLAT-OUT RALLYING: THE INTERVIEW
The SASOL South African National Rally Championship has seen new competitors make their mark on the sport in recent years. The latest driver to enter the highly-competitive Class S2000 is Theuns Joubert. Passionate about rallying, he aims to move into the top five of the leaderboard in the coming events... Theuns Joubert’s silver Salom-liveried Volkswagen Polo S2000 is a force to be reckoned with. INTERVIEW BY EVAN ROTHMAN. IMAGES BY MOTORPICS.
H&H: Every little boy dreams of racing or rallying cars. It must be a dream come true! What are your thoughts and feelings whenever you climb into your rally car? Theuns Joubert: I’m like a big kid getting a new bike for Christmas; I can’t wait to start the engine and race this monster! H&H: What are your memorable rallying moments so far this year? Theuns: My first rally in the S2000, and driving it for the first time on the shakedown stage, and then finishing in the top eight after sweeping the road on day two. And, finishing four out of the five national events so far this season. H&H: What are your most memorable rally moments of your career? Theuns: Racing in S2000 and winning Class A7 on the Hitachi Tour Natal Rally in 2008.
H&H: How do you see your season pan out? Theuns: Our goal is to finish the remainder of the events in the top six, which should see us ending our season in the top eight overall in the Championship. H&H: Who do you respect in rallying? Theuns: I think every competitor who is passionate about the sport deserves respect. The organisers, officials and Leon Botha (not only for his route notes, but for his overall involvement in promoting the sport). H&H: Who do you follow in the WRC? Are you able to learn much from watching them? Theuns: Sebastian Loeb! I’ve learned that a smooth driving style doesn’t always look fast, but IS and that you can only go flat-out if you’re confident in yourself and the car’s set up. H&H: What do you do to keep your “rally eye” in between events?
Theuns: I ride mountain bike, play “Colin Mcrae 2005” and drive my Double Cab to the limits on my farm roads (hahaha). I would’ve liked to have the opportunity to test with my car in between events, but with the budget constraints of a privateer that just isn’t possible. H&H: You are improving with each rally. Your consistent results are impressive. What do you think you need to do to reach the podium? Theuns: Get as much seat time as possible! I’m confident that we will be in the top five towards the end of this season. H&H: What makes a rally driver a rally driver? What characteristics do rally drivers possess that other motorsport competitors don’t? Theuns: A rally driver needs to be competitive by nature, an adrenaline addict, he must love challenges (driving at crazy speeds on any surface, on unfamiliar roads), and I think a little “bit crazy” (here I quoted Marcus Gronholm)! H&H: It must be a busy office to sit in, the driver’s seat of your rally car. Can you tell usabout your rally car? Theuns: My car is a Volkswagen Polo S2000, all-wheel drive, six-speed sequential gearbox with powershift, powered by a normally-aspirated engine producing in excess of 190kW and sports Reiger shocks – this is my silver dream machine. To drive this car you have to concentrate at ALL times, because everything happens fast and at speed! To quote one of my fellow competitors: “You have to drive it as if you stole it!”
H&H: What was your main motivation in entering rallying? What are your career aspirations? Theuns: I want to win the National Rally Championship! H&H: What are your predictions for the 2009 season? Theuns: First - Hergen Fekken; second - Jannie Habig; third Johnny Gemmell. H&H: What is your favourite event on the calendar? And, why? Theuns: The Tour Natal Rally; it is the first National Championship event I finished, my first Class win in Class A7, and the first time I raced my S2000. H&H: The glory days of the current WRC cars are numbered. From 2010, they will be running S2000+ rally cars. What are your views on this? Theuns: Personally, I think it will be great as we should see more manufacturers and privateers taking part in the WRC . H&H: Rallying in South Africa is popular, but still needs to break into the public mainstream. What do you think the sport needs to do this? Theuns: MARKETING! We need to promote the sport to the public as the adrenaline-pumping, exciting sport that it is. We need to see more in terms of newspaper reports, better timeslots on SuperSport and more should be done to involve new competitors.
