COLIN WINDELL ___________________________________________________________ A total of 40 cars left the start ramp in the Mpumalanga town of Sabie this afternoon for the first of the 24 special stages that make up the Sasol Rally, the fourth ...
COLIN WINDELL ___________________________________________________________
A total of 40 cars left the start ramp in the Mpumalanga town of Sabie this afternoon for the first of the 24 special stages that make up the Sasol Rally, the fourth round of the South African Rally Championship.
However, missing from the lineup were the Hyundai Accent of Billy Rautenbach and Johan Sieling and the one half of the Autotech Rallyesport Team entry, the Volkswagen Golf of Alan Mitrovitch and Mike Burrows - both potential front runners over the 449 kilometres making up the two-day event.
Rautenbach, managing director of Hyundai Motor Distributors in South Africa, had to withdraw from the event to fulfil urgent business commitments with Hyundai in Korea.
The Mitrovitch/Burrows car, a completely new VW Golf III could not be completed in time for the start. First off the ramp were current South African Champions and log leaders in this year's championship, Serge Damseaux and Vito Bonafede in their Castrol Toyota Conquest 4x4 - the ninth version of the Conquest built for the pair. Their previous car was comprehensively destroyed in the Castrol International Rally and the new car, probably the last of its kind to be built for South African rallying before regulation changes for next year make it obsolete, is museum quality while being the cutting edge of current technology.
Damseaux started to 'stretch his legs' immediately, blasting through the 4,06 kilometre stage in 2m50s, four seconds quicker than Peter Alterskye/Allan Bissett in the ex-works, ex-Damseaux Toyota Conquest 4x4. Honours for third quickest in the opening stage went to the Crisp Air Toyota Conquest of Hergen Fekken and Dave Lewkowicz with Leon Botha/Francois Jordaan in the ex-works Nissan Sentra 4x4 sharing the same time of 2m56s.
Jan Habig and Douglas Judd in the StanBrik VW Golf in Formula 2 specification (Class A7) were fifth fastest ahead of Enzo Kuun/Guy Hodgson in the Hyundai Accent 4x4. Tony Ball and Brian Duncan (Team Total VW Golf) were next, ahead of multiple former SA Champions Sarel van der Merwe and Franz Boshoff in the 2,0-litre SASOL Daewoo Cielo.
Damseaux's charge continued into special stage 2, the Castrol Toyota driver emerging from the 12,43 kilometre section 21 seconds quicker than the next fastest competitor - around two seconds a kilometre speedier!
Enzo Kuun/Guy Hodgson (Hyundai Accent) and Sarel van der Merwe shared honours for second quickest with Hergen Fekken continuing his good showing in the Crisp Air Conquest third fastest. Tjaart van der Walt/Cindi Harding in the Class A7 Rieks Towing VW Golf were next up ahead of Etienne Lourens/Robert Paisley in their Toyota Conquest.
This stage also claimed the first victim of the event with the Leon Botha/Francois Jordaan Nissan Sentra stuck in the stage.
PROVISIONAL TIMES (After 2 Stages)
1. Damseaux/Bonafede (Toyota Conquest), 00:09,46 2. Kuun/Hodgson (Hyundai Accent), 00:10,17 3. Fekken/Lewkowicz (Toyota Conquest), 00:10,18 Van der Merwe/Boshoff (Daewoo Cielo), 00:10,18 5. Van der Walt/Harding (VW Golf), 00:10,24 6. Miranda/Pretorius (VW Golf), 00:10,30 7. Alterskye/Bissett (Toyota Conquest), 00:10,33 8. Lourens/Paisley (Toyota Conquest), 00:10,40 9. Habig/Judd (VW Golf), 00:10,53 10. Brand/Olivier (VW Golf), 00:12,33 _
RELEASE 2 COLIN WINDELL ___________________________________________________________
At the end of the first leg of the Sasol Rally, the midway point of the South African Rally Championship, defending champions Serge Damseaux and Vito Bonafede had built up a comfortable lead of 1m10s over the rest of the field.
