A-TEAM “I like it when ….

“I like it when a plan comes together” the famous phrase used by “Hannibal Smith” in the A-team series. I can repeat these words today after speaking to one of the organisers of the Secunda Rally that will take place 19-20 May 2017.

A thousand and twenty seven seven-hundred and one hundred as our beloved President would do the count – sad or is it bad, things have been said about the state of local rallies. Some – no let’s be honest, most of it unfortunately true, but others also a bit long in the tooth.

Fact is that the sport in South Africa needs a revamp or at least a re-think, and it needs it soon – this year to be honest or you will see a further decline as sure as I am writing the thousand and twenty eighth two hundredth story about it. A decline that may force who ever will then be chosen by MSA to attempt to rescue what they have allowed the previously selected, to stuff up very badly, to take a sabbatical and get things sorted out before re starting afresh.

Now – luckily a big leap in the right direction has been taken by the organisers of the Secunda Rally.

The are about to prove the value of this sport to the local community by designing an event that will cater for the spectator, please the petrolhead, be smooth and fast, will give value for sponsorship money, while it truly involves the community.

The 2017 Secunda Rally will take place next week end (10 and 20 May 2017)

I suggest that when (not “if”) you go to watch this rally designed to bring out the full potential of the S1600 cars, you plan your spectating carefully.

There are a number of excellent spectating points – which is good, but apparently you can see a few kilometers of stages, which means that you will get caught up in the action and miss some top action in other stages.

Luckily the stages are close to each other and you will be able to plan your entertainment perfectly.

The action gets underway at 15h30 on Friday from the Trichardt Volkswagen dealer, taking crews to three gravel stages before returning for service at Lake Umuzi where the cars will be fitted with high beam lights for the short tarmac stage at the Graceland Casino at 18h00 which will be run twice.

The cars will then return to Lake Umuzi for their overnight rest. Spectators are welcome to enjoy the live entertainment on the Friday evening when the racing action seizes.

Saturday kicks off with the hugely popular gravel superspecial stage just outside town at 08h45. Two cars run side-by-side over the three km long stage which features a cross-over bridge and is a firm favourite with fans.

The rally crews will head to Tjorrie’s farm where the service area and rally action will taken place on Saturday from 10 am till 1pm. It promises a family atmosphere with jumping castles to keep the kids entertained whilst there will be plenty of food and drinks available. The public is more than welcome to meet and greet the rally crews in the service park.

Across the road will be Stage seven (repeated as stage nine) is 28.3km, the longest of the event. The stage finishes in a quarry with a water-splash while the site offers fans a sweeping view from the top of the quarry rim, creating an amphitheatre experience unique in the SA Rally Championship.

The final stage will on the banks of the beautiful Lake Umuzi at 15h00 in the centre of town and fans are invited to stay for the champagne ceremony and after party.

A new dimension to this year’s edition of the Secunda rally will be a Win-a-Spin competition whereby the public will stand a chance to be taken for a spin on the Lake Umuzi stage in a rally car.

Live music entertainment will be provided by William Blackrose and Jan Rhaap for the afterparty at Lake Umuzi.

There you have the program, but what about the action and who will do what on this event?

It is a fact that I have not attended rallies this year and due to various factors I have lost interest in the sport, mostly due to the over protective or selfish attitude of the so called “steering committee” but after being asked to help marketing the event through my website I do so with pleasure.

I am at the same time also delighted that most of the requisits I I have written in for my Super77 series have been implemented in the running of this specific rally. This will also mean a lot in the near future for the sport – so watch this space.

After two wins and driving the only “works” car in the field, Guy Botterill has to start the event as favourite and he will set the pace for the event.

His advantage is the fact that he can tip-toe across many a safety line if need be, knowing that he has a comfortable lead (14 points) over the rest and damage will not be from a family pocket anymore.

In fairness it has to be said that Botterill has never been an expensive driver and kept his cars intact even when going over the limits.

Someone said to me the other day that they spectated on the York rally where Botterill drove quite a way on two wheels. “He was lucky” he said, “you don’t understand the difference between luck and the ability to get out of trouble” said I.