FOR DAKAR WITH MORE EXTENSIVE TESTS
Volkswagen prepared for the desert classic from 02 to 17 January 2010 in South America with two-week tests in Morocco. Until 21 August the four “Dakar” duos of the Wolfsburgbased automobile manufacturer tested around the cities of M’hamid and Erfoud. The driver/co-driver pairings Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz, Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz, Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford and Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk were the duos used in the endurance tests which included two daily long runs. During the tests the “Dakar” winning team from January 2009 smoothly completed over 7,000 kilometres on simulated special stages. “Morocco is an ideal location to prepare for the Dakar Rally,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. “Here, the gruelling conditions of the kind we’ll find in the Atacama desert in the north of Chile can be perfectly simulated. The Sahara desert not only offers plenty of soft sand, but also extremely hot temperatures. In addition, it is possible in Morocco to get attuned to the gravel stages of the ‘Dakar’. The Race Touareg ran perfectly again. With 7,000 kilometres of simulated special stages we even surpassed our expectations.” Two Volkswagen Race Touareg vehicles were used in the tests. One of the two 280hp cross-country rally prototypes powered by TDI diesel engines was available to the drivers for the endurance tests, while the second one was used strictly for
short set-up runs. The Race Touareg used for the long runs completed the 7,000 kilometres – equalling one and a half times the distance of the special stages during the Dakar Rally – without the slightest problems. The countdown to the “Dakar”, which starts on 02 January in Buenos Aires and finishes at the same location 15 days later, is already running: Volkswagen will prepare for the title defence project in the off-road classic by participating in another competition. From 05 to 13 September the factory team from Wolfsburg will contest the Silk Way Rally through the Russian Republic of Tatarstan as well as through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, which is organised by “Dakar” organiser A.S.O. and – thanks to its 4,500-kilometre distance through vast steppes and deserts – is considered a small “Dakar” as well. In June, Volkswagen successfully competed in the Rallye dos Sertoes through Brazil and celebrated a one-two win there with Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah. - Credit: Volkswagen Motorsport Information
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NISSAN TEAM AIMS
FOR HIGHVELD VICTORY THIS WEEKEND
There are no prizes for guessing which team will be installed as pre-race favourites in the Production Vehicle category at the Highveld 400, round six of the ABSA South African National Off Road Championship, at Carnival City on 28 and 29 August. TEXT SUPPLIED. IMAGES BY MOTORPICS. With four wins in five starts under their belts (and a whopping 60 point lead in the Championship, the Donaldson Nissan Navara pair of Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford are the obvious team to beat this weekend. Vos/Pitchford have almost perfected the art of combining pace with the ability to stay on the track, and not make the mistakes that sideline other crews who have put themselves in line to win events. The Highveld 400 replaces the Limpopo 400 on this yearâ€™s Absa calendar with the race returning to Carnival City, on the East Rand, for the first time since 2007. The Highveld 400 returns to Carnival City after a one-year break, and Donaldson Nissan team will be looking to make it six wins in six starts this season. The other victory this year went to veteran Hannes Grobler, and Juan Mohr who are currently third in the championship behind Ivar Tollefsen/Quin Evans, in a third factory entry. The trio give Nissan a powerful hand, but previous Carnival City-based events were not entirely kind to Nissan. The 2006 event was won by Bevan Bertholdt and Robin Houghton in a Castrol Toyota Hilux and in 2007 former South African champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer won in a factory Ford Racing Ranger. Nissanâ€™s privateer back-up has been a little thin on the ground with Terence Marsh and Pieter Groenewald flying the flag in the Regent Racing Navara. But Nissan get a massive boost with an entry from off road legend Alfie Cox and Jurgen Schroder in a new PS Laser Nissan Navara built by Glynn Hall and his team in Midrand. Cox and Schroeder will use the Highveld 400 and Toyota Dealer 400 events as shakedowns for the Dakar Rally next
year. The 2010 event will again be held in Argentina. It goes without saying that both Toyota and Ford would love repeats of recent history. For Toyota the need to widen a tenuous 15 point lead over Nissan in the SA Manufacturers Championship is another reason for a good showing. For Toyota and Ford recent form offers contrasts. Toyota had a good Toyota 1000 Desert Race and a disappointing Sun City 400 while Ford, after an unhappy Botswana trip, bounced back with Woolridge and Skjoldhammer giving the new twin turbo diesel Ford Racing Ranger its maiden podium finish in the Pilanesberg. With the Ford squad looking to be ironing out all the little niggles that go with new race cars Woolridge/Skjoldhammer and Thomas Rundle/Stavros Yiannakis, in the second factory entry, will be high on confidence. The two works cars will also have solid back-up from the privateer ranks. Kobus van Tonder and Riaan Guelpa (Uni Freight Ford Ranger) have been models of consistency and Graham Leith and Mike Lawrenson, in the Transcor Ford Ranger, have had two solid outings in a row. Pieter Ruthven/De Waal Boshoff are due a good run in the Ruwacon Racing entry, and after a baptism of fire at Sun City young Louis Weichelt and Maret Bezuidenhout will be looking for an easier passage in the Discovery Drilling Ford Ranger. Toyota has this year flattered to deceive. Castrol Toyota Hilux crews Anthony Taylor/Robin Houghton and Hein Lategan/Chris Birkin have led various events at various times but have not followed through. Pressure is now mounting on the squad and what is needed from either Taylor/Houghton or Lategan/Birkin is a repeat of the 2006 result.
