F&D Racing Nissan Sugarbelt 400 summary

What a demanding event! A very well laid out event and superbly marked but one major error on behalf of the organisers; there was not enough day light time to complete the 400 km route. With the first car only finishing at 3 o'clock instead of...

What a demanding event! A very well laid out event and superbly marked but one major error on behalf of the organisers; there was not enough day light time to complete the 400 km route. With the first car only finishing at 3 o'clock instead of the anticipated 13h30, indications were on the board that the going was very slow, especially the first 99 km stage were 13 river crossings (I did not count them as it seemed we were never to getting to the end of the valley), had to be traversed in 7 km.

The 35km. time trial on Friday was completed without a hitch in 40.45 minutes, placing us ahead of a lot of fast 4 wheel drive vehicles whom had encountered delays during the time trial. With very little work to be done on the car, we were ready for a good race on Saturday.

Saturday did not see the early start of early years and would penalise many competitors later the day.

Starting 9 minutes after the first car saw a lot of dust hanging in certain sections with 56 cars out on the first South loop ahead of us. We were going well with a gaggle of sand masters and 4*4 trucks trailing in our dust. Opportunities to allow faster cars to pass were very difficult and would mean slowing down to a dead holt to allow cars to pass. Keeping one eye in the rear mirror and the other on the sweeping track meant disaster as I took a long sweeping left bend in 4th gear just to realise that the route made a diversion to the right. As I corrected the direction of travel the rear of the car lost traction and spun around sliding in reverse towards the fork in the road and the next moment we were hanging upside down with the car on its roof in the sugar canes. Within a minute or less I was out of the car and Dalene followed, my first concern being possible fuel spillage and a possible fire, which could spell disaster.

Fortunate no such problems. A further minute or two later Frik Mulder and Willie Jordaan in their F2 truck stopped to enquire and offer their help, 10 minutes later, the Toyota truck was back on its wheels, engine running and ready to roll. After removing a broken light and replacing a punchered tire we were back on route.

Stone last we gradually picked up slower cars on the route to eventually stop again before one of the many river crossings we had to cross. A sand master was stuck on the other bank of the river. A couple of other competitors arrived and the vehicle was extracted out of the way some 35 minutes later and off we went.

A quick stop at the service point to remove some broken parts, replace a tire and replace some power steering fluid saw us out on the North loop 10 minutes later. Dust remained a problem and a braking problem slowed us down.

Completing the North loop without any incidents we made our main pit stop, refuelling the car and soul with energy. We were told by our service crew that the first cars had not completed the race jet as they were expected at 13h30 and it was already 14h00 and race time was running out, but if the organisers abided to the rules, time bar would have to be extended to at least 18h00 if the front runners finished within the next 5 minutes, giving us enough time to complete the race.

The second North loop went much faster with the braking problem repaired during the refuel allowing us to catch up cars that had passed us during the previous lap.

Stopping at the time control in the pits, ready to tackle the South loop, we were told by the organisers that we were being time barred and could not continue. The time bar had only been extended by half an hour although the first finisher only finished at 15h00, 1and a half hour later than anticipated.

What a disappointment for our team and many other teams that had been time barred. Frik Mulder, who had spent time to ensure the safety of a fellow competitor as well as ensuring that no further damage could result from the incident (a fire would ruin the event for organisers and sponsors) was time barred by 5 minutes. My thanks to Frik and Willie for there help.

- Frank de Greef
F&D Racing

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Series Other rally