Stannic Fleet Management Rally Gauteng, South Africa
Sasol Ford takes first win
Paolo Piazza-Musso and Nic Hadden won their first rally of the year after avoiding some of the major troubles which affected many of the other leading other crews. For the Sasol Ford Escort crew, it was sweet revenge after they had suffered many such problems in recent events while holding strong positions.
Piazza-Musso and Hadden led home reining champions Jannie Habig and Douglas Judd in the works VW Golf by 1m 44 sec. Habig and Judd now lead the championship after starting the event one point behind the Castrol Toyota Conquest of Serge Damseaux and Vito Bonafede. The latter's retirement late in the rally has sees the VW crew now hold a 26 point series lead.
The Toyota crew retired from the event after hitting a cow in special stage 14 and seriously damaging the car. They continued for two more stages, but the damage to the vehicle eventually forced their retirement. At the time of the accident they just taken the lead in the event, holding a slender advantage over the Sasol Ford crew that had led from stage nine.
Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson, having their first outing of the season in the new factory Daewoo Lanos, finished in third place. Kuun and Hodgson had led overnight and early on day two from Piazza-Musso and Hadden, but struck trouble when they broke a sideshaft on the third special stage of the day (stage nine), dropping them down to fourth.
Habig and Judd were next among the leaders to suffer, losing more than a minute in special stage 12 when the VW Golf's engine mysteriously cut out.
By now, Damseaux and Bonafede had gradually caught Piazza-Musso and Hadden, and held a 4 sec lead going into the fateful stage 14. The Toyota's confrontation with the cow left the Sasol Ford with a lead of over 2 min, enough to ensure victory.
Behind the Daewoo of Kuun and Hodgson, class A6 championship leaders Hergen Fekken and Dave Lewkowicz in the Dunair Toyota Conquest kept out of trouble to claim fourth place after another good drive. In the early stages they were challenged by Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Pierre Arries in the class A6 Team Total Toyota Conquest, but the latter pair slipped back to finish in sixth place.
Husband and wife team of Ben and Isebel van der Westhuizen split the two Toyotas with a great drive to fifth place their class S20 VW Golf. This was a one-off appearance by the steady East Rand crew, and they showed again that they are still a formidable combination that can bring a car home well up the order.
The bad luck syndrome also affected class A7 championship leaders, and third in the overall championship, Tjaart van der Walt and Cindi Harding. They were gunning for their sixth straight class win, but their GNT Technologies VW Golf broke sideshafts in successive special stages -- 12 and 13. From a solid fifth place they dropped down the order to finish in 23rd.
That left John Brewin and Terry Porter, 16th overall in an Opel Kadett, to take an unexpected win in class A7.
Former South African rally champion Hannes Grobler and Dave McGregor in the Bridgestone/Vodacom Nissan Sentra avoided the fuel pump problems that have plagued them in recent events to take a solid seventh place.
They were in firm control of the Group N category throughout the event, never being seriously challenged, to take the class N3 win. Third in class A6, and eighth overall, were Dolf Coetzee and Eddie van der Walt in a Toyota Conquest, ahead of fellow class runners Craig Trott and Brian Duncan in a Team Total Toyota Conquest.
Cliff Blackman and Johan Klaasen (Team Total Nissan Sentra) took second in Group N, and class N3, with tenth overall, just 17 sec ahead of Schalk Burger and Thilo von Westernhagen (Toyota Corolla) in the first class N2 car.
Second in class N2 went to Dean Sanders and Graham Hooper (Toyota Conquest) well back in 15th place, with third-placed finishers Richard Behm and Johan Barnard (Opel Corsa) even further back in 20th place.
Class N1 was won by Rodney Visagie and Carolyn Cimma (Toyota Corolla) in 25th overall. They were one place, and almost 4 min, ahead of Wayne and Dave Watt (Toyota Conquest) who took second in class. Dave's daughter, Jackie was next up having a one-off outing in Allen Worms' Lessan Engineering Opel Corsa, almost 6 min behind her father.
Bossie Bosman and Steve Grobbelaar were the second-placed class S20 finishers in an impressive 12th overall in their Nissan Stanza, with Hansie van Heerden and Jan van der Merwe taking third in class, and 14th overall, in their similar Stanza.
Doug Kemsley and Gerry Gericke held an excellent 12th overall, and were looking for a top-10 finish in their Castrol/Automark/Topcar Toyota Hilux bakkie until stage 11, when they were forced to retire with a blown engine.
Other notable retirements were class N1 competitors, Wiley Harrington and Neil Fourie, who went out two stages from home when their Nissan Sentra blew a motor, Etienne Lourens and Robert Paisley (class A8 Team Total Toyota Conquest) with a broken sideshaft, and Diffie Marais and Danie de Waal (Toyota Corolla) with engine problems.
Top 10 finishers:
1) Paolo Piazza-Musso/Nic Hadden Ford Escort 2:05,43 2) Jan Habig/Douglas Judd VW Golf 2:07,27 3) Enzo Kuun/Guy Hodgson Daewoo Lanos 2:08,07 4) Hergen Fekken/Dave Lewkowicz Toyota Conquest 2:13,35 5) Ben and Isebel vd Westhuizen VW Golf 2:13,56 6) Jean-Pierre Damseaux/Pierre Arries Toyota Conquest 2:15,28 7) Hannes Grobler/Dave McGregor Nissan Sentra 2:16,19 8) Dolf Coetzee/Eddie vd Walt Toyota Conquest 2:19,28 9) Craig Trott/Brian Duncan Toyota Conquest 2:19,32 10) Cliff Blackman/Johan Klaasen Nissan Sentra 2:20,40