Toyota also have a strong privateer back-up with Gary Bertholdt and Andre Vermeulen (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) coming off a strong second place at Sun City. George and Sharon Barkhuizen (AIM Toyota Hilux) also had a good Sun City outing and that will be a boost for the Bloemfontein husband and wife team, while Hugo and Jaap de Bruyn (Micaren Exel Toyota Hilux) are always top five candidates. Young Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Jansen van Vuuren, in the RFS Toyota Hilux, are probably the most improved crew in off road at the moment and will be looking for another encouraging result. Team-mates Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, after a good start to the year, have a different task in that they will want to bounce back after a big Sun City crash. On the Class D front Cliff Weichelt, now partnered by Johann Smalberger in the N1 4x4 Toyota Hilux D4D, still leads the driver championship – albeit with a reduced majority after two non finishes in a row. Weichelt is 10 points clear of Dewald van Breda and Johann du Toit (Northam Toyota D4D) with a third Toyota crew, Heine Strumpher and Hendrik van der Linde, in third place in the Micaren Exel Hilux. The Toyota runners, however, face a stiff Nissan challenge. Coetzee Labuscagne and Johan Gerber will be full of confidence after a morale boosting win at Sun City. The win by Labuscagne and Gerber ended a run of four straight wins by Toyota crews. A good battle between the two marques is on the cards. A run of Toyota wins in Class E also came to an end at Sun City with track start Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie taking a maiden win in the Ferodo Nissan Hardbody. They are now in a position to take the fight to the lead Toyota crews and will also be full of confidence. Pikkie Labuschagne and Rikus Erasmus have opened up a 13 point lead over Megaworld 4x4 team-mates Deon Venter and Ian Palmer with reigning champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux (RFS Toyota Hilux) now also part of the mix. It adds up to a competitive race with Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger) also coming off a strong showing at Sun City making it a three-way fight between Toyota, Nissan and Ford.
Ryan Harper (Atlas Copco BAT) – in second and third in the championship. Both have the credentials to win with a good contrast in styles between the two teams. Mike Whitehouse/Mathew Carlson are fourth in the championship in the Regent Racing BAT and have been a revelation this season. They are knocking at the door for a win while Limpopo crew Naeem Moosajee and Mohammad Moultson (Tyre Race Jimco) have been models of consistency with a 100 percent finish record. After dodgy starts to the season the two Sullwald Racing crews, reigning champions Kallie and Quintin Sullwald in the BAT and Herman and Wichard Sullwald in the Zarco, are starting to show ominous form. The reigning champions, in particular, look as though they are again ready for the winner’s enclosure. Two wins in a row have given Cape crew Derrick du Toit and Ian Pienaar (Orange Tree BAT) a comfortable 35 point cushion in Class B. They will be the target for other crews with sheer doggedness taking brothers Keith and Andre Makenete into second place in the championship in the Zarco. The Makenete’s now narrowly lead Bez and Deon Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) who have had a miserable run since winning the opening race of the year. Simon Beckett and Tim Curtis, after a brave Sun City performance, also come into the reckoning with a good fight in the offing. There is also a good fight in the offing in Class P where reigning champions Johan and Etienne Bezuidenhout (Adenco BAT) still top the table – but with the rest of the pack closing in. Like father and brother in Class B, the Bezuidenhout’s running in Class P has also had a rough time of it lately. The class was turned upside down at Sun City when veteran Ernest Corbett and son-in-law Warwick Goosen won in the futuristic Century Racing CR2 with its enclosed bodywork. That will have made everyone sit up and take notice and Corbett/ Goosen will fancy their chances on the East Rand.
