The Volkswagen Rally in the Eastern Cape, round five of the Stannic National Rally Championship, has put a whole new complexion on the remaining three events in the 1998 national title race.

Victory for reigning South African champions Jannie Habig and Douglas Judd, in the factory VW Golf, saw them close to within one point of championship leaders and six time champions Serge Damseaux and Vito Bonafede in the Castrol Toyota Conquest. The VW Golf crew made up 20 points on Damseaux and Bonafede with huge pressure on the two crews in the remaining events.

Behind the two factory crews second place overall and a fifth win in Class A7 saw Tjaart van der Walt and Cindi Harding stay in the championship hunt in the Rieks Towing VW Golf. They trail Habig and Judd by just 16 points and, as the Volkswagen Rally showed, that is the sort of deficit that is quickly won or lost.

Fourth placed Hergen Fekken and Dave Lewkowicz, in the Dunair Toyota Conquest, lost a little ground via 10th place in the Eastern Cape and are followed by two Group N teams. Victory in the Group N category on the Volkswagen Rally saw Team Total Nissan Sentra pair Cliff Blackman and Johan Klaasen move ahead of Hannes Grobler and Dave McGregor in the Bridgestone Sentra.

Third overall and the Class A6 victory also saw Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Pierre Arries, in the Team Total Toyota Conquest, pick up a place or two on the ladder. They drew level with fellow Team Total crew Craig Trott and Brian Duncan with a third Team Total combination, Barry Grobbelaar and Mike Burrows in the VW Golf, back in the top 10 after a fourth overall and second in class in the Eastern Cape.

Apart from the battle at the top of the overall championship, there are some fierce battles going on in the various classes. In class N2 only one point separates three drivers - Diffie Marais, Dean Sanders and Richard Behm - with Danie de Waal and Graham Hooper level pegging in the co-drivers championship.

For championship hopefuls it adds up to a nailbiting three events between now and the end of the season. For rally enthusiasts it means that there will be some tense and exciting rallying that will certainly be worth watching.