From the midday start in Sabie, Mpumalanga, this afternoon (Friday) the pair powered their Castrol Toyota Conquest into an immediate lead, finishing the first section of six special stages having won five of them outright.
Although not a stage winner, Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson in the Hyundai Accent 4x4 turned in sufficiently quick times through the opening stages to move themselves into second place overall by the time the rally returned to Sabie for the rest halt, prior to starting the second leg and night stages in the forests on the way to Nelspruit for the overnight break.
Just three seconds behind the Hyundai came the second of the Korean manufacturers contesting the event with the 2,0-litre SASOL Daewoo Cielo of multiple former South African Rally Champions and winners of the recent Castrol International Rally, Sarel van der Merwe and Franz Boshoff. Behind them, in fourth place were Peter Alterskye and Allan Bissett in the ex-works ex-Serge Damseaux Toyota Conquest, some 12 seconds adrift of Van der Merwe.
However, the pair also finished the section as the only other winners of a special stage - on stage 4 and sharing the honours with Damseaux on stage 3, and this after spinning the car twice during these proceedings.
Certainly the most impressive drive of the opening section came from young Hergen Fekken and Dave Lewkowicz in the 1700cc Toyota Conquest in Class S18. The youngest member of the Fekken family to participate in rallying, Hergen follows in the footsteps of former SA Champion Lambert Fekken and his brothers Harry and Roelof, both top drivers in their own right during the 1960's and early 1970's.
Fifth overall at the end of the section, Fekken and Lewkowicz in the Crisp Air Toyota were 22 seconds behind the more powerful Alterskye Conquest and less than two minutes behind the rally leader.
Natalian Jan Habig and Douglas Judd in the Stanbrik Volkswagen Golf were fighting their back into contention in sixth place after losing a minute to the leader in special stage 2 when they suffered a puncture.
Flat tyres played an important role in the opening stages causing delays for a number of other competitors including Tjaart van der Walt/Cindi Harding (VW Golf) who lost two minutes in special stage 5 and Barry Grobbelaar/Neil Fourie (VW Golf) who lost nearly three minutes in stage 3.
The first major retirement of the event came in stage 2 when Leon Botha and Francois Jordaan in the ex-works Nissan Sentra were forced out with a broken front rose joint. In stage 3 Paolo Piazza-Musso/Nic Hadden (Fiat Uno) went off the road, losing 33 minutes before being able to get the car back onto the stage and mobile.
Terry Brand and Martie Olivier (Autotech Rallyesport Golf) lost 90 seconds in the very first stage when a gear linkage came adrift, while Allen Worms and Ashley Gericke (Toyota Conquest) had their day turned upside down when they comprehensively rolled the car in stage 5 - fortunately without injury to either of them.
RELEASE 3 COLIN WINDELL
Massive crowds lined the spectator points from the restart of the Sasol Rally in Sabie tonight (Friday), braving the sudden - and unexpected - winter rain to watch as Serge Damseaux and Vito Bonafede continued to pull away from the rest of the field.
By the time the Castrol Toyota pairing reached the overnight stop in Nelspruit they were 2m17s ahead of second-placed Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson (Hyundai Accent), the latter pair 1m10s ahead of the SASOL Daewoo Cielo of Sarel van der Merwe and Franz Boshoff.
Natalians Peter Alterskye and Alan Bissett continued to hold fourth place, their Toyota Conquest 4x4 comfortably placed ahead of the Stanbrik VW Golf of Jan Habig and Douglas Judd now in fifth place after having fought back into contention following time lost with a puncture in the second special stage of the event.
Their charge - and superior horsepower - moved them ahead of the 'Young Turk' of the event, Hergen Fekken. The Pretoria-based driver with Dave Lewkowicz in the hot seat has maintained a sparklingly swift pace since the start in Sabie earlier today (Friday) and, despite the fact the Crisp Air Toyota Conquest has only a 1700cc engine, has managed to stay well in contention.
The unexpected rain which started to fall as the cars line up for the restart in Sabie at 18h00 last night gave the four-wheel drives of Damseaux, Kuun and Alterskye an extra advantage through the additional traction they were able to claim on the slippery surfaces.
