Serge Damseaux and Robert Paisley scored a dramatic last gasp win to claim their third consecutive victory in the Sasol SA Rally Championship, the Total Rally South Africa this past weekend. The class A8 Team Castrol Toyota RunX pairing moved up from 7th spot after the opening super specials held in Pretoria, claiming the lead in stage 7 in Ermelo. -

- Run at a cracking pace, Damseaux initially had to fend off the factory BP Volkswagen Golfs of Jan Habig/Douglas Judd and Enzo Kuun/Guy Hodgson; the trio of factory cars were tied on overall time after stage 6! Literally single seconds separated the top drivers as they vied for stage wins and the rally lead, before thick dust and the onset of nightfall took the bite out of the rally. -

- Johnny Gemmell/Greg Godrich (L&J Plant Subaru Impreza WRX STi), running first on the road as the top seeded FIA driver, maximized their road position to streak into a 19 second lead ahead of Habig, with Damseaux ending the second day’s action 53 seconds behind the Golf and over a minute behind Gemmell. Kuun fell back to 6th after losing 2½ minutes after a wrong slot in the thick dust, which poured into Hodgson’s window when it opened during the stage. -

- Drama struck early on the final day, as Gemmell, under attack from Habig at his committed best, narrowed the gap to Gemmell by two seconds. Running flat out in 6th gear in stage 12, Gemmell hit a bump, which launched the car into an 82-metre flight, landing on the shoulder of the stage. Gemmell grappled with the Impreza but a hidden ditch catapulted the Impreza into a frightening series of 8 end-over-end rolls, completely destroying the car, and the crew were fortunate to escape unscathed. -

- Gemmell’s demise elevated Habig into the lead while Damseaux moved into 2nd spot overall. Damseaux pushed his RunX to its fullest, and sliced 16 seconds and 10 seconds off Habig’s lead over stages 12 and 13 to bring the deficit to 22 seconds. -

- A wrong tyre choice in stage 14 cost Damseaux 11 seconds with two stages to run before lady luck once again deserted Habig. The BP Golf developed a misfire 20 km into the 53km long penultimate stage and he dropped a minute to the flying RunX. Damseaux grew his lead over the final blast over a fast mountain pass into Badplaas to maintain Toyota’s stranglehold on the 2004 Sasol championship series, ending 21 seconds ahead of Habig. -

- Third overall and the first Production Car home, also winners of class N4 and the FIA African Rally Championship category of the event, (the Total Rally South Africa is the 2nd round of the ARC) were Schalk Burger and stand-in co-driver Richard Leeke in their Bridgestone Sasol Subaru Impreza WRX Sti after a solid, clean and fast run over the 300km of special stages. Burger dropped 31 seconds on the opening two tarmac stages that didn’t suit the heavy four-wheel-drive car, and settled into a calculated run to be in position to attack on the final day. Pushing hard in stage 14, Burger beached his Subaru and dropped to 4th spot, before regaining the position on the following stage. -

- Etienne Lourens/Andre Vermeulen (Team Total Toyota RunX RSi) held a watching brief from 4th place for much of the event, powering past Burger in stage 14, only to fall back into fourth spot with accelerator linkage problems in stage 15. -

- Jean Pierre Damseaux/Cobus Vrey (Team Total Toyota Corolla RSi) ended 5th overall and won class A7 after a fierce battle with the new BP Volkswagen Polo of Hergen Fekken/Dave Lewkowicz, which made its debut on this event. Such was the intensity of their battle for class honours that the two teams ended day two tied for position. Fekken was forced to withdraw with gearbox problems, one of 29 retirements from the 48 starters. -

- Nicholas Ryan and Brian Carrihill (Bosal Subaru Impreza) ended a strong 7th overall after a trouble free run, ahead of a superb performance from Jakkie Joubert/Willie van Straaten in the JoJo Tanks Toyota Corolla, giving the talented pairing their first national class A6 win in spite of losing 4 minutes with a flat tyre in the final stage. The class points leader Craig Trott/John Costa (Team Total Toyota Corolla RSi) retired with a broken gearbox. -

- Richard Behm/Grant St Clair ended 9th overall in their Palbin/Moroka Swallows Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 after suffering from turbo problems on day two. -

- Rounding out the top 10 was an excellent performance from the Sasol Rally Chicks duo of sisters Lola and Megan Verlaque after a quick, steady drive in the dry, dusty conditions that prevailed. -

