Now, four weeks later and after long hours in the team’s Midrand workshops under the direction of Julien Hardy and turbo specialist and co-driver Rudi Balzer, Corbett and Balzer are ready to do battle in round three, the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 on Saturday and Sunday (May 16 and 17).
“We’ve made no major changes since our adventure in the Longmore forests,” said owner and driver Mark Corbett. “The CR1 is a unique new car which was having only its first real outing in the Eastern Cape, so teething problems are to be expected. We’ve made a number of incremental improvements and have completed some useful testing between events, so we expect to have a more productive outing in the Eston canefields.”
The CR1 breaks new ground in local off road racing with its innovative construction and layout. It is powered buy a turbo-charged two-litre four-cylinder engine mounted at the back of the vehicle.
It made its first appearance at the Nissan Dealer 400 in the Western Cape, but lack of testing time saw the locally-designed and built car fail to complete the 65-km prologue on Friday when a power steering pipe burst some 35 km into the route. Despite the team’s best efforts to take up their position at Saturday’s start from the Darling Club, a persistent over-heating problem meant that the CR1 stayed on its trailer for the rest of the weekend.
Many small modifications found their way on to the car after the first race (including extra cooling, better power delivery, improved braking and suspension work) before the Century Property Developments Racing team were back to their test track where the car completed more than 500 km of testing before the Eastern Cape event.
“We were pretty confident we’d made a big step forward both in terms of sheer speed and reliability,” said Corbett. “I wasn’t very confident to push it all that hard in the PE prologue, given the fact that it was our first real competitive outing in the car and our objective was to try and finish the race.
“The race proper took place in the Longmore Forest, offering spectator’s breathtaking scenery and competitors little room for error, as most roads were narrow and cut off the side of the mountain. The loose stony ground made things even more difficult, our 4wd machine battling throughout the race to find grip.
“After being shaken around for 400 km I realised we still had a lot of work to do on the suspension. The nature of the course also meant that overtaking was near impossible, so we spent almost 200 km behind the same car. The dust was too thick and the cliffs too high to take a chance, so we played the waiting game. We were pushing quite hard in the early morning, but backed off a bit when reality struck home after we saw a class SP Toyota Hilux on its roof way down the mountainside – an easy mistake in the mist and dust with slippery gravel roads.
“The combination of the one-minute dust gap at the start and the growing list of retirements meant that Rudi and I slowly found ourselves going up the order and, before we realised it, we were leading the race!
“Of course, that was too good to last and a steering rack bolt broke leaving the car to take its own route. Luckily for us it went for a bank and not down the mountain. So, with just 70 km to go, our adventure came to an unexpected end, but not before the end of what was not a bad event for the CR1 and its crew.
“Like the saying goes, to finish first, first you have to finish. So our objective in KZN is just that – to finish and score some points. We have taken a lot of positives out of our Eastern Cape experience and we will keep on improving our amazing little car until we achieve our ultimate objective: to win.”