Namibia One Motor racing legend Sarel van der Merwe, now resident in Paarl, is back behind the wheel the Vacation Vans Jeep Cherokee this weekend (29 - 31 March 2001) for the Namibia International Toyota Tara Rally, round one of the 2001 FIA...
Motor racing legend Sarel van der Merwe, now resident in Paarl, is back behind the wheel the Vacation Vans Jeep Cherokee this weekend (29 - 31 March 2001) for the Namibia International Toyota Tara Rally, round one of the 2001 FIA African Rally Championship.
Supervan, fresh from a fighting third place in the Production Vehicle category of the MSA Off Road Car Championship at the Mitsubishi Barberspan 500 is confident of adding another rally victory to his long list of international successes.
He won the Tsumeb Rally in Namibia last year and reckons the big Jeep is ideally suited to the sandy, rough desert conditions. Powered by a 6 litre Mopar V8 engine and weighing in at just under three tons, the American-built Jeep Cherokee has come into its own in off road racing this year and has proved to be more than a match for the state-of-the-art factory Super Trucks.
The four-wheel drive monster with its 35-inch wheels and mega suspension travel is up to the challenge and van der Merwe will not be intimidated by the strong entry for the rally, which includes a top field of international and local rally cars and a compliment of South African off-roaders.
These include Hannes Grobler (Nissan) and Kassie Coetzee (Toyota).
Filling the hot seat in the Jeep will be Windhoek resident Dippies Dippenaar a two times winner of the Tara Rally, as a navigator, in 1984 and 1985.
Dippenaar switched to driving 10 years ago and owns the ex-works Daewoo rally cars campaigned by van der Merwe and Enzo Kuun in the Stannic Rally Championship a few years ago.
The Vacation Vans Jeep Cherokee made an impressive start to the season in the GC Grobler Lichtenburg 400 in February when Arthur Abraham and Stratford Voogt, sharing the driving, and navigated by Scott Abraham, finished 7th in the Super Truck class after running as high as 3rd.
They had started the main 460km event in 3rd place in class after the time trial and were lying an excellent 5th overall with less than 70km to the finish when the monster truck was brought to a halt by a flat tyre.
The brand new hydraulic jack failed and a crippling hour was lost on the side of the rocky track before they could borrow a jack from a fellow competitor and complete the event.
Apart from a broken front crown wheel and pinion the Jeep again performed faultlessly in the Mitsubishi Barberspan 500 with van der Merwe at the wheel and Scott Abraham in the hot seat.
Van der Merwe, 11 times South African rally champion and winner of numerous international sports car races including the famed Daytona 24 Hour, says the Jeep is the most driveable vehicle he has ever competed in and relishes the prospect of taking on the big guns from the factory teams.
"Arthur and Stratford showed in the Lichtenburg 400 that the Jeep was not only powerful enough to stay with the front runners, but also reliable enough to stay the course. Scott and I enjoyed putting the wind up the big budget factory entries in the Mitsubishi Barberspan 500 and it will be a pleasure to return the compliment again in Namibia," said van der Merwe.