A new name entering the Super 1600 SA Rally Championship is that of Nic van der Westhuizen, starting his second year in the sport as the Total Rally gets underway in Durban on Friday, 23rd March.
Teams can dismiss the 24-year-old Midrand based driver at their peril – in his debut season in the Northern Regions Rally Championship last year, van der Westhuizen was lying 3rd overall at the season mid-point as he claimed a string of class podium places in his SA Earthworks-backed Toyota Yaris, ending 1st in the class S2 title chase.
The SA Earthworks team will field a brand new state-of-the-art Ford Fiesta R2 built locally by race preparation experts Race Prep and .feature triple rally champion Henry Dearlove in the left hand seat reading the notes. Dearlove is best known for his Class A6 Championship title with Leeroy Poulter in 2010 and 2009 overall and class S3 Northern Regions Championships.
The Total Rally will present a whole new challenge with its trademark slippery, cambered sugar cane plantation roads. “I haven’t been to any nationals but I’ve heard quite a bit about them. I’ll make up my own mind once we are there and complete the shakedown stage”, said the youngster.
“I want to finish the event of course, and not be the slowest. A podium is not an impossible goal but we can only judge the pace once we’re in the heat of competition and we can benchmark ourselves against the likes of Ashley (Haigh Smith) and Tjaart Conradie”, he added.
The Race Prep Team conducted the Fiesta’s first test where van der Westhuizen pronounced himself delighted with the car. “It didn’t feel that different from the Yaris”, he declared. “Obviously you feel the difference in power and speed but it wasn’t a massive step up so I’m confident I’ll get on top of things quite quickly”.
Henry Dearlove is delighted to be back in the sport in a top-end car. “It’s an exciting programme and a great opportunity to help Nic reach his potential. He hasn’t had time to learn too many bad habits yet. I’m not predicting any podiums just yet but towards the end of the year I hope we will be challenging for class victory”.
“The Fiesta R2 hasn’t reached anywhere near its potential in South Africa but the new rules will allow it to shine in a very competitive field where everyone will be running to the FIA R2 specification. Race prep is tuning the car for South African conditions and we have a couple more tests planned”, Dearlove added.
“The Total Rally will boil down to the two guys in the car to make things happen”, he concluded.
Nic van der Westhuizen was educated in Johannesburg where he played 1st team rugby and represented Northern Gauteng in water polo. He obtained his NDip in Civil Engineering at the Tshwane University of Technology before joining the family business as General Manager. He enjoys hunting and playing golf when not tearing up the stages. His first rally was the Belfast Regional Rally in 2011 where he ended 2nd in class.
Henry Dearlove started his motorsport career in 1993 at club level before taking part in his first ever rally in 1997, the Sasol Rally That lasted 250m before his driver destroyed the car! Dearlove has survived 14 rolls.
In 2003, he was invited to navigate for Satwant Singh in a round of the FIA African Rally Championship, and has helped Visser du Plessis and Mohammed Moosa along their career paths.
The team enjoys additional support from Construction Tyres, High Power Equipment (HPE) and Shantui.