Stage 10 dashed hopes of a Voldswagen one and two. Serge Damseaux/Robert Paisley in their A8 Castrol Team Toyota RunX won the Volkswagen Rally despite trailing Jan Habig/Douglas Judd in their BP VW Racing Golf by 28 seconds at the close of day one. Habig explained that the break pipe got struck by a stone and broke costing them 30 seconds. That is where all went wrong and they had to settle for second overall and second in class. Damseaux/Paisley was on a roll and continued to extend the lead winning the rally by 15 seconds to Habig/Judd. Enzo Kuun/Guy Hodgson in their BP VW Racing Golf 4 were also challenging for the lead. A puncture in stage 10 lost them 45 seconds putting victory out of reach. A disappointed Kuun said he wanted to win, because it was the Volkswagen Rally and continued to say he played it safe and settled for third place overall and in class.
Johnny Gemmel/Greg Godrich in their N4 Mitsubishi EVO 7 had a good rally overall, beating the VWs in stage 10 to finish fourth overall and first in class. Gemmel said that the right tyre choice put him well on pace. Continuing in class A8 Ettiene Lourens/Andre Vermeulen in their Team Total Toyota RunX came fifth overall and fourth in class. A good and solid performance by Richard Behm/Grant St Clair in their N4 Palbin Mitsubishi EVO 6 put them ahead in sixth position overall and second in class. A delighted Behm said that overall they had no problems and that it was a clean rally. Overall, Behm/St Clair’s times compared well with that of Lourens/Vermeulen. Cliff Blackman/Johan Klaassen in their BMW 320i couldn’t fend Behm/St Clair off and had to settle for seventh overall and fifth in class A8. Blackman/Klaassen treated the spectators to a show in the final stage as they took the BMW 320i through its paces.
Nicolas Ryan/Brian Carrihill in their N4 Subaru Impreza finished eighth overall and third in class. Carrihill said that they were glad to have a four-wheel drive in the slippery conditions.
First home in Class A6 and ninth overall was Jakkie Joubert/Willie van Straaten in their Jo Jo Tanks Toyota Corolla. They were on a roll and put in a solid performance. Mally Saville/Deon Redelinghuys in their N4 Subaru STi rounded off the top ten finishing fourth in class.
Eleventh overall and second in class contenders Craig Trott/John Costa in their A6 Toyota Corolla RSi had a good rally. Jon and Doug Williams in their N2 Toyota Corolla RSi followed them to finish twelfth overall and first in class. Second in class N2 and thirteenth overall was Wessel Venter/Patrick Johnson in their Helix Harcus Automotive Toyota Corolla RXi. At end of stage thirteen, Venter said they’re still driving ‘padlangs’ and that he was happy with their pace and the car.
Visser du Plessis/Thilo van Westernhagen in their N4 Subaru Impreza finished fourteenth overall and fifth in class. Du Plessis said that they were well on the pace beating Blackman in the first six stages. A puncture in stage seven cost them valuable time pushing them further down the log. He added that the last time they had a puncture was a year ago. This is a reminder that in rallying the rosy picture can change in an instant.
Hats off to Andy Haigh-Smith/Gerald Brace in their A6 Toyota Corolla RXi who experienced a few mechanical problems and still settled for fifteenth overall and third in class. Haigh-Smith had to nurse a bent steering arm for 23 kilometers before getting to the service park. Adding to their day was a broken driveshaft and a leaking radiator.
Gary Swemmer/Pieter Davidson in their N1 VW Citi Golf finished sixteenth overall, followed by Nkosinathi Nzimande/Derek Jacobs in their A5 VW Citi Golf who was the only in class A5 to finish the rally. Nzimande said that the highlight of their rally was winning in their class and that they are the only team to achieve two wins in their class. When asked what the low light of their rally was Nzimande and Jacobs said ‘getting lost’. In stage seven they found themselves lost due to unclear arrowing. Other competitors fell prey to stage seven as well finding themselves lost losing valuable time. Their times got amended after lodging a complaint.
Charl Strydom/Sakkie Bosman in their A6 Sabre Paints VW Golf finished eighteenth overall and fourth in class. The last car home was the N1 Tazz of Eugene Lourens/Janine Labuschagne.
For others the rally was over even before it started while others succumbed to the harshness of the route.
The Volkswagen Rally wiped out the entire A7 class. First to go was Adrian Karth/Rikus Fourie in their A7 VW Polo Playa who retired with electrical problems. The first of the top runners retiring with a blown engine in stage two was Jean-Pierre Damseaux/Cobus Vrey in their A7 Toyota Corolla. Jean-Pierre Damseaux said that the con rod broke through the block causing the engine to blow. He added that they were going to replace the engine, but it seemed in working order so he decided to use it in this rally. JP/Vrey opened their rally well, setting the second fastest time along with Kuun/Hodgson. Tony Ball/Alec Harris in their VW Polo Playa was forced out with a broken fuel union causing the car to run out of fuel. Stage 10 claimed the gearbox of the BP VW Racing Polo of Hergen Fekken/Dave Lewkowicz.
Jaques Botha/Greg Gericke in their N3 Ford Focus had suspension failure in stage one.
Another of the top runners, Schalk Burger in the Subaru Impreza STi suffered a bad bout of flu, which forced him and Vito Bonafede to retire.
Jaco Venter/JB van Nieuwenhuizen in their A6 Toyota Corolla RSi retired.
Vusi Mabanga/Gert van Rensburg in their Toyota Tazz retired with a blown engine.
Steven Wilken/Megan Stow in their A6 Toyota Conquest retired with a blown engine.
Dolf Coetzee/Irma du Plooy in their A5 Toyota Tazz retired when their motor overheated.
Barry Grobbelaar/Mike Burrows in their N4 Subaru Impreza retired with a broken gearbox.
Bryan Heine/Keith Heine in their A5 VW Citi Golf retired.
Stephan van Dyk/Mark Pym put their Subaru WRX STi on its roof in stage six.
Steve Mearns/Ciaran Nunan in their BMW 318i retired with a broken fan motor.
Francois Briers/Eddy van der Walt in their VW Citi Golf dropped off the radar with broken shocks.
Jose Ferreira/Antonio Barbosa in their Mitsubishi Lancer had a few problems with an alarm clock that didn’t go off, leaving them in dreamland longer than planned.
The Verlaque sisters, Lola and Megan in their Subaru WRX suffered gearbox failure in stage 10.
Mike Nathan/Pieter Euvrard in their A6 Toyota Conquest RSi retired.
Aggie Stroh/Jurg Steyn in their A6 Toyota Conquest retired with a broken gearbox.
Gugulethu Zulu/Llewelyn Fourie in the A5 VW Citi Golf retired with a broken drive shaft.
Chris de Wit/Patrick Yende in their N2 Toyota Corolla RXi retired with a broken gearbox.
Ettiene du Toit/Patrick Vermaak in their N2 Toyota Corolla RXi rolled.
Rodney Visagie/Carolyn Swan in their N3 Toyota RunX RSi retired with a broken gearbox.
Charl Wilken/Robin Houghton in their N3 Team Castrol Toyota RunX went off in stage thirteen.
The list above testifies that rallying can be as cruel as it can be kind.
Sponsor Volkswagen pulled out all the stops to make it a memorable event. The promo team was seen at the stages handing out Volkswagen and BP items. Spectators were kept up to date with the latest happenings in the rally via the PA van while the latest VW cars were on display outside their marquee tent at Boardwalk Casino.
For teams it is back to the drawing board to prepare for the next event, which is the Osram Mountain Trial that takes place in Aliwal North on 13 and 14 August.