This is when roadside Services were carried out, when rally cars had over 400bhp, when literally millions of spectators lined an events stages…
Australian rally driver Molly Taylor remains on track to become the first European Ladies Champion after gathering maximum points in Sibiu Rally Romania.
Taylor and her British co-driver Seb Marshall had a challenging weekend in the event which is well-known as a car breaker. Based around the beautiful city of Sibiu, 215km north-west of the Romanian capital of Bucharest, the rough and dusty roads and high temperatures made the weekend very tough out on the forest stages.
So demanding were the conditions that at the end of the first leg, Seb Marshall reported that the forest looked more like a car park – “with damaged cars littered everywhere”.
Early on Day One, Molly and Seb were wondering if they might be joining the retirement list after the steering rack failed on their United Business/BP Racing Citroën DS3 R3T.
That meant Molly drove for 20kms without power steering on a difficult, narrow and rough stage. The pair lost five minutes on the stage but were happy to make it back to service to have the rack repaired, after Molly had fought the car all the way.
“I had serious arm pump driving through that stage, it was probably the toughest thing I have ever done, and in very hot and dusty conditions, too. On some stages vision was really difficult too – it was like driving in fog and we had to take extra care to drive around the rocks. They were being pulled out onto the road by the cars ahead of us.”
There was another drama for the duo near the end of the event when they had a puncture and had to stop to change the tyre, costing them even more precious time.
Still, the crew focused on making it to the finish, their clear goal being to drive as cleanly and consistently as possible to gain maximum points for Molly’s tilt at the inaugural Ladies’ title. After this past weekend she is second in the tally, just one point away from leading the chase with four more events still to run.
“It was a really tough event, particularly when we lost the power steering,” Molly says.
“We had to work very hard over the weekend but I wasn’t going to let it beat me. A big thanks to the guys at BP Racing – they put the car back together at every service and kept us in the event.”
With several years of experience at international level rallying, Seb has experienced some tough events and totally agreed with his driver’s assessment of the gruelling test they came through.
“It was one of the hardest rallies I’ve ever done, rivalling Cyprus 2010 for physical and mental challenge. The stages were so rough. The car took a beating but the guys at BP Racing did a super job as always and Molly remained cool under massive pressure to get to the finish.”
Taylor and Marshall are tackling eight rounds of the European Rally Championship, with second in class (2WD) in Corsica and a stage win the highlight of the year so far.
Next event is the Barum Czech Rally (Czech Republic, August 30-September 1), Croatia Rally (September 26-28), Rallye San Remo (Italy, October 10-12), and Rallye International du Valais (Switzerland, November 6-9). All the events are covered by Eurosport.
Taylor and Marshall will miss an event in Poland when they compete with a privateer Ford team in the Australian world championship round at Coffs Harbour (September 13-15).
The ERC entry list includes drivers such as former F1 star Robert Kubica as well as WRC regulars like Francois Delecour, Jan Kopecky and Freddy Loix.
Mads Ostberg and Jonas Andersson (Qatar World Rally Team) took part in M-Sport’s tests in Finland this week ahead of the WRC event next weekend. Watch the Norwegian flying in this video…
Welcome to issue 286 of HANDBRAKES & HAIRPINS, your favourite free source of rally entertainment!
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As always, please enjoy this week’s read!
Yours in Rallying,
Evan Rothman (Editor) and Eva Kovkova (Photojournalist)
Reigning South African Rally Champions Mark Cronje/Robin Houghton scored their third win of the season as Ford dominated the Volkswagen Rally, Round Four of the South African National Rally Championship which took place in and around Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.
Cronje/Houghton, in the Ford Dealer Team Fiesta S2000, finished well clear of Jan Habig/Robert Paisley, in the Basil Read Ford Fiesta S2000, to pull ahead of the veteran former South African champions in the Championship standings. Only one point separated the two crews before this weekend’s event.
The two Ford crews dominated proceedings from start to finish, and there was to be little cheer for Volkswagen on the 31st edition of their own rally. Giniel de Villiers/Greg Godrich (Imperial Toyota Yaris S2000) finished third overall, with Team TOTAL’s Jean-Pierre Damseaux/Hilton Auffray in fourth and winning Class S2000 Challenge honours. Hergen Fekken/Pierre Arries (Volkswagen Sasolracing Polo S2000) was the first of the sponsor’s entries home in fifth place overall.
Clint Weston/Christof Snyders, third overnight in the Reef Tankers Citroen C2 R2 Max, secured a well-deserved Class S1600 victory ahead of Craig Trott/Janine Lourens (Team TOTAL Toyota RunX S1600) and Matthew Vacy-Lyle/Schalk van Heerden in Fragram Tools Toyota RunX S1600.
