This weekend will see (because spectators won’t) the third and fourth legs of the 2020 South African Rally Championship.
The NTT Toyota Rally will take place in the Delmas area on Friday 16th October when the third – and Saturday 17th October when the fourth leg of the 2020 championship will be decided.
On Friday the teams will compete over a total distance of 94,66km and on Saturday on the fourth leg of this year’s events teams will have to try and beat each other over 89,44km.
The two rather short rallies will be decided over a total distance of 184 stage kilometers.
There are many opinions around the format that was chosen to try and squeeze a SA Rally Champion out of a year that should have been a Sabbatical year, used to try and get the sport back on its feet, get more NEW sponsors and even manufacturers involved again.
What is happening now is that we are steering towards and even leaner 2021 and a disastrous 2022 and so on. Keeping the series afloat simply uses all the energy required to reorganise and plan the future.
Be that as it may – the wise guys decided that there will be a cropped up championship and that is that – like everything was over the past 8 years or so.
When I had a look at the video of the various stages to get an idea of what the rally will be like, one thing became clear – these were going to be two very fast rallies.
There are some straight sections in excess of a kilometer where the driver will not have to tap off for a moment and if he does – he will be looking desperately for two to three seconds per tap.
Drivers will not be able to hesitate or like Carlos Sainz always says, “No drive whappy – whappy!”
With this in mind the Salom Rally Team of Theuns Joubert knew that they needed to make some drastic changes to the Yaris that they used on the Secunda events where they battled with handling, fuel pressure, clutch, suspension setup and performance problems in general.
They had to find at least a second per kilometer on the previous event’s performance and also to improve on the previous tests that were done to keep up with the R4 cars.
One of the most frustrating things for the Salom team owner and driver, Theuns Joubert was the fact that the works Toyota R4 driven by Guy Botterill had the upper hand in Secunda – because of the incredible torque developed at low revs which comes in handy especially when you need to get out of tight loose-surfaced corners.
Every time Theuns touched the handbrake to get through a corner he could kiss a second and more goodbye! The S2000 Yaris simply did not produce the torque delivered by the incredibly quick and lighter Toyota Etios R4 1600 Turbo all-wheel-drive that does not hesitate to send every single bit of power and especially torque to all four wheels.
The other problem was not car related but Joubert’s business commitments do not allow him to practise more than an hour or two between events and then it is a rush at its best.
So – last Friday a week before the event – we were able to give the Yaris a bit of a shakedown and after about 50kms of testing and sorting things out the team were happy that Theuns and Carl Peskin his navigator would be a second and quicker per kilometer than before.
We were able to take more than 2 seconds per kilometer off previous times over the same short but technical stage we tested before the previous runs and the team was quite happy with the result.
The NTT Toyota Delmas Rally this weekend will test more than only power and handling – the engines of the rally cars will work harder than in Secunda and I tell you for free that if you blink your eyes twice or more per kilometer you are going to land in trouble.
Very few corners are on top of each other and man, oh man you arrive at serious corners doing even more serious speeds!
The braking ability of the S2000 has always amazed me, but I think that Theuns will appreciate the quality of these brakes even more once he attacks the Delmas stages in anger.
The other problem caused by the lack of overall distances on the coming events is that there is simply no place for error – except if you rally for fun. The latter, as a reason for rallying, I could never in my life understand and when any of my students announces that he or she wants to rally for fun – I go home for much more fun!
To me rallying has always been and always will be a test of skill – reaction, planning and being able to predict what a car will do in your hands when you drive it on its limit, which is, of course, something very few drivers could ever do. Most of them depend on money to buy that extra second or two they need to be somewhere in the top 10 – depending on the number of entrants. Learning how to drive by getting everything you can out of a piece of crap with four wheels are long gone. A state of the art car is bought at the price of a house and Boetie jumps into his triple fire-proof suit – R5000 shades – Hansel and Gretchen device – driving shoes that have computer management and a helmet with a fan – and there you go – off o the Delmas fashion show.
Let’s get back to business…
As I said, on the NTT TOYOTA rally there will be very little chance to make up time lost to errors. There are simply not enough kilometres in either leg to make up anything more than a few seconds because specialist corners and tricky sections are scarce.
