Jan Habig drew first blood in the Sasol DualFuel South African Rally Championship by winning the season opening Hitachi Power Tools 45th Tour Natal Rally on Saturday. Driving the Sasol DualFuel Volkswagen Golf 4, Habig and co-driver Douglas Judd beat long time bitter rival Serge Damseaux in a Toyota RunX by a massive 2 minutes 27 seconds in the car's first ever outing. Veteran Schalk Burger / Vito Bonafede (Bridgestone Sasol DualFuel Subaru Impreza) finishing 3rd , just over a minute behind Damseaux. -

- While many cars failed to survive the searing hot and humid conditions that also tested mental strength, Habig's car proved its consistency as he mastered the twisty sugar cane stages with some aplomb. It was a performance only briefly matched by team-mates Enzo Kuun and new co-driver Guy Hodgson, who at some point were overall leaders but had to retire with a blown engine. -

- The toughness of the event can never be over-emphasised as some of the championship's major contenders had to take an early shower. Etienne Lourens' Team Total Corolla lasted only one stage on Day Two, while the Sasol DualFuel Volkswagen Polo Playa of Hergen Fekken and Dave Lewkowitz, endured until Stage 9 before giving up. It was a heart-breaking retirement for Fekken as he was fighting for the Class A7 lead with team-mates Tjaart van der Walt and Mike Burrows at the time. Van der Walt himself had to retire on Stage 13 after going off the road a mere 600m from the end of stage. -

- Nkosinathi Nzimande and co-driver Fani Meyiwa in a Class A5 Sasol DualFuel Volkswagen Chico finished 4th in class and 18th overall in the National standings, in a gritty performance that saw them stave off a broken exhaust on the penultimate stage. Fellow Class A5 "Impi Warriors" Gugulethu Zulu and Dave McGregor had to retire on Stage 6 after breaking their car's front suspension and crashing into a river. -

- Quotes: -

- "We have set the ball rolling. It's still early days but the Golf held up better than we expected on a season opener. The number of retirements speaks volumes of the reliability one needs to win an event of this nature and we are very pleased with today's performance." - Jan Habig. -

- "You win some and lose others. This was the one that got away. We were looking good until we hit engine trouble but we will be back at the Total Rally in a month's time." - Enzo Kuun. -

- "So close and yet so far. It's part of the game and you live to fight another day. We will be back more determined in the Playa next time." -Tjaart van der Walt. -

- "We would have liked to start the season with a powerful message and that was looking possible until we had to retire. It's still early days and there's more rallying to be done still." - Hergen Fekken. -

- Top Five: -

- 1. Jan Habig - Sasol DualFuel Volkswagen Golf 4 -

- 2. Serge Damseaux - Team Castrol Toyota RunX RSi -

- 3. Schalk Burger - Bridgestone/Sasol DualFuel Subaru Impreza STi -

- 4. Nicolas Ryan - ABC Motors Subaru Impreza -

- 5. Craig Trott - Team Total Toyota Corolla -

- For full results and news of the event, and all further rounds of the Sasol DualFuel S.A. Rally Championship 2003 go to: www.sasolrallyscene.co.za-

- Highlights of the Natal Rally will first be screened on M-Net Supersport at 15h45 on Saturday (15 March). -

- Round 2 is the Total Rally of South Africa from 10 - 12 April in Gauteng and Mpumalanga (Badplaas). -

- The Sasol Volkswagen Rally Team is proudly sponsored by Sasol DualFuel, Volkswagen Genuine Parts, Holiday Inn and Hella. -

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