On paper and based on talent – Botterill will not be caught by any of the present competitors.

The rest of the chase will be in the hands of the rally-gods and AC Potgieter who will be driving an improved car and with one of the most spirited navigators in the form of Nico Swartz next to him, this will be a team that may just upset the Toyota Gazoo apple cart.

During the York rally Richard Leeke with the cousin of Einstein next to him, set a good pace and opened quite a gap over Potgieter after the latter had a bit of a problem. Then Potgieter got his act together and the pressure started to mount on Leeke who then rolled out of the event in Stage 10.

We shall see this time around if that roll was an exception or if pressure is a problem for him, because I have no doubt that Potgieter will be hunting him down.

The 122km of stages will offer a number of spots where things can go wrong and 13 pull aways will take its toll and this may be the event where driver talent rather than durability will play a big role as the route promises not to be too hard on cars.

Talking about 13 starts – few competitors realise the importance of keeping the concentration up between stages or at least to be psyched up to the right level every time you enter a stage. The other problem most – no make it all drivers suffer from; their concentration-span limit.

Some driver can concentrate no more that five or so kilometers at a time, before their minds start to wander – while you get drivers – who can drive a rally car for thirty plus kilometers without even thinking about their overdrafts once.

A good example of such a person was Johnny Gemmell – the only driver I have come across that was able to go on serious concentration-control and stay there.

So far this year Jono van Wyk posted two steady third places overall which moved him into second spot overall on the points ladder. I know nothing about this driver but if he manages to keep the pace and play a waiting game to see who kills whom – he will probably again find himself on or near the podium on this event.

A driver I have always fancied is Tjaart Conradie (Silverton Engineering Toyota Etos R2) – who has been underestimated over the years. Unfortunately he almost always had to compete from his own pocket and did not really have the advantages of the best possible car. With Carolyn Swan – whom I rate as one of the best navigators on the scene – next to him, Tjaart will not upset the top cart, but has a very good chance of giving most of the “rated” drivers a good run for their money. Conradie can drive a rally car – take note.

It will be heartening to see a new car being brought onto the scene – and we will all welcome the Mazda R2 on the scene. Chris Coertse will pilot it under the Electrohead colours.

The ever enthusiastic George Smalberger/Chris Brand will be there to pedal their Shield Car care Volkswagen Polo R2 with their usual verve.

The Open class is the class supposed to bring real action to the sport and I predict that this class will show the direction to those who remain blind to the real options and opportunities we have been missing over the past few years. You are in Africa – act like you know that – the Rand is not worth much, so bring down the cost and give value to the fans.

I just hope that Nicolas Ryan and Geoff Tyrer will set the pace for things to develop and Kosie van der Merwe with Coen van Zyl will take up the challenge to turn on the light for all.

A new class for 2017 is the Classic Car class, which has developed into a two-way Ford fight between Lee Rose/Elvéne Coetzee (Ford Escort Mk 2) and Roelof Coertse/Barry White in another impeccably prepared Mk 2 Escort. While Rose runs a 2 litre motor, Coertse has an 1800cc mill powering his car.

They will be joined by several Northern Regions runners, including another Secunda resident, Natie Booysen (Ford Escort Mk 1) and Ashley/Les McKenzie (Ford Escort Mk 1). Nico Nienaber/Gert van Rensburg will bring their immaculate Toyota Corolla Mk 2 to challenge the Fords, just as they did in rallying’s halcyon days of the mid-1970s.

I hope to be able to bring you all a full report on this event – although we have not been invited as press to the event – I trust that we will receive the result in workable format and do not have to search a Facebook page and magnify the results to tell all 30 000 plus readers of the Rallystar Facebook and website what happened in Secunda.

It is also sad to note that the speed-wobbles find it hard to publish the names of the major websites where the public can read all about them and the sport…

and this is where I stop before I spoil my own breakfast and probably my day again.

The event?

I believe it will be great fun to spend at least one of the two days watching the action – maybe I will see you there!