GROBLER WRAPS UP STANNIC GROUP N RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Former South African rally and off-road champion Hannes Grobler added another national title to his collection over the weekend.
Grobler and co-driver Dave McGregor, in the Bridgestone Nissan Sentra, wrapped up the Group N title for standard cars and Class N3 in the final round of the Stannic National Rally Championship in the Northern province. Sixth overall and their sixth Group N category win of the season did the trick for Grobler and McGregor who also finished fifth in the overall Stannic National Rally Championship.
Two other Group N championships were also decided on the Stannic Great North Rally, sponsored by Stannic and Sasol, which was run under atrocious conditions with rain, mud and mist making life uncomfortable for competitors. Veteran Schalk Burger and Thilo von Westernhagen, in the Godrich Toyota Conquest, clinched Class N2 with Pretoria crew Allen Worms and Ashley Gericke taking the Class N1 title in the Lessan Engineering Opel Corsa.
The jovial Grobler and McGregor went into the Stannic Great North Rally with an eight point lead over KwaZulu Natal crew Cliff Blackman and Johan Klaasen in both the overall championship and in Class N3. Losing 10 minutes in special stage one saw Grobler and McGregor get off to a shaky start, but they recovered well to find themselves locked in a duel with Class N2 winners Burger and von Westernhagen for overall Group N honours.
"Before the start of the season I had never driven a front wheel drive rally car and went through a very rapid learning curve," said Grobler. "Then the wet and muddy conditions this weekend meant I virtually had to learn it all again with the car slipping and sliding all over the place.
"We kept catching Schalk and Thilo and then something would happen to drop us down the list and we would have to start all over again. The conditions made it probably the toughest event of the season, but we achieved what we set out to do at the start of the season."
An always gracious Grobler also paid tribute to Blackman and Klaasen, with the Team Total Nissan Sentra pair a constant threats throughout the season. "Cliff and Johan gave us a run for our money and it was fun rallying against them," he said.
"I think we also proved that the Class N3 and Class N2 cars could regularly take top 10 finishes, and there is no doubt that the Group N category came of age during the season."
For Worms and Gericke - and particularly Worms - there was a nailbiting finish to the season. Worms went into the Stannic Great North Rally 14 points behind Rodney Visagie in the drivers championship with Gericke eight points behind Chris Olsen in the co-drivers title race.
The Toyota Conquest of Visagie/Olsen dropped out on day one, and this opened the door for the Opel crew. A class win was enough to edge Gericke ahead of Olsen, but for Worms to edge ahead of Visagie the pair had to finish no lower than 16th overall.
They ended up 18th but with Class S20 pair Bossie Bosman and Steve Grobbelaar not eligible to score points moved up a notch - but this was still not enough to earn the extra point Worms needed. The clincher for Worms came when Class A7 crew Barry Grobbelaar and Mike Burrows were excluded from the final results.
This moved Worms and Gericke up another notch in the results. It also meant that the extra point saw Worms draw level with Visagie, and on the basis of more class wins during the season he took the title on a count out.
Final Group N championship positions:
Overall - drivers: 1 H Grobler 146; 2 C Blackman 129; 3 S Burger 98; 4 D Marais 79; 5 D Sanders 79; 6 R Behm 77; 7 G Kleyn 57; 8 A Worms 52; 9 R Visagie 52; 10 W Watt 37.
Overall - co-drivers: 1 D McGregor 146; 2 J Klaasen 129; 3 T von Westernhagen 109; 4 D de Waal 79; 5 G Hooper 79; 6 C Cimma 57; 7 A Gericke 58; 8 C Olsen 52; 9 D Watt 37; 10 J Bright 31.
Class N3 - drivers:1 H Grobler 146; 2 C Blackman 129; 3 G Klein 57; 4 V du Plessis 11; 5 J Joubert 11.
Class N2 - drivers: 1 S Burger 98; 2 D Marais 79; 3 D Sanders 79; 4 R Behm 77; 5 G Schutte 6.
Class N1 - drivers: 1 A Worms 52; 2 R Visagie 52; 3 W Watt 37; 4 W Harrington 27; 5 M Houghton 3.
Class N3 - co-drivers: 1 D McGregor 146; 2 J Klaasen 129; 3 C Cimma 57; 4 L Joubert 11; 5 S Boonstra 6.
Class N2 - co-drivers: 1 T von Westernhagen 104; 2 D de Waal 79; 3 G Hooper 79; 4 J Bright 31; 5 J Barnard 25.
Class N1 - co-drivers: 1 A Gericke 58; 2 C Olsen 52; 3 D Watt 37; 4 N Fourie 27; 5 B Doherty 3.