This weekend 15th and 16th August sees the National rally action move back into Gauteng and it promises to be a dusty spectacle.
The teams will start at 11h00 tomorrow, Friday 15th August from the Zonderwater Prison area. They will complete two stages in the direct vicinity before moving through Cullinan to the Bronkhorstpruit.
Before we get to the big guns, let us look at where the action is really going to be.
The most exciting rally news currently is that Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle in the Yato Tools sponsored S1600 will be gunning for their fifth consecutive win.
So far this year they have truly been in a class of their own – but Chad van Beurden and Nico Zwartz in their Beurden Construction Polo R2 have moved in closer and closer.
Chad is one of the true upcoming young drivers with more than just an attitude. Fact is he has the right attitude.
In all my years involved in the sport I have never seen a youngster controlling his own progress as well as this young man did. His start was so cautious that I have to admit I doubted his ability somewhat.
I was wrong – big time, but thank goodness, I realised it in time.
Guy Botterill on the other hand has been blessed with a talent that many would like to be able to buy with a new rally car – thank goodness that is not possible or we would have seen even funnier creatures where they do not belong.
The Botterill/Vacy-Lyle outfit is without doubt not a shoestring-budget team, but you need more than money to keep up with them.
What impresses me most is that this team manages to keep all together while truly testing both car and driver ability to the limit. They are now almost comfortably making dust between the S2000 teams event after event.
Ashley Haigh-Smith is a young man who I have placed money on many times and he sure as hell can keep up with the best, but there is, without doubt, one or two reliability issues with the car. Not necessarily with the car but maybe, just maybe more on the preparation side and added to that are some “Murphy” issues.
AC Potgieter is another driver who has been improving all the time and the same can be said, about Paul-Hendrik Franken and Matthew Vacy-Lyle.
Botterill’s problems will become a bit more intense if he wishes to stay ahead of the pack. Van Beurden is without doubt ready to apply the necessary pressure to keep Guy on his toes and one slip from either driver will allow the other to slip through or away.
Haigh-Smith is determined to prove a point and if his car is up to it, you can almost be sure to see him on the podium.
I believe that the pressure on the S1600 drivers will make it worthwhile to wait for them wherever you are going to spectate.
Now, and I say this cautiously – I am going to put my life on the line to try and work out what will happen in S2000.
If the sand and loose surface was slightly thicker I would have put all my money on Giniel to win this event. His Dakar experience and ability to stay on top of anything loose will come in handy in many places on this event.
Joles aside, the fact that Giniel is a master on any tricky surface may for once truly count in his favour and he may just pull a pleasant surprise – for us, him and his sponsor Imperial Toyota, who is also the event sponsor.
This will add a bit more weight to de Villiers’ side of the scale – as I believe that Imperial Toyota will enjoy getting onto that podium as reward for their serious backing of South African motorsport.
Henk Lategan who will be sweeping the road (he runs first on the road tomorrow) has not enough sweeping power I almost said, “powder” to make a great impression on the surface in many places.
The top dust stage will without doubt be Stage 4 named “Gustaf” which is a stage that offers almost everything, but believe me, if you are unlucky to have anything with a problem that is bigger than a Babyland pram ahead of you, you will not be able to overtake!
Depending on wind direction the “driving in own dust” places on a few stages will cause problems and if your aim is out or notes cocked up – that could be the end of your attack.
Lategan coming from a great second place in the 2014 Weiz Rallye in Austria – I think – may just find it difficult to adjust quick enough to this different and especially difficult surface. He did have a successful shakedown in Volkswagen country near Port Elizabeth since his return– but still, that gravel and what lies in wait here is not the same thing.
Japie van Niekerk and Gerhard Snyman had a good run on the PMC or was it Dunlop Rally at Rallystar – the facility in the Bapsfontein area. Van Niekerk complained about the dust then, so I cannot help to wonder what he will have to say after this one?
Van Niekerk can be very quick and his times tend to show that, at least once or twice on every event, but we are all waiting for that one consistent fast run throughout and event.
Gugu Zulu is also very quick over the Gauteng “type” stages and it is high-time that he reels in a good result after a number of hampering issues plagued him so far this year.
Hans Weijs? I do not quite know what to say, but it seems if his “second attempt” here in South Africa is not as exciting or as fast as his first year (2012) was in South Africa. I am also not sure how he will handle the surface in this specific rally.
A driver driving in the so-called “S2000 Challenge Class”, a class in which there are only two entrants Wilro Dippenaar and Piet Bakkes, Wilro can actually come up with enough pace to place him, not just in between the S2000 cars, but nervously close to the top. (Maybe this class will now also be scrapped like all the other in the past – based on “lack of interest”)
Wilro surely deserves a bit of serious sponsorship money by now? Watch it, he will do well on this event, as he is quite accustomed to this type of surface.
Like Wilro – another Namibian driver – Thilo Himmel may just come up with the stuff it takes get to the top.
Young Himmel – and I do not want to look for excuses on his behalf – truly did not have any luck so far this year. This youngster is quicker than any of his results this year shows, and a clean run will prove my and more important, his point.
Now – let’s look at the top of this rally tree.
Who will win the event?
Leeroy Poulter will – but then because I am too scared to predict such a thing I need to cover myself quickly by adding, if Mark Cronje fails to do so and Hergen does not have the run we are waiting for.
So there you have it, my prediction, clear as a whistle.
The other one I would like to make is “if it rains it is wet!”
Now on a roll – let me dare reveal a little secret.
No one – no matter who he is, will find this rally a walk in the park.
This is one rally where you can fall right next to your own backside if you do not tackle it with enough respect – that is exactly what will happen.
Do not be too surprised if you are surprised at the results – you know what I mean?
The Starting order and times for tomorrow are:
1. Henk Lategan – VW Polo – 11h00
2. Japie van Niekerk – Ford Fiesta – 11h02
3. Mark Cronje – Ford Fiesta – 11h04
4. Leeroy Poulter – Toyota Yaris – 11h06
5. Hans Weijs – VW Polo – 11h08
6. Giniel de Villiers – Toyota Yaris – 11h10
7. Gugu Zulu – VW Polo – 11h12
8. Hergen Fekken – Toyota Yaris – 11h14