Slipping and sliding in Longmore Forest

The wipers of my car are whirring away at their fastest. The windscreen is misting up. The pace notes are coming as thick and fast as this rain is hitting my car’s roof. Grabbing second gear, then third, fourth, riding on the cambered corners and dabbing my brakes I line up for another tight hairpin and I see the rutted and rocky corner open in front of me.

This is but a few seconds of the opening day of the Volkswagen Rally, the fourth round of the 2012 South African Rally Championship. And yes, we did not suffer a single puncture on Day One this time as we have struggled with on previous events.

With motoring journalist and passionate rally man Patrick Vermaak this time calling the notes alongside me in the Castrol – BP Ford Fiesta R2, the wet and cold weather the spectators and my service crew have to contend with have made for an exciting first day of action in the Eastern Cape.

As you know, the Class S1600 and Two Wheel Drive Championship is mighty intense with over 13 crews competing on this rally. The stages in the Gamtoos Valley, in Longmore and the super special stage in Uitenhage were slippery. Throttle control and steering inputs had to be precise as we slid our way over the loose rocks and muddy sections on the stages, but we had some great moments to remember of Day One.

With 48.9 seconds covering the top three S1600 cars, the top of this Class is as tight as Patrick’s grip on his notepad today! We are second overall, and 43.8 seconds off Morne Janse van Rensburg/Rikus Fourie (Volkswagen Polo S1600) and we are 5.2 seconds ahead of Craig Trott/Robbie Coetzee (Toyota RunX S1600). That new VW Polo is being new driven well by Morne on his home rally, and we are in a great battle so far as we swap Class stage wins. It is great fun, but we also have to be careful of Craig in third place. He is within striking distance of us, and I think he will not hesitate to attack on the stages on Day Two.

It was sad to hear of Christoff Snyders and his sister Celeste (Volkswagen Polo S1600) retire in Stage One with a busted gearbox. With Christoff in the mix, it would have been a massive race.

Day Two starts early at 08h23 for a 19.17km-long stage in Longmore Forest, and is then followed by five more gravel stages before we hit the awesome Kings Beach parking lot in Port Elizabeth at 14h27 for the final stage. This stage is a short 1.73km, but there are always huge crowds there to entertain on the tar. Patrick and I will be pushing hard to stay on the podium, and will be hoping for a strong day’s rallying.

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