Rautenbach romps to home victory
Young Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach secured victory on his home event this weekend, dominating the FIA African Championship scoring Dunlop Zimbabwe Challenge Rally.
21 year old Conrad, who began his rallying career on this very event in 2001 by finishing a highly commendable 7th overall, achieved one of his dreams when he emulated his father, Billy Rautenbach, by winning his home event outright in 2005. Conrad was keen to defend his title this year, and took advantage of the break in the Junior World Rally Championship to return home to compete once more.
Using the same Subaru Impreza with which he had taken victory in 2005, Conrad, along with his highly experienced British co-driver David Senior, began as they meant to continue, by winning the opening 7.5km spectator stage by 4 seconds.
Saturday consisted of 124 tough and gruelling stage kilometres but Conrad attacked the day with gusto, winning the first 4 stages in a row as his car performed faultlessly. Stage 5 was the longest of the entire rally at 59 kilometres and was also one of the more technical, demanding complete accuracy in the notes. The pair blitzed the stage, and despite a minor excursion into the undergrowth about half way through, and the loss of brakes 4 kilometres from the end of the stage Conrad still set the fastest time, an astonishing 2 minutes quicker than any one else! This ensured that the pairing entered the third and final day with a very healthy 8 minute lead over fellow Zimbabweans Jamie White and Phil Archenoul, driving a Mitsubishi Evo 6, whilst the reigning African champion Muna Singh was a further 1 minute 45 seconds further back in his Subaru Impreza.
Day 3 was all about maintaining his advantage and despite a spin in one stage Conrad still set 7 fastest stage times, ending the rally with a 10 minute advantage and 18 out of 19 stage victories!
When I won my home event last year I was over the moon, but to win it for the second year in a row is incredible. The car performed faultlessly throughout and David and I thoroughly enjoyed the rally. It might not be the 4 day marathon that my Dad won back in the early 1990's but it is certainly still a 'challenge'!
Conrad now returns to the UK to begin preparations for round 2 of the 2006 Tesco 99 Octane British Rally Championship, the all tarmac Jim Clark Rally in Scotland.