The next event on the South African Rally Championship calendar is the Gauteng Rally on 16 – 17 August. For a full report, read this coming week’s issue of HANDBRAKES & HAIRPINS.
Top Ten overall classification:
01) M. Cronje/R. Houghton (Ford) – 01h 47m 43.9s
02) J. Habig/R. Paisley (Ford) + 01m 24.1s
03) G. De Villiers/G. Godrich (Toyota) + 04m 25.4s
04) J-P. Damseaux/H. Auffray (Toyota) + 05m 24.0s
05) H. Fekken/P. Arries (Volkswagen) + 05m 44.4s
06) E. Kuun/D. Judd (Volkswagen) + 05m 46.0s
07) J. Gemmell/C. Swan (Toyota) + 07m 37.2s
08) M. Janse van Rensburg/R. Fourie (Volkswagen) + 09m 56.7s
09) N. Van der Westhuizen/S. Cilliers (Toyota) + 11m 40.3s
10) M. Moosa/A. Vermeulen (Toyota) + 11m 55.2s
Ford’s top championship contenders were locked in battle after the opening day of the Volkswagen Rally, round four of the South African Rally Championship.
At the end of the seven special stages that made up day one of the event, reigning South African champions Mark Cronje/Robin Houghton (Ford Dealer Team Fiesta S2000) led veterans Jan Habig/Robert Paisley (Basil Read Ford Fiesta S2000) by 26.7sec. Going into the event, Cronje/Houghton led former champions Habig/Paisley by a single Championship point.
The two Ford crews ended the day ahead of the Castrol Team Toyota Yaris S2000 of Leeroy Poulter/Elvéne Coetzee. The Toyota pair were just over half a minute behind Habig/Paisley with Hergen Fekken/Pierre Aries (VW Sasolracing Polo S2000) the first of the crews hoping for a home town win on what is the 31st VW Rally.
Former Dakar Rally winner Giniel de Villiers and Greg Godrich (Imperial Toyota Yaris S2000) completed the top five and were another 25sec behind Fekken/Arries. The top five were separated by 01min 47sec with Fekken/Arries struggling with gearbox problems.
Among those who ran into problems were VW Sasolracing pair Enzo Kuun/Douglas Judd, former winners Johnny Gemmell/Carolyn Swan (Castrol Team Toyota Yaris S2000) and teenager Henk Lategan/Barry White in another of the VW Sasolracing Polo S2000 entries. Kuun/Judd ran into ongoing prop shaft problems, a puncture hampered progress for Gemmell/Swan and Lategan/White were time barred after ending up in a dam at the end of the day’s five gravel stages.
The Team TOTAL Toyota Auris S2000 pair of Jean-Pierre Damseaux/Hilton Auffray led the S2000 Challenge category for older specification four-wheel drive S2000 cars. They came in ahead of team-mates Mohammed Moosa/Andre Vermeulen and local crew Morne Janse van Rensburg and Rikus Fourie in the GC Diesel Racing VW Polo S2000.
For reigning champions Gugu Zulu/Carl Peskin it was not a happy day. Suspension problems saw them finish sixth in class with a mountain to climb on Day Two.
In the two-wheel drive S1600 category, a good fight was developing. VW Polo crews Chad van Beurden/Henry Dearlove (Beurden Construction Polo R2) and Paul Franken/Henry Kohne in another VW Polo R2 were being chased by the Reef Tankers Citroen C2 R2 Max of Clint Weston/Christof Snyders with a tight finish in the offing.
Day Two’s action will start at 08h00 from the Fountains Mall in Jeffrey’s Bay and will end at King’s Beach in Port Elizabeth from around 14h15. There will be a podium ceremony and prize-giving at the finish at 15h45.
The top ten overall classification after SS6 of SS7 on Day One is:
01) M. Cronje/R. Houghton (Ford) – 50m 04.7s
02) J. Habig/R. Paisley (Ford) + 21.0s
03) L. Poulter/E. Coetzee (Toyota) + 53.1s
04) H. Fekken/P. Arries (Volkswagen) + 01m 22.9s
05) G. De Villiers/G. Godrich (Toyota) + 01m 47.5s
06) J-P. Damseaux/H. Auffray (Toyota) + 02m 31.7s
07) E. Kuun/D. Judd (Volkswagen) + 02m 45.6s
08) M. Moosa/A. Vermeulen (Toyota) + 03m 42.2s
09) M. Janse van Resnburg/R. Fourie (Volkswagen) + 03m 49.6s
10) J. Gemmell/C. Swan (Toyota) + 03m 53.2s