For Jose Ferreira and Jose da Costa who completed a brand new rally Class A7 Golf only days before the event, the thought must have crossed their minds it should have been a 4x4 as they rolled in front of a crowd of spectators on stage 7, run through the streets of Sabie itself.
The rain also proved the undoing of the Autotech Rallyesport Team Golf of Terry Brand and Martie Olivier when they were forced to retire, unable to see where they were going when the windscreen wiper motor packed up on stage 8.
In stage 9 Johann Fourie and Danny van Vuuren rolled their Nissan Sentra.
With Damseaux firmly ensconced in the lead the chase when the rally restarts from Nelspruit tomorrow morning (Saturday) will mostly be for second place honours - although with 13 special stages still to be contested, anything could happen.
PROVISIONAL TIMES (After 11 Stages)
1. Damseaux/Bonafede (Toyota Conquest), 01:11,34 2. Kuun/Hodgson (Hyundai Accent), 01:13,51 3. Van der Merwe/Boshoff (Daewoo Cielo), 01:15,01 4. Alterskye/Bissett (Toyota Conquest), 01:15,45 5. Habig/Judd (VW Golf), 01:16,37 6. Fekken/Lewkowicz (Toyota Conquest), 01:16,52 7. Lourens/Paisley (Toyota Conquest), 01:17,55 8. Miranda/Pretorius (VW Golf), 01:18,08 9. Ball/Duncan (VW Golf), 01:19,18 10. Viljoen/Vermeulen (Toyota Conquest), 01:21,29
SASOL RALLY PRESS ROOM RELEASE 4 COLIN WINDELL ___________________________________________________________
Engine problems for Sarel van der Merwe and Franz Boshoff in the SASOL Daewoo Cielo have brought about the biggest change in the running order in the 1996 Sasol Rally since Mpumalanga Premier Matthews Phosa flagged the cars away for the final two sections from Nelspruit this morning.
The rain, which started on Friday night, continued to provide some advantage for the four-wheel drive cars, allowing the Castrol Toyota Conquest of Serge Damseaux and Vito Bonafede to streak away to a 3m08s lead by the end of special stage 17.
Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson in their Hyundai Accent 4x4 remained fairly comfortable in second place, but behind them Peter Alterskye and Alan Bissett had moved into third spot, the ex-works Toyota Conquest making the most of the conditions and the fact there were problems for Van der Merwe and Boshoff.
In third place at the overnight halt in Nelspruit last night, Van der Merwe started losing time through stages 16 and 17 when the Daewoo's engine began to cut out - allowing Alterskye through to third place overall.
Van der Merwe currently lies 1m12s behind the Toyota with little real prospect of being able to make up the deficit, particularly if the rain continues through the rest of the day.
Jan Habig and Douglas Judd in the StanBrik VW Golf could also pose a threat to Van der Merwe, the superior horsepower of the Golf allowing them to eat away at the Daewoo's lead but, with just seven special stages left it is a question of whether there are enough stage kilometre in which to catch up.
Hergen Fekken and Dave Lewkowicz in the Crisp Air Toyota Conquest are maintaining station in sixth place ahead of Etienne Lourens and Robert Paisley, also in a Toyota Conquest - the latter pair performing exceptionally well in a car running a 1600cc Group N engine in place of its usual 1700cc rally powerplant which was not completed in time for the start of the event.
Eliso Miranda and Francois Pretorius in their VW Golf are currently lying eighth overall and coming under some pressure from Natal driver Tony Ball and navigator Brian Duncan. Ball has reduced the deficit between the two cars from 1m10s at the restart this morning to just 38 seconds.
The other change of morning is for 10th place overall with Tjaart van der Walt and Cindi Harding in the Rieks Towing VW Golf moving up one spot to take the place away from Theunis Viljoen and Andre Vermeulen in their Toyota Conquest.