Race headquarters, the start/finish and designated service point will be at Carnival City with the route a spectator friendly one with vantage points within easy reach of home base. The prologue to determine grid positions will start at 12h15 on 28 August and the race at 08h00 on 29 August. Special Vehicles Category: Runaway Special Vehicle championship leaders Evan Hutchison and Achim Bergmann will be hoping for a repeat of history at the Highveld 400 this weekend. Hutchison and Bergmann (Motorite Revo1 4x4) won the 2007 Carnival City 400 to win the South African championship. A repeat victory this time out would all but assure Hutchison and Bergmann of their second national title. After four wins in five starts this season the pair have a lead of more than 50 points in the championship, and another win would allow the engravers to start putting their names on this year’s trophy. But, despite the four wins from five starts record, Hutchison/ Bergmann do not face an easy passage. There are at least half a dozen crews in the Class A ranks who could bag a win. Only four points separate two of those crews – Shameer Variawa/Siegfried Rousseau (Total Porter) and Nick and
At the top of the table David and Gary White (Ruwacon BAT) have closed to within eight points of the Cape based Bezuidenhout brothers with Jan Kraaij and former South African Champion Hennie ter Stege also coming into the picture in the Keymax BAT. KZN flyer Don Thompson now partnered by Hjalmar van Gessellen is always a danger in the Zarco and Johan van Staden/James Rossouw (KEC BAT) will be looking to bounce back after a couple of disappointing outings. A couple of old timers in Bodo Bertholdt and Richard Schilling will also be looking for good results. Bertholdt and Philip Herselman had a good run at Sun City in the Atlas Copco BAT, while Schilling and Chris Davies are due a good result in the Aceco ZA.
KOPECKY CLAIMS WIN
FOR SKODA TEAM IN IRC CZECH RALLY
Jan Kopecky strode to a dominant victory on the 2009 Barum Czech Rally Zlin today, round 8 of the 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge. In so doing the 27-year-old became the first Czech driver in a Czech car to win the biggest motor sport event in the Czech Republic for eight years, enveloping the enormous crowds that lined the stages in celebration. At the wheel of a works Skoda Fabia S2000, Kopecky took the lead from his team mate Juho Hanninen on SS2 and never looked back – his winning margin at the finish being almost exactly one minute after 15 fast and gruelling stages over two legs. “This has been the perfect event for me and everyone involved,” he enthused amid an emotional reception in host city Zlin. “The car never missed a beat and I was able to concentrate the whole time on keeping an advantage. The atmosphere has been fantastic all week, the fans have given such amazing support I am so proud for them and for Skoda to bring home the win.” Second place fell to championship leader Kris Meeke after a remarkable comeback drive from 33rd position on Friday night. The Peugeot UK driver started the rally with a five point advantage over Kopecky and worked hard all weekend in order to keep his seat at the top of the points table. His championship hopes were aided when two of the other main
contenders hit trouble – Abarth team leader Giandomenico Basso crashing out on SS8 during torrential rain and Benelux Peugeot ace Freddy Loix suffering a puncture that put his car out of commission on SS10. “There is so much to like about this rally, from the atmosphere to the stages themselves, which really ask some big questions of you as a driver,” said Meeke. “We were unlucky to pick up the puncture on the first stage that dropped us back, but I have to admit to making a few mistakes along the way that fortunately didn’t cost us anything except a chance to really pressure Jan for the lead.” The podium was completed by the second Skoda Motorsport Fabia of Juho Hanninen, the Finnish gravel expert finding himself gaining confidence on the bumpy and fast asphalt around Zlin as the rally progressed. “I wasn’t too optimistic that we could finish this high before the start,” he said. “But then we won the first stage! After that things were a bit more normal for me, the pace was incredible over the first day and
so I decided not to take risks and build up my pace, which worked well in the end. I had a spin today and dropped to fourth but we were lucky and got it back.” Hanninen’s result elevates him to fifth in the IRC points table, passing defending champion Nicolas Vouilloz. The Frenchman – Loix’s team-mate in the Benelux Peugeot team – started the rally strongly but was forced out of second place on SS4 when his 207 S2000 caught fire. Another conflagration befell Russian teenager Evgeny Novikov’s privately-entered Skoda Fabia at the end of SS12, the Citroen WRC driver being the third member of his team to have taken up the challenge of the IRC this season. Another visitor from the world championship had a far more successful weekend – newly-crowned Junior WRC champion Martin Prokop – who finished fifth. As the Czech Republic’s first World Champion, the award of driving the BF Goodrich Drivers Team Peugeot 207 provided Prokop with a unique opportunity to perform in front of his fans.
