The shock of the rally, was the retirement of Richard Behm/Grant St Clair in their Palbin Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 7 who were leading the rally up and till stage five. In stage six disaster struck when they went wide, hit a ditch injuring navigator St Clair.
It was all systems go for winners Schalk Burger/Vito Bonafede in their Subaru Impreza WRX STi who led from start to finish. This is also Burger’s first win of his career. It was also a day of triumph for Manufacturer Subaru. This is the second time after Johnny Gemmell in 2001, that a Subaru wins a National Rally. Burger retires at the end of this rally season after 34 years behind the wheel. He said that they had a good rally and that the conditions suited the car. Despite the suitable conditions, he said that it was wet and they still had to keep the car on the road. Burger wrapped up the Class N4 championship after Johnny Gemmell/Greg Godrich exited the rally after stage 2 with a broken gearbox. Stephan van Dyk/Mark Pym in their House of Subaru/Revolution Technologies Subaru WRX STi were robbed of a second in class by a puncture 11 km before the end of stage 10. Van Dyk said they lost a minute and a half, which moved Visser du Plessis/Thilo Von Westernhagen in their Metmeister Subaru Impreza ahead of them. Adding insult to injury was a broken gear linkage that lost them a further 40 secs.
Drama continued in Class N4, in the form of a controversy that leaves the results provisional for second place onwards in Classes A8 and N4. A protest was lodged by one of the competitors against Du Plessis/ Westernhagen in class N4 who provisionally finished third overall and second in class. Du Plessis/Von Westernhagen’s Impreza was seen in Parc Ferme with its bonnet open. Rally Rules state competitors aren’t allowed to open the bonnet or work on the car in Parc Ferme. This calls for immediate exclusion. Du Plessis appealed. The matter will go to court where a panel of Motorsport South Africa (MSA) judges will hold a hearing in this coming week.
For second overall and first in class A8 contenders Serge Damseaux/Robert Paisley in their Team Castrol Toyota RunX, it wasn’t plain sailing. Unfavourable weather conditions and two incidents dashed any hopes Damseaux had of wrapping up the championship on home soil. As Paisley explains, they lost about 20 secs when they hit a gatepost on a fast lefthander in stage seven. Stage nine cost them a further 20 secs when they hit a very muddy patch and slid sideways into another gatepost. Damseaux said the weather made it more difficult for everybody and said, “I am glad that I finished. I got some points.” He said that the championship now goes to the last rally. Provisional fourth overall and second in class Jan Habig/Douglas Judd in their BP Volkswagen Racing Golf 4 got a 20 sec penalty for jumping the start in stage one and lost a further five and a half minutes also in stage one after they broke a sideshaft. Etienne Lourens/Andre Vermeulen in their Team Total Toyota RunX RSi exited the rally in stage one with a blown engine. They hit a sandy contour that sucked sand through the radiator into the engine. Cliff Blackman/Johan Klaasen in their BMW 320i broke a lefthand rear driveshaft and had to limp for 14 km to the spectator point in stage one where they retired. Blackman said they couldn’t get out of the stage.
Class A7 had its own elation and disappointment for some competitors. Adrian Karth/Rikus Fourie in their GMP Motorsport VW Polo Playa won the class and came eighth overall. Jean Pierre Damseaux/Cobus Vrey finished ninth overall in their Team Total Toyota Corolla RXi followed by Tony Ball/Alec Harris in their VW Polo Playa who finished 13th overall. Hergen Fekken/Dave Lewkowicz in their BP Volkswagen Racing Polo made an early exit in stage one. Fekken explains: “The sump guard dug in on the first contour and pulled sand through the radiator and the radiator broke in two.” Looking set to clinch the class championship, disaster struck for Damseaux/Vrey. A disappointed Damseaux said. “We had a driveshaft break in stage seven and lost 8 and a half minutes, then we had a puncture in stage ten that lost us a further 4 minutes. The afore-mentioned lost us wrapping up the class title.” For Damseaux and Fekken the fight is in the grand finale, the Great North Rally in Tzaneen.
Of note in Class N2 is the father and son team of Jon and Douglas Williams in their Trident Press Toyota Corolla RXi. Jon said that their aim is to beat Chris de Wit/Patrick Yende in the rival Team Total Toyota Corolla RXi. A solid performance put the Williams’s ahead of De Wit/Yende giving them their first win in class and tenth overall for this season.
The unruly weather conditions couldn’t deter spectators from watching the action at Killarney and the stages out in the country. The rally scene moves to Tzaneen for the final round of the SASOL SA Rally National Championship in less than a month, for a riveting championship decider.