PROVISIONAL TIMES (After 17 Stages)
1. Damseaux/Bonafede (Toyota Conquest), 01:39,25 2. Kuun/Hodgson (Hyundai Accent), 01:42,33 3. Alterskye/Bissett (Toyota Conquest), 01:44,15 4. Van der Merwe/Boshoff (Daewoo Cielo), 01:45,27 5. Habig/Judd (VW Golf), 01:46,01 6. Fekken/Lewkowicz (Toyota Conquest), 01:47,01 7. Lourens/Paisley (Toyota Conquest), 01:48,26 8. Miranda/Pretorius (VW Golf), 01:49,19 9. Ball/Duncan (VW Golf), 01:49,58 10. Van der Walt/Harding (VW Golf), 01:52,31
SASOL RALLY PRESS ROOM RELEASE 5 FINAL WRAPUP COLIN WINDELL ___________________________________________________________
From the first special stage of the 1996 Sasol Rally which started in Sabie, Mpumalanga on Friday, reigning South African Champions Serge Damseaux and Vito Bonafede went out to win the event and to extend their lead in this year's series.
The plan came together without a hitch and the pair powered their Castrol Toyota Conquest 4x4 to the finish, never really challenged for the lead they established in the first of the 24 special stages that culminated with the final stage in the centre of the town of Nelspruit.
Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson in the Bankfin Hyundai Accent 4x4 held second place through the event, finishing some 4m31s behind the Toyota. Behind them though, the battle for third place throughout the event was a classic case of power versus tactics.
Multiple former South African Champions Sarel van der Merwe and Franz Boshoff put all the knowledge and ability of all their rallying years together to get into third place in the first section of the event on Friday. When rain began to fall in the final stages of the first day and through into the second section of the rally yesterday, the four-wheel drive cars began to gain the upper hand.
For the two-wheel drive Daewoo this meant tremendous pressure from the ex-works Toyota Conquest 4x4 of fourth-placed Peter Alterskye and Alan Bissett and, when the Daewoo developed overheating problems in stage 16, the Toyota pairing moved ahead. By stage 20 the Daewoo pair had been demoted again, this time by the StanBrik VW Golf of Jan Habig and Douglas Judd - the pair having fought back from ninth place following a puncture in stage 2.
However, Alterskye and Bissett threw it away on stage 22 near the flying finish when they almost rolled the car but escaped with a damaged wheel and lost time as the only penalties, the time factor allowing Habig and Judd through to finish third overall.
At the finish Van der Merwe, a two-time winner of the Sasol Rally, had to be content with fifth place overall.
However, the drive of the event came from young Hergen Fekken and navigator Dave Lewkowicz in the Crisp Air Toyota Conquest, the 1700cc car ably driven to finish up in the points among the quicker 2,0-litre engined entrants in sixth place. Seventh overall went to the Natal pairing of Etienne Lourens and Robert Paisley in a Toyota Conquest ahead of Eliso Miranda and Francois Pretorius (VW Golf).
The battle for ninth place ended sadly for Tony Ball and Brian Duncan just a few short stages from the finish when they were forced to retire when their VW Golf got bogged down in the stage, allowing Tjaart van der Walt and Cindi Harding (Rieks Towing VW Golf) to move up a place, bringing with them the Toyota Conquest of Theuns Viloen and Andre Vermeulen into 10 spot.
Of the 40 starters in Sabie on Friday afternoon 23 made it through the 450 kilometres of special stage to the finish in Nelspruit.
1. Damseaux/Bonafede (Toyota Conquest), 02:20,46 2. Kuun/Hodgson (Hyundai Accent), 02:25,17 3. Habig/Judd (VW Golf), 02:29,25 4. Alterskye/Bissett (Toyota Conquest), 02:30,03 5. Van der Merwe/Boshoff (Daewoo Cielo), 02:31,08 6. Fekken/Lewkowicz (Toyota Conquest), 02:31,33 7. Lourens/Paisley (Toyota Conquest), 02:32,20 8. Miranda/Pretorius (VW Golf), 02:34,51 9. Van der Walt/Harding (VW Golf), 02:37,46 10. Viljoen/Vermeulen (Toyota Conquest), 02:39,29