SA Rally Championship Rd 2/7
20 – 21 April 2017
Sabie, Mpumalanga, South Africa
Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy Lyle won the second round of the SA Rally Championship and became the first team to win a round of the African Rally Championship in a 1600cc car. The winning pair ended second overall to Japie van Niekerk/Robin Houghton who made a one-off appearance in their New Africa Developments Ford Fiesta S2000.
Van Niekerk ran in the open class which doesn’t score championship points but he ran away with the event nonetheless, winning 12 of the 14 stages held in the scenic Mpumalanga Lowveld to end nearly seven minutes ahead of Botterill, who held his cool in the face of stiff opposition from the Kenyan Kibos team of Jaspreet Chatte/Gurdeep Panasar in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X.
The fight for positions two and three was a thrilling one over Friday’s five gravel and two tarmac stages, where Botterill bested the African visitors after stage four and held a slender 3.1 second lead over the Mitsubishi pair. It wasn’t to last though, and Chatte re-took second place overall and never looked back.
Traditionally, the cumbersome four-wheel drive cars are not agile through the tight Sabie town stage, so it was a surprise to see Chatte set the same time as Van Niekerk on the first run and win the stage by 1/10th second at the second attempt.
The double S1600 champion has a cool head and realising his pace wasn’t sustainable over two days, refocussed his efforts on extending his lead over his SA Championship competitors. Over the past 18 months, an intense rivalry has developed between Richard Leeke/Henry Kohne (ATS Ford Fiesta R2) and AC Potgieter with a new co-driver, Nico Swartz (Lake Umuzi Volkswagen Polo R2).
Behind Botterill, the battle of the youngsters was headed in favour of Leeke for the first nine stages, before rolling his Fiesta in stage ten which cost the pair 40 minutes, plummeting him down the order to 15th overall. Leeke also ran stage 11 without a windscreen and nursed the car to 12th before limping back to service for repairs. The pair ended a disappointed 13th overall.
Potgieter was up into second overall on the SARC scorecard and drove a sensible rally to maintain position and bank his first points of the year. Chris Coertse/Greg Godrich (Electrothread Toyota Etios R2) were headed to a comfortable podium finish until the Toyota’s gearbox failed. It was replaced for the final loop of stages at the final service but not before the pair dropped to eighth overall.
The rally has traditionally had a sting in the tail and this year was no different. Unlucky for some, stage 13 turned the formbook on its head. Chatte beached his car on a rock and lost 20 minutes, dropping to 10th overall.
Almost unnoticed, the Zambian pair of Leroy/Urshella Gomes crept up the order in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X and with all the drama unfolding around them, ended a surpised and delighted fourth overall, ahead of Jono Van Wyk/Scott Howden (Swazi Cowboy Ford Fiesta R2).
Lee Rose/Elvéne Coetzee won the classic class in their Ford Escort Mk 2, ending sixth overall, 15 seconds ahead of Coetzee/Godrich in their ailing Etios.
Another FIA ARC pairing Kleevan Gomes/Riyaz Latife brought their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX home in eighth place after a steady run in their first visit to the York Rally.
George Smalberger/Chris Brand ended a fine ninth overall in their Shield Car Care Volkswagen Polo R2 after losing time with a puncture and spin the first stage.
Other casualties on the tough York Rally included Tjaart Conradie/Carolyn Swan (Silverton Engineering Toyota Etios R2 who lost five minutes with a flat tyre in stage five, only to crash out at the same place that CHatte beached his car in stage 13.
Tanzanian Ismail Shermohammed and SA co-driver Pierre Jordaan rolled their ex-Ernie van der Walt Toyota Yaris S2000 in stage five, a feat achieved twice in this rally in two years with two different drivers!
Megan and Oliver Verlaque (VW CitiGolf) crashed out in the first stage for the second rally in a row, while debutants Bianca/Yvonne Theunissen crashed their Opel Corsa in the first stage as well.
18 of the 25 starters finished the gruelling event.
The third round of the SA Rally Championship is the Secunda Rally on 19th and 20th May