advantage early on the final day and held resolutely to take the win. “It’s fantastic to see ten points in the IRC against my name,” he said. “The car was great, we have worked hard on it in the Czech championship and the rally suited both the car and us.” IRC regular Denis Millet ended the event fourth in the 2WD standings at the wheel of his Peugeot 207, currently the only 1,6-litre turbo rally car in international competition. The five points earned on the Barum Czech Rally Zlin promote him to the series lead over Italy’s Manuel Villa. The rest of the points positions were monopolised by Honda drivers, with Hungary’s Laszlo Vizin taking second in the Civic Type R3 ahead of the older Type R of Egon Smekal, while Skoda was denied its first points of the 2WD Cup season on the penultimate stage after a brave performance from Vlastimil
“It’s been a great event – one I always enjoy but all the more so meeting everyone here as a world champion,” Prokop said. “The Peugeot took a lot of getting used to for me, but it’s a fantastic car and I’m glad that we found a way to go quickly in the end – and keep the car in one piece! It’s been a great drive, and I really enjoyed all the jumps!” Prokop finished behind one of the Czech Republic’s most established rally drivers, Roman Kresta, in his privately-entered Peugeot. With three victories on the Barum Czech Rally Zlin to his credit, hopes had been high in his camp of taking a record-breaking fourth win – but ultimately the pace of the top trio proved too much. “I didn’t have any big problems all weekend – except how fast the other guys were! To be honest I can’t help but feel disappointed not to have got closer to the record but we will be back again,” he said. Sixth place fell to another young Czech talent, Pavel Valousek. The former BF Goodrich Drivers Team entry on last year’s event arrived with a privately-entered Skoda Fabia and after mechanical problems on the opening day battled back into the points. “That was disappointing to drop down on the opening leg, and I had to go like crazy to catch up,” he said. “I made a few mistakes, had a few spins, but we got to the finish and showed that we can do a good rally even under pressure.” Hungarian Janos Toth finished seventh in another Peugeot 207 S2000 with another Czech, Vaclav Pech, eighth after a battle royal for the last of the points positions in which the Ralliart driver overcame considerable hardships. “Our car has a turbo but is heavier than the S2000s so it was always going to be tricky,” Pech said. “But the rain on Saturday afternoon was incredible! We were aquaplaning at 60km/h and had water streaming into the car – it’s been worth it though.” In the IRC 2WD Cup, Abarth bucked the odds to take victory courtesy of Czech driver Jiri Skoupil in his little 1600cc Punto. Ranged against him was an armada of 2-litre Honda machinery, from the latest JAS Motorsport-built Civic Type R3s to the tried and tested Civic Vtis, but Skoupil took the
Hodan at the wheel of a Felicia 1600 Kit Car was not quite enough to fend off the Honda of Jan Brezik. FINAL Barum Czech Rally Zlin CLASSIFICATION: 01) J. Kopecky (Skoda Fabia S2000) – 2hrs 24min 21,1s 02) K. Meeke (Peugeot 207 S2000) + 01min 04s 03) J. Hanninen (Skoda Fabia S2000) + 02min 0,8s 04) R. Kresta (Peugeot 207 S2000) + 02min 10,8s 05) M. Prokop (Peugeot 207 S2000) + 02min 39,6s 06) P. Valousek (Skoda Fabia S2000) + 04min 50,5s 07) J. Toth (Peugeot 207 S2000) + 05min 19,7s 08) V. Pech (Ralliart Evo IX) + 05min 23,2s 2WD Cup: 01) Skoupil (Abarth Punto S1600) - 02hrs 44m 29,6s 02) Vizin (Honda Civic Type R3) + 01min 41,0s 03) Smekal (Honda Civic Type R) + 02min 32,0s 04) Millet (Peugeot 207 RC) + 02min 42,0s 05) Krizek (Honda Civic Type R) + 04min 5,0s 06) Blatak (Honda Civic Vti) + 05min 51,5s 07) Jakubec (Honda Civic Vti) + 08min 52,9s 08) Brezik (Honda Civic Vti) + 10min 2,9s
- Credit: ircseries.com
MOUNTAINS TO WIN OSRAM RALLY
Johnny Gemmell and Peter Marsh rocketed back into championship contention, blasting their Class S2000 Castrol Toyota Auris to a comfortable 38 second win over their team-mates Mark Cronje and Robert Paisley, giving the Toyota Auris its first ever one-two formation finish. IMAGES BY MOTORPICS. The unique one-day Osram Rally, round six of the Sasol South African National Rally Championship, started in Lady Grey and consisted of seven frighteningly fast stages in the Witteberg and southern Drakensberg mountains.