A well-driven two-wheel drive vehicle has an excellent chance to stay with the all-wheel-drive cars and even beat them on some of the long straights and even fast corners.
I do expect a very close finish but the unknown factor remains the genuine ability of the R4 in the hands of Botterill. I do not believe that he pushed the R4 to its full potential in Secunda and if he suddenly “discovers” another second or two per kilometer it will be back to the drawing board for the S2000 cars and Theuns Joubert and the other competitors will have their work cut out just to keep up, let alone beat the R4.
The bad news on this event for Joubert is that it is not Botteril’s R4 only he and other NRC1 drivers have to worry about, – this time around Wilro Dippenaar from Namibia also be there to compete in his Toyota Auris S2000 with the very experienced Carolyn Swan in the seat next to him. Dippenaar is one of the neatest drivers I have seen and the sad news for the competition is that if I have it right – he has never ended a rally with an accident! So if the car does not break – expect Dippenaar to be at least in the Top 3.
The 6 entries in NRC1 makes it the biggest class on the event as there will only be 5 entries in NRC2, two in NRC3 and Natie Booysen and Johan Smith has no competition in NRC 5.
The hot favourite for an overall win must be Guy Botterill followed by anyone of Joubert and Dippenaar. Chris Coertse should on paper be all over the mentioned drivers but so far he did not cause any threat to win a rally overall.
The lone Subaru of Johan Strauss and Elzaan Venter and Johan and daughter Natasha Fourie in that beautiful Toyota Celica GT4 should have a go at each other without a big chance of upsetting the NRC1 apple cart.
In NRC2 the battle will be between JJ Potgieter in the Ford Fiesta and AC Potgieter in a Polo with Clint Weston in a Citroen C2 as the dark horse.
George Smalberger in his Polo may surprise, but if he will get enough together to pull off a win remains to be seen.
The main disturbance in this class may not be a driver as I note the return of my absolute favourite navigator in the Citroen.
In Class NRC3 or then the Rally Cup the two young ones Jayden Els and Benjamin Habig will be on each other’s case once again and they may just produce the most intense fight overall to determine the winner in this class. Both have a karting background – both have the talent and both are used to absolute precision driving to get to the top.
So if the two NRC3 cars are equal in performance – this will be the most interesting class to watch. It is just such a pity that we have not 10 and more entries in this class Volkswagen created for the young and talented. I wonder why this is the case? Is it only a question of money?
I so wish that those in “charge” of this discipline of the sport would just talk to the media about plans, progress, possible future entrants into the sport – but not unlike the problem we have in general with any form of control in our now not so beloved country – I almost had to guess the entry list for this event because the entries now close a day or two before the event.
What nonsense is this? If someone wants to enter he or she sure as hell should have taken that decision a little more than a few hours before the event.
If rallying is treated the same as deciding to go to a movie and if the organisers show the desperation to get a last entry without the late entry penalty – expect it to be treated like a desperado.
My goodness man, get pride back into the sport – make it a championship worth fighting for – something worthwhile where the champions can be compared to the heroes of the past who entered a war rather than a rally – the heroes who sometimes paid the hire purchases payments on two and more cars lying in a scrapyard or standing in their backyard after not such small rally mishaps.
The fact that there is a pandemic going and almost every cent in the country has been stolen, are factors – but with an inch of foresight you should have seen the financial disaster coming and you should have planned to do something to change the sport into a marketing tool or at least try to get interest going like Rallystar has been doing on its own for many years – always facing a boycott rather than cooperation – and then expected to be happy.
The problem is that Rallystar can introduce the people to the sport, show directors and owners of companies what they can get from the sport – but the absolute almost dedicated if not planned absence of the controllers of the sport caused all those efforts go to waste.
When I think of the opportunities that can be created in the promotional world and the wasted opportunities we had in the past – I wonder why I bother.
One day when you turn to look around, I suppose you are going to be surprised to see no one following.
Rallystar will try to get the results and news of the NTT Rally to you over the next two days as soon as we possibly can.
Thanks to the Salom Rally Team and Theuns Joubert for making our attendance possible.