- Class N3 fell to Rodney Visagie/Carolyn Swan (Team Total Toyota RunX RSi) in spite of losing 8 minutes with a roll in stage 8 on day two. One of the replacement windows fell out in the long stage 15, adding to Visagie’s discomfort. -

- Charl Wilken/Robin Houghton (Team Castrol Toyota RunX RSi) led the class until a puncture in stage 12 cost them 16 minutes after the jack broke and dropped the car onto the ground. After eventually propping the RunX up on a pile of rocks to complete the tyre swap, the car was beached, and a further struggle ensued to free the stranded car. -

- Class A5 was claimed by Vusi Mabanga/Gert van Rensburg (Team Total Sowetan Toyota Tazz). A rally fraught with untraceable and intermittent electrical problems held the duo at the back of the field, but they were delighted with their first class win. Allen Worms/Llewellyn Fourie (Lessan Engineering Tazz) retired 2km from the end of the penultimate stage with driveshaft failure, giving up the class lead they held from the start. -

- Nkosinathi Nzimande/Derek Jacobs (BP Volkswagen Citi Golf) were time barred at the end of day two after an off road excursion bent the steering arm and the Toyota Dealer Cape Rally class winner had insufficient service time to effect repairs. -

- Gugu Zulu and Dave McGregor never left Pretoria after their Sasol Volkswagen CitiGolf suffered a broken gear linkage, which caused the engine to over-rev and drop a valve. -

- Nico and Gert Nienaber (Slurry Volkswagen CitiGolf) rolled down a mountainside in the final stage after the bolts holding the rear axle to the chassis sheared off and pitched the car off the road. The stage was stopped while the crew received medical attention and were extricated to hospital. Their injuries are reported to be relatively minor. -

- Chris de Wit/Patrick Yende (Team Total Toyota Corolla) the only runner in the class, duly won class N2 and Eugene Lourens/Janine Labuschagne (Hitachi Toyota Tazz) won class N1. -

- Noteable retirements included: -

- § Dolf Coetzee/Irma du Plooy (Toyota Tazz) – gearbox -

- § Adrian Karth/Rikus Fourie (NetConnect Volkswagen Polo Playa) -

- § Gary Swemmer/peter Davison (Riken Volkswagen CitiGolf) -

- § Visser du Plessis/Thilo von Westernhagen (Metmeister/Outsurance Subaru Impreza WRX STi) – broken ball joint ss10 -

- § Schalk Burger Jr/Wimpie van Greunen (Godrich Toyota Corolla RSi) – gearbox ss12 -

- § Ferdi Koekemoer/Schalk van Heerden (AutoXtra Renault Clio 2.0) -

- § Callie van der Merwe/Gideon Trollip (Mobil Subaru Impreza GT) – gearbox ss12 -

- § Andy Haigh Smith/Gerald Brace (Team REACT Toyota Corolla) – rolled ss8 -

- § Joel/Anneke Ritson (Dent Doctor Subaru Sportwagon) – radiator -

- § Jose Ferreira/Miguel da Costa (Italian Panelbeaters Impreza GT) – off the road -

- § Aggie Stroh/Jurg Steyn (Supa Quick Toyota Conquest) – rolled ss4 -

- § Tony Ball/Alec Harris (BP Bulwer park Volkswagen Polo Playa) – ripped wheel off ss8 -

- § Barry Grobbelaar/Mike Burrows (Sasol Subaru Impreza WRX) – gearbox ss5 -

- § Rocky Reyneke/Andre Pheiffer (Hencom Subaru Impreza GT) – electrical ss6 -

- § Cliff Blackman/Johan Klaasen (Topcar Bosch BMW) – differential ss4 -

- § Marinus du Plessis/Alwyn van den Heever (Gardiner Ross Volkswagen CitiGolf) -

- § Bryan/Keith Heine (Pennypinchers Volkswagen CitiGolf) – sideshaft ss3 -

- First highlights of the Total Rally South Africa will be broadcast on MNET Supersport this Saturday (15 May) at 14h30 and on” Sasol Rally Scene” directly after the Monaco F1 qualifying on SABC 3 on Saturday 22 May. -

- For further information on the Total Rally South Africa or the Sasol SA Rally Championship 2004, log on to www.sasolracing.co.za or call 08 22 33 4321. -

- The 4th round of the Sasol SA Rally Championship is the Sasol Rally 2004 in the Sabie, White River and Nelspruit areas of Mpumulanga, to be held from 17 – 19 June. -

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