Halfway through the South African Rally Championship’s 2012 season, the country’s most talented rally drivers and co-drivers are set to tackle a brand new event on the sport’s calendar. The Rally South Africa, Round Five of the eight-event series, also excitingly serves as a candidate event for inclusion on the 2014 World Rally Championship’s calendar.
Taking place in KwaZulu-Natal, the scene of the opening round of the season for the hugely popular Total Rally in March, the route winds through the spectacular Valley of 1,000 Hills for Day One and the high-speed forests near Richmond for Day Two’s action.
Nine special stages, 185km of timed racing and some of the most challenging gravel roads in South Africa will test the bravery, determination and commitment of the rally crews strapped into their seats. After the thick mud and torrential downpour of last month’s Volkswagen Rally in the Eastern Cape, the hot and humid conditions enjoyed in KwaZulu-Natal will see high speeds, sideways action and big jumps to keep the enthusiastic motorsport fans enthralled.
Day One of Rally South Africa comprises four stages, including a monster 38.65km stage two and a tight and twisty 1km super special stage at the old Durban Drive-in concluding the action for Section One. Five stages comprise Day Two’s competitive speed tests, with four in the slippery but fast gravel forest roads around Richmond. The previous day’s super special stage at Durban’s old Drive-in serves as the event’s finale after rally competitors have completed the 572km of total distance in their rally machines.
Team Total is South Africa’s largest privateer squad, boasting four Toyota rally cars in two categories. Jean-Pierre Damseaux/Grant Martin (car #10) and Mohammed Moosa/Andre Vermeulen (car #13) compete in the premier Class S2000 in Toyota’s Auris S2000 rally weapons and battle it out against their factory-backed rivals for the prestigious Drivers’ Championship. Craig Trott/Robbie Coetzee (car #62) and daughter-and-father pairing Stefanie Botha/Willem Hugo (car #74) proudly fly the Team Total livery in Class S1600 with Toyota RunX machines.
Damseaux lies in sixth position on the overall Drivers’ Championship standings and will be aiming to return to the winners’ podium he visited on the Toyota Gauteng Dealer Rally in June. Consistent and measured driving has rewarded this privateer ace, but the technically challenging and drivers’ stages used for the Rally South Africa will bring his skill behind the steering wheel to the fore.
The Toyota Auris S2000, as used by team-mate Moosa too, is the ideal weapon of choice for these stages. Moosa is also relishing the opportunity of a tackling a new rally on the calendar and chasing a top five result this season. This premier Class S2000 is one of the most hotly contested in the world, with rally wins and podium positions decided by mere fractions of a second: a top ten finish on any rally is highly commendable, but Team Total’s chargers are inspired by victory.
Leading the Class S1600 field and the Two Wheel Drive Championship is the Team Total Toyota RunX S1600 of Trott/Coetzee, and they are out to extend their lead at the top of the points log on Trott’s ‘home’ turf. After claiming Class honours on the previous round of the series, this event’s 185km of stages will put to the test Trott’s “Mr Consistency” nickname. This former Class Champion has the experience to outpace his rivals in their faster and newer machinery.
Fresh from a determined drive in the Volkswagen Rally in July, Botha is aiming to score more points for Class S1600 and Two Wheel Drive Championship standings. Suffering mechanical maladies on the last round, but bringing her Toyota RunX S1600 to the finish line, her overall speed was hindered: on the KwaZulu-Natal stages she is looking to post stage times representative of the performance she has highlighted in 2012.
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