huge moment in the first stage when I was blinded by the low sun. I hit a jump which I never saw and landed on the Auris’ nose. Luckily, damage was only cosmetic and not mechanical. The Auris was perfect all day and never missed a beat”.
“It was a near perfect day for us”, said Gemmell. “We had a
The Toyota title hopeful, lagging 14 points before the event,
slashed his deficit to just three adrift of the current log leaders and defending South African rally champions Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries (BP Volkswagen Polo S2000), who dropped two minutes in the opening stage over the notorious Joubert’s Pass, a puncture on their car the cause. Fekken spent the rest of the day playing catch up, but in spite of closing down his deficit by a minute, had to settle for seventh place overall. “Things were very, very loose on the stages,” said Fekken. “We were effectively on sweeping duty – along with JP Damseaux who ran at the head of the field for the Osram event – so it was just impossible to make up that deficit.” The only other title hopeful, multiple champions Jan Habig/ Douglas Judd (BP Volkswagen Polo S2000), suffered a broken power steering pump in the same stretch of sinewy mountain pass with 30km remaining and also lost around two minutes, missing fourth overall by just nine seconds.
Konica Minolta Subaru Impreza, their sixth victory in as many starts. They had a loose wheel in the final kilometres of the first stage, and dropped to seventh overall but fought ferociously to make up lost positions with Habig, Japie van Niekerk/Robin Houghton (New Africa Developments Toyota RunX S2000) and Fekken; Wilken got the better of the Super 2000 teams, ending nine seconds ahead of Habig’s factory Volkswagen Polo S2000 after all the vying for something better had sorted itself out. Van Niekerk and Houghton put in a sterling performance to hold off Fekken, just scraping home in sixth place by one second. That single second, and the championship point that Fekken lost as a result, could be crucial after the final two
Gemmell had his own massive moment in the opening stage; blinded by the early morning sun, he hit a jump very hard and landed on the car’s nose, fortunately causing just cosmetic damage and not mechanical. “It was a near-perfect day in the office”, said a delighted Gemmell at the Barkly East finish. “Hergen and I now have three wins each this year and with just a few points between us, there’s everything still to play for.” Cronje and Paisley were crowned King of the Mountain after setting the fastest stage time over Joubert’s Pass, a legendary stage in South African rallying folklore. After a few close shaves, Cronje backed off to assist Gemmell’s title challenge, taking vital points away from the Volkswagen crews in spite of losing time with a flat tyre in SS2. Completing the podium was Enzo Kuun/ Guy Hodgson (BP Ultimate Volkswagen Polo S2000) after a steady run. Kuun tried hard to match the Toyota team’s pace but in spite of winning the final two stages, was 18 seconds off Cronje’s time. Kuun lost around 50 seconds with a puncture in SS2, which would have dramatically altered the final results. “As a team we were plagued by flat wheels, this cost both Hergen (Fekken) and I loads of time,” says Kuun. “Normally this event is won by seconds – so a flat tyre is dire and a podium of any kind was the best we could hope for. The car was otherwise faultless, we just couldn’t catch the guys from Toyota after that flat wheel.” Charl Wilken and Greg Godrich, the 2009 Production Car Champions, took a well judged fourth overall in their Sasol/
rounds when the championship points are added up. Behind Fekken, Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Andre Vermeulen
