Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Guy Botterill and navigator Simon Vacy-Lyle find themselves in unfamiliar territory going into the final rally of the 2017 South African National Rally Championship.
The pair, three times champions in Class S1600, trail their nearest competitors by four points as they head to the Carnival City Rally, which takes place on 20 and 21 October on the eastern side of Johannesburg.
“This really is a must-win event for us,” says Botterill of the upcoming rally. “The reality is that Richard Leeke has four points in hand, so if he wins we lose the championship – even if we finish second.”
If Botterill/Vacy-Lyle wins, and Leeke and co-driver Henry Kohne (Ford) finish second, the championship will be tied on points, with the winner being decided based on the most event wins during the year – which means the Toyota pairing will walk away with the crown.
“There are more permutations that can come into play, such as neither of us winning the event,” explains Botterill. “But the reality is that we’ll both be pushing really hard for the win and the championship.”
Botterill/Vacy-Lyle has won three events so far in 2017, while Leeke/Kohne has attained the top step of the podium only once. But then the Ford crew has been more consistent, especially during the last two events, placing Botterill under even more pressure to perform.
This year has seen the introduction of the former Class S1600 cars as the new top-flight vehicles in the South African National Rally Championship, and as such offers an opportunity for either Botterill or Leeke to become the first champion of the new, front-wheel-drive era.
The Carnival City Rally starts at 15:30 on Friday 20 October at Carnival Toyota, Carnival City. From there, the action moves in the direction of Heidelberg, before heading back to Carnival City for the final stage and podium.