Eight events, five provinces, over 1,400km of competitive special stages: this was the 2011 South African Rally Championship. Rally crews and cars tested their limits of endurance and reliability this season, in a Championship contested by five different car brands and 34 regular national teams.
Competing for the overall rally victories were 18 Class S2000 crews (which in fact is the largest national Class of Super 2000 machinery in the world) as well as ten Class S1600 cars and four Class S1400 competitors vying for their Class honours as well as the inaugural Two Wheel Drive Championship crown.
The three all-new events on this year’s calendar added another dimension to the Championship, but it wasn’t until the conclusion of the final stage of the final event that the provisional Drivers’ and Co-Drivers Champions were named*.
Rally enthusiasts were spoiled this year with all-out action at each round of the season, in which only three different crews claimed the rally wins. Gravel and asphalt roads, high-speed lanes lined with trees, wheat fields, and sugar cane, the crowd favourites’ jumps and water splashes, with sticky and muddy paths, to slippery and treacherous farm tracks undoubtedly made for one of the most thrilling and exciting championships in South Africa’s history.
Ford Fiesta S2000 privateers Mark Cronje and co-driver Robin Houghton were named provisional Champions last week, beating off Ford Fiesta S2000 rivals Conrad Rautenbach/Nicolas Klinger, the Toyota Auris S2000 of Johnny Gemmell/Drew Sturrock and Enzo Kuun/Guy Hodgson’s Volkswagen Polo S2000. In terms of the coveted Manufacturers’ Championship, Toyota has provisionally* defended their title once more this year thanks to two wins from Leeroy Poulter/Elvene Coetzee.
South Africa’s largest privateer rally team, Team Total comprises a four-car squad with two cars competing in the premier Class S2000 and two in Class S1600. Gaining in speed, Team Total rounded out a highly competitive season with podium place results in the season finale.
Mohammed Moosa and Grant Martin – car #9:
This their second season in the premier Class S2000, Mohammed Moosa’s confidence and pace grows with each event. After the eight-event season, Moosa/Martin have finished all rallies with their highest result an eighth place overall. At the Volkswagen Rally, round five, Moosa debuted his new rally machine, the mighty Toyota Auris S2000. Changing from the Toyota RunX S2000 to the Auris S2000 has underlined the Tzaneen-based rally driver’s skill. This pace was confirmed when he set an overall fastest stage time and posted several thereafter within the top ten. Moosa’s ended the season with an eighth place overall, but his performance in the MTN Polokwane Rally was hamstrung by mechanical gremlins in what was his most inspired performance this season.
Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Carolyn Swan – car #10:
Jean-Pierre Damseaux hounded the factory Volkswagen and Toyota crews to the finish line all season long, narrowly missing out on a podium for Team Total on the season-opening Total Tour Natal Rally, the Sasol Rally and the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally. Running at the top of the Drivers’ Championship after the first two events, Damseaux’s grip on the trophy loosened slightly with three mechanical retirements. His pace was re-aligned when, like teammate Moosa he debuted his new Toyota Auris S2000 at the Volkswagen Rally to post impressive stage times. This increase in performance culminated in a strong fourth place overall finish at the Toyota Cape Dealer Rally.
Craig Trott and Robbie Coetzee – car #52:
Competitors in the South African Rally Championship, for good reason, regard Craig Trott as Mr Consistent. Trott and Coetzee finished all but one rally this season, having retired in the last stage of the Garden Route Rally with a broken gearbox. Trott’s posted Class-leading stage times, recorded podium Class victories in the hotly contested Class S1600 and Two Wheel Drive Championship, and run closely to the top of the leader board to narrowly miss out on defending his Class S1600 title this season.
Stefanie Botha and Angela Shields – car #60:
New to the Team Total squad for 2011, this year’s only all-female rally crew endured a character-building season. Running alongside teammates Trott/Coetzee in Class S1600, Stefanie Botha and Angela Shields proved their pace and skill in each of the eight rounds of the season, but were let down by mechanical gremlins in their Toyota RunX S1600 to fail to score any Championship points.
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For news and photographs live from the event, visit us on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/pBFCpZ and on Twitter at http://bit.ly/jBLu4j. For more information, please visit http://www.totalmotorsport.co.za.
*An appeal from the Toyota Dealer Gauteng Rally is still pending, and once this matter is resolved will the Championship winners be declared official.