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(Team Total Toyota RunX S2000) came home eighth overall, well off the pace as a result of sweeping the road, running first on the road in what has turned out to be an unlucky draw for road position for Damseaux. The Somerset West-based driver had no confidence in the car’s handling or brakes as a result of being the first to find out where the traction was and how late to brake on the slippery surfaces. They were satisfied with their second finish of the year. Theuns Joubert/Hennie Botes brought their Salom Volkswagen Polo S2000 home ninth after a trouble-free drive, 50 seconds ahead of Fernando Rueda/Cobus Vrey’s Team Total Toyota RunX S2000. Chris de Wit and Dean Redelinghuys, the reigning class A7 champions finally took a long overdue class win, bringing their Team Total Toyota RunX A7 home 11th overall and 20 seconds ahead of the new class points leaders Evan Hutchinson/Elvene Coetzee (Motorite Toyota RunX A7). Hutchinson was one of many crews to stop and help their rival Stevan Wilken/Greg Gericke when the Pannar Seeds/Triton Express Volkswagen Polo A7 caught fire deep into the first stage. A lower control arm is suspected to have broken over a jump, pitching the VW off the road, where the hot exhaust set the dry grass alight. Eleven fire extinguishers were used from fellow competitors before a farmer brought his fire trailer and saved the car. Wilken was dominant in the first half of the year but has recently come under increasing pressure from the Motorite Toyota pair, who lead by four points. Mohammed Moosa and Grant Martin re-took the Class A6 title lead with their third victory of the year. The A6 Team Total Toyota Auris A6 finished 30 seconds ahead of the current class champion Craig Trott/Robbie Coetzee (Team Total Toyota RunX A6). Rodney Visagie/Carolyn Swan (Team Total Toyota RunX A6), class leaders before the Osram event, had an off day and finished third in class and dropped to second in the title race, two points behind. The Class A5 championship chase closed up to three points after Andre Cleenwerck/Des de Fortier (BP Ultimate
Volkswagen CitiGolf A5) won on the day, their second consecutive triumph. BP Ultimate Volkswagen team-mates Gugu Zulu/Carl Peskin had to replace a broken shock absorber in service and incurred 13 minutes of lateness and two minutes and 10 seconds in penalty time. Ashley Haigh-Smith celebrated gaining his learner’s driver’s license when he and co-driver Hilton Auffrey brought their React Toyota Yaris home on the Class A5 podium. Dave Compton and Pierre Jordaan brought the Sasol Toyota RunX A5 home to their fifth Class N3 win and wrapped up the championship in the process. On his first experience of the notorious Joubert’s Pass stage, Compton said: “I treated it with a lot of respect. It’s a piece of road where one mistake would result in a major ‘off’. My plan was to finish at all costs wrapping up the championship and not doing anything stupid”. “We had a few issues with the VVT system in the engine. The new engine, built after the old one broke on the Volkswagen Rally last month, only had about 600km under its belt. On the shorter stages, it worked fine and we could match the times set by the A6 class cars but on the longer stages, it kept the revs to around 4000 rpm.” Tony Barbosa/Kenny Hill (Pro-Beat Autobody Ford Fiesta ST N3) was the only other Class N3 finisher. Twenty-three of the original 28 starters finished the 330km route. The penultimate round of the Sasol South African National Rally Championship is the BP Ultimate Rally in the Western Cape on 18 and 19 September. HANDBRAKES & HAIRPINS will see you all there! FINAL SANRC Osram Rally CLASSIFICATION: 01) J. Gemmell/P. Marsh (Toyota Auris S2000) - 01hr 31m 47s 02) M. Cronje/R. Paisley (Toyota Auris S2000) - 01hr 32m 25s 03) E. Kuun/G. Hodgson (Volkswagen Polo S2000) - 01hr 32m 43s 04) C. Wilken/G. Godrich (Subaru Impreza N4) - 01hr 34m 06s 05) J. Habig/D. Judd (Volkswagen Polo S2000) - 01hr 34min 15s 06) J. Van Niekerk/R. Houghton (Toyota RunX S2000) - 01hr 34m 26s 07) H. Fekken/P. Arries (Volkswagen Polo S2000) - 01hr 34m 27s 08) J.P. Damseaux/A. Vermeulen (Toyota RunX S2000) - 01hr 36m 06s 09) T. Joubert/H. Botes (Volkswagen Polo S2000) - 01hr 38m 20s 10) F. Rueda/C. Vrey (Toyota RunX S2000) - 01hr 39m 10s
