Botterill and Vacy-Lyle take the lead in the SA Rally Championship
Very few South African fans knew exactly what to expect from the new R4 class on the local rally scene and with a little bit more sense the combination of classes now make – many of us hoped that the S2000 would be quick enough to hold its own against the R4’s turbo performance.
I had the honour to be a little involved in the Salom Team before the rally and despite some unexpected and irritating performance problems – the “final test result” on Thursday before the rally felt good.
As I drove back to Pretoria remembering too late that the Hyundai that I used to make Pace Notes for the last of my ten-year stint did not have lights that you could see more than three meters with – I thought about the two R4’s and Joubert’s S2000.
I did my best to find out what test times Guy set with the R4 but I have to admit – the times were more secret than the real figure of money stolen by certain people over the past few years in our country.
So – I decided to concentrate on missing 30 ton coal trucks on my way home and live to fight another day. We had to wait for the rally to start before we would know anything regarding the Toyota R4.
Friday came and the teams went out for their recce of day one and then the fun started.
Joubert and Peskin started the rally with a win in stage One which caused the other teams to take note, but then as expected the performance of the R4 of Botterill did what it was supposed to do and took the lead from Joubert.
When the first result came and I saw that Theuns won the stage I started searching for my phone to make one or two urgent calls. By the time I realised that I held it in my hand and still looked at the result – Joubert and Peskin were almost on their way to attack stage two.
I still managed to get the message across – although I knew that Theuns would drive responsibly and not read something into the stage win that did not exist.
Theuns kept his cool and knew exactly how to at least get around the problems we identified to reach the goal of second place on both days if Guy finished both without incident.
Theuns and Carl managed to stay hot on Botterill and Vacy-Lyle’s heels, coming second overall in both rounds in their Toyota Yaris S2000, despite having a number of issues like handling, clutch and fuel-pressure.
The problems were not really a factor in their approach as the goal was to get proper seat time the new car and at the same time try to get an idea of the capabilities of the Botterill/R4 combination.
The team did not expect a win but they did aim for second place – come what may. In stage four they lost the use of the clutch – which did more psychological damage than really hamper their performance through that stage but a persistent fuel surge problem did cost them some time in both legs of the double event.
One factor that Joubert realised was that this incredibly short overall distance of the individual rallies would not allow you to make up any lost time. A flat wheel or any problem for that matter would spell the end on a chance to score proper points and live to fight another day.
Joubert said after the event, “We achieved exactly what we set out to do. I am of course disappointed that I could not get to and stay closer to Botterill but we have at least discovered a problem or two with the settings of the car that will improve the handling and especially the traction out of corners. It felt if we were losing an hour instead of just a few seconds out of every sharp bend – especially hairpin corners.
The turbo driven Etios of Botterill simply made us look and even feel slow out of these corners.
I have no illusions about the fight ahead but we will give it all we have to enhance the spectacle of rallying for the spectators and fans.”
The following link to Jan Hartzer’s page will give you an idea of Joubert’s effort.
Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle were the NRC1 and overall winners in both rounds of the Lake Umuzi Rally in their new Toyota Etios R4.
Having moved from a front-wheel-drive to a new four-wheel-drive car, the team took a competitive but cautious approach. “It was nice to get two wins under the belt. We are still learning about the car and left a lot of time on the table,” says Botterill. “We were pushing but also circumspect, making sure we gathered as much information as we could from this event. It takes time to understand your car, and the best thing we could do was gather some mileage.”
Johan Strauss and Elzaan Venter got third place in Round 1 of the NRC1 class.
Chris Coertse and Greg Godrich got acquainted with a lone standing pole in the first round, but the team managed to repair the Hyundai I20 R4 overnight and came back strongly in Round 2 to finish third behind Joubert and Peskin in the S2000 Toyota.
JJ Potgieter and Tommy du Toit were not intimidated by pre-event speculation or allowed any names to intimidate them and pushed the R2N Ford Fiesta to an impressive and well-deserved win in class NR2 in both legs of the double event.
Michael McGregor / Robbie Coetzee came second in NR2 during Round 1, followed by George Smallberger / Anriko Opperman. Round 2 saw a consistent Smallberger take second place, followed by A.C. Potgieter and Nico Swartz in third.
The new Polo Vivo GT Class had two entrants. Jayden Els with Matt Kohler in the navigation seat. Their opponents were Benjamin Habig and Barry White.
Els had a bad start on day one and finished stone last on the first leg, while Habig made good use of the almost free run to get used to his new car and to win the class in the first event.
Round 2 belonged to Jayden Els and Matt Kohler, who finished 7th overall, after Habig’s luck took a bit of a dive when he broke a side shaft.
With the first salvo behind them, they can now relax a bit and start concentrating on their own progress, while building as much experience as possible. Every kilometre under their belts will start counting soon and the rally fans may just find some exciting fun in following the careers of these two. I just hope Jayden will get his own car soon as the slight handicap of driving a rented car can be bothersome.
A classic Ford Escort, driven by Natie Booysen in the national class, brought some nostalgia so appropriate to this event which is now in its 60th year.
Meanwhile, a variety of regional competitors also came out to play, delivering some spectacular performances and new teams. The NR1 class had a “super turnout” (sic) with four contenders. I left the quotation from the original release in for interest sake.
If four entries are a super turnout – may God have mercy on our souls.
Be that as it may, Johnathan Simms and Hannes Pienaar won Number One on Friday, while they managed second on Saturday, when Jayden Els who had some problems on Friday and finished stone last – reversed the outcome on Saturday to win the regional overall in his rented Polo Cup car.
Natie Booysen and Johan Smith in an Escort 1600 managed 2nd on Friday and 4th on Saturday, while Anton and Isabel Raath clung to third spot both days.
Attie Cloete and James Thompson in a Toyota Conquest pulled off 4th on Friday and Fifth on Saturday.
Pity is the fact that Erik de Jager and Tommy Coetzee in the NR4 Subaru could not finish as they won both the stages they managed to complete on Saturday.
It is good to see Erik back in action and his presence in a capable car will bring some life back into the regional section.
Round 3 of the 2020 championship, that could be shorter in total than one rally was in the past – will take place on the 17th October 2020.