|The Cullinan Rally has been good for NAD Rally: in 2014 they finished a brilliant second, the Fiesta splitting the two Works Toyotas. In 2013 they were fifth (just two events after changing to Ford), winning the S2000 Challenge class in the process. Working on the theory of constant improvement, they should do better than second this time round… |
Ironically the event – known as the Imperial Toyota Tshwane Rally this year – doesn’t suit the Fiesta particularly well, and the route’s flattish terrain doesn’t play to the advantages that come with the Fiesta’s superb suspension, while the soft sandy terrain is also not ideal for the Ford’s relatively peaky power delivery.
Nevertheless, driver Japie van Niekerk is feeling bullish after a strong comeback in the middle portion of the South African National Rally championship, and with five of the eight rounds out of the way, he finds himself lying fifth overall and in a fight for fourth place with two Works Volkswagen drivers.
Van Niekerk’s experienced navigator, Gerhard Snyman, is not as well placed in the co-drivers’ championship, having missed the opening and second rounds of the 2015 series. Nevertheless, he is committed to getting his partner as high up the points ladder as possible.
“Japie’s driving particularly well right now, and a measured approach is working well,” says Snyman. “We’ve been mixing it with some tough, well-funded competition, but we’re not letting that get to us. We’re taking the events stage by stage, and aiming to combine speed and consistency.”
A small mechanical problem started to manifest itself in the closing stages of the Volkswagen Rally last month but as is standard procedure the car has been stripped down and reassembled by the team at Thompson Racing and total reliability is expected. NAD Rally’s professional approach – despite being a privateer team – is apparent in all aspects of its campaign.
“We find ourselves in a good space right now, and while we’re in a fight we don’t feel especially pressurised. Gerhard and I know we can rely on each other, and on the car, and there isn’t much point in worrying about anything else!” added Van Niekerk. “The fact that we start from the Union Buildings is a pretty exciting change too, so we’re looking forward to the weekend in a number of ways.”