TO VICTORY IN ULSTER RALLY
Mark Higgins and Bryan Thomas claimed a lonely victory in their Pirelli TEG Sport Subaru Impreza N4 car this weekend, winning the Toddsleap. com Ulster International Rally by a whopping three minutes WRITES EVAN ROTHMAN. IMAGES BY JAKOB EBREY. Higgins/Thomas stormed across the finish line unchallenged on the final day, after a dramatic weekend of rallying at this the fifth round of the Britsh Rally Championship. Young local star Alastair Fisher and Rory Kennedy came home second overall, although this doesn’t tell the whole story of the event as it was one of intrigue from the start. Fisher’s superb drive, however, was a mature performance and showed his competitors he was able to stick close to the stage timers set by Higgins. Fisher now consolidates his third place in the Championship, and is now only one point away from Keith Cronin in second place. Cronin/Greg Shinnors (Mitsubioshi Lancer Evolution IX) made a strong start on this 203km-long event, bu they left the road while 14sec clear of Higgins on the final stage of Day One. Limping to the finish line with critical damage to the front end of their car, Cronin/Shinnors opted to retire from the event to save funds for the final round of the season in Yorkshire. “It is a shame about Keith, but it still means that whoever wins in Yorkshire will take the title,” said Higgins. “In some respects it was lucky that Gwyndaf [Evans] was fighting us for the event Group N win. Even though he isn’t registered for points, it has helped keep our concentration.” He concluded, “The rally is definitely one of the best in the British Rally Championship; the stages, the organisation – all brilliant.” In a dramatic series of crashes and mechanical failures (affecting Adam Gould, Dave Weston Jnr, WRC hotshot Matti Rantanen and Jonny Greer), four crews all holding third spot on the leaderboard prematurely ended their rallies. This paved the way for David Bogie/Kevin Rae to slip into third, which they held to the finish line.
A surprise result saw Marty McCormack/Phil Clarke finish in fourth place overall in his two-wheel drive Citroen C2R2 Max. Fifth place went to Dave Weston Jnr and Gordon Noble (Subaru Impreza), while sixth place went to Craig Breen/Gareth Roberts (Ford Fiesta R3). It was, however, important to this Irsih youngster that he sealed both the United Kingdom and Irish Fiesta SportTrophy Championships on SS10 of the rally. Having pushed hard for the win from SS1, he was delighted to have won but realised he had another four gruelling stages to complete before seeing the finish line of the International event. Another front wheel drive crew to finishe the event inside the top ten of the British Rally Championship finishers (and winning the Swift Sport Cup and Rally 1 class) were Richard Sykes/Simon Taylor. Brothers Steve and Tony (competing in a diesel-powered Vauxhall Astra) finished fifteenth overall and in doing so claimed the 2009 British Rally Championship Diesel Cup. The final round of the 2009 MSA British Rally Championship is International Rally Yorkshire on 26 September. FINAL BRC Toddsleap.com Ulster Rally CLASSIFICATION: 01) M. Higgins/B. Thomas (Subaru Impreza) - 01hr 53m 01,6s 02) A. Fisher/R. Kennedy (Mitsubishi Lancer) - 01hr 55m 53,1s 03) D. Bogie/K. Rae (Mitsubishi Lancer) - 02hr 01m 19,4s 04) M. McCormack/P. Clarke (Citroen C2) - 02hr 01m 31,3s 05) D. Weston Jnr/G. Noble (Subaru Impreza) - 02hr 02m 28,6s 06) C. Breen/G. Roberts (Ford Fiesta) - 02hr 03m 47,8s 07) A. Hockridge/R. Mills (Citroen C2) - 02hr 04m 56,1s 08) C. Firth/K. Watts (Subaru Impreza) - 02hr 11min 13,6s 09) M. Donnelly/P. Robinson (Ford Fiesta) - 02hr 11m 43,0s 10) R. Sykes/S. Taylor (Suzuki Swift) - 02hr 13m 30,5s