AFRICA HERITAGE RALLY TO GO AHEAD DESPITE MAJOR SETBACKS

Like a Phoenix arising from the ashes the Africa Heritage Cross Country Rally, an event that marks South Africa's debut in the FIA Cross Country World Cup, has taken on a new lease of life.

A week ago it looked as though the event would be scrapped dealing motorsport in South Africa a major blow both locally and internationally. Now the Africa Heritage Cross Country will run in conjunction with the fourth round of the Absa Off Road Championship, the Ford Motorite 400, in Limpopo province in August with the future of the event looking to have been secured.

The Africa Heritage Cross Country Rally will run from August 2 to 5 and the Ford Motorite 400 on August 4 and 5 with both being organised by the Koepel Club. The Ford Motorite 400 was originally scheduled for July 14 and 15 with the new date sanctioned by Motorsport South Africa, the governing body for motorsport in South Africa, and the Koepel Club.

"A week ago we had run into a series of stumbling blocks that looked as though they would force us to scrap the event," said Africa Heritage Cross Country franchise holder Charmaine Fortune. "Now the cavalry has arrived in the form of the Koepel Club and chairman Willie Prinsloo, and we are able to go ahead.

"The Africa Heritage Cross Country will run to full FIA Cross Country World Cup general prescriptions, and we are hugely grateful to Willie and the club for taking on a huge responsibility at such a late stage in their organisation of the Ford Motorite 400."

Ms Fortune added the organisation of the event was in good hands. The Koepel Club won the award for the best event in the 2005 Absa Off Road Championship, with Willie Prinsloo picking up the 'Spirit of Off Road' award.

The Africa Heritage Cross Country will be run over 1 000 kilometres and the Ford Motorite over 400 kilometres. This has forced Koepel into searching for additional roads in Limpopo province, but Willie Prinsloo does not see this as a stumbling block.

"The Ford Motorite 400 is to be based at the Ysterberg Oord about 30 kilometres outside Polokwane, and we will simply double up on facilities," said Willie Prinsloo. "During our route surveys for the national event last year and again this year, we have come up with enough roads to ensure competitors a challenging, diversified and interesting route.

"The added responsibility of running a world championship event is a challenge which the club and I relish. We would not have taken on the job if we did not think we could make a success of it"

Piet Swanepoel, president of the MSA Off Road Car Racing Commission, said South African competitors could enter both the Africa Heritage Cross Country and the Ford Motorite 400. South African entrants, however, would run at the back of the international field and would only score points towards the Absa Off Road Championship event.

"As a commission we are aware of our responsibility to the Absa Off Road Championship and South African competitors," Swanepoel said. "At the same time we see a piggyback arrangement with the Africa Heritage Cross Country as the only way to lay the foundations for South Africa to remain as part of the World Cup.

"It is our intention to build the Africa Heritage Cross Country into the best on the international calendar. This won't affect our commitment to South African competitors, but we have to look to the future."

"We are fortunate to be able to call on the years of experience and expertise Willie and the Koepel Club have in Off Road Racing,"

"There is little doubt they fine do a fine job."

-msa-