Running first on the road on this never-seen-before event, Serge Damseaux and Robert Paisley, the current championship points leaders, were hampered as the terrain - fast, flat and difficult to read - had many surprises in store that were not marked on the route schedule.
No sooner had the Castrol RunX pairing got into their stride when a misfire set in and in spite of all the experience and expertise of the service crew, it could not be cured, and Damseaux dropped down the order, running in 8th position overall by the mid-point of the event.
Adding to the pairings woes, a wrong instruction in the road book in stage 5 cost another precious 20 seconds as Serge took the wrong road. After changing the coil in the final service, the Castrol RunX ran sweetly in time for the final, 37km long stage and Damseaux set off to make up as many positions as he could, hauling the RunX into an eventual 4th place overall.
“We didn’t have the right gear ratios for the super-fast nature of this event”, explained the ten times champion. “We also had a misfire on most of the stages, only having one clean run on the final stage. In the circumstances, 4th is a lot better than it could have been”.
Serge and Robert maintain their overall lead in the championship title race, as well as the class S2000 lead, with an 11 point advantage over Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson, who won the event in their BP Volkswagen Golf.
“The championship battle is going to be very interesting over the final two rounds. We have to win at least one more event this year for me to feel more comfortable”, said Serge.
Charl Wilken and Robin Houghton were not as fortunate in class A7, their Castrol Toyota RunX RSi retiring in stage 5 with a split gearbox casing, losing all the oil. The Pretoria driver got off to a great start, beating his archrivals in stages 1 and 2 in spite of gear linkage problems.
Charl’s RunX had a puncture in stage 4, before his retirement, bringing to an end a promising run. “We were on the pace from the start, which is very encouraging for the next event and sends a message to Hergen (Fekken) and JP (Damseaux), that we are right up there with them”, said Charl at the Dewetsdorp finish.
“The rally was very fast in places, and I saw 200km/h on the clock a number of times, where the engine was bouncing off the rev limiter”, he said of the new rally. “At these speeds, we need to have more notes in the road book and more arrows; there were occasions when we ran for 5km without any instructions and there were many unmarked obstacles”, he added.
Wammy Haddad, Toyota Motorsport manager said: “The misfire was very frustrating for us – we didn’t have a lot of service time available, so the result could have been worse. At least we’ve kept our championship lead intact, so it’s going to be very nerve wracking over the last two events”.
Toyota won class A6 where Craig Trott and John Costa clinched the 2005 class titlein their Team Total Toyota Corolla RSi as well as classes A5 (Etienne Malherbe/Hennie Botes – Crossley car Hire Toyota Tazz), class N3 (Jon/Doug Williams – GijimaAst Toyota RunX RSi) and class N2 (Mike Nathan/Graham Hooper – CVT Toyota Corolla RSi).
The penultimate round of the Sasol rally championship is the Subaru Cape Rally on 16 – 17 September in the Swartland area of the Western Cape.