HABIG AND JUDD ON VW RALLY MISSION South African champions Jannie Habig and Douglas Judd will be men with a mission on the Volkswagen Rally, round five of the Stannic National Rally Championship, in the Eastern Cape on Friday and Saturday.
HABIG AND JUDD ON VW RALLY MISSION
South African champions Jannie Habig and Douglas Judd will be men with a mission on the Volkswagen Rally, round five of the Stannic National Rally Championship, in the Eastern Cape on Friday and Saturday.
After years of campaigning under the Stanbrik banner Habig and Judd are now members of the VW factory team, and there is a huge incentive for the pair to win an event sponsored by Volkswagen in their own backyard.
Then there is the small matter of the 21 points that separate the VW crew and six time champions Serge Damseaux and Vito Bonafede in the Castrol Toyota Conquest.
But while the incentives are there for Habig and Judd to score their second win of the season, with the score currently 3-1 in favour of Damseaux/Bonafede, the situation is such that it places a great deal of extra pressure on the VW crew. Habig and Judd, however, are not inclined to back away from a challenge and it sets up probably the most intriguing contest of the season so far.
For both Habig/Judd and Damseaux/Bonafede a good haul of points is imperative, and consistency is the likely key to this year's championship.
On this score the other major Class A8 contenders, Sasol Ford Escort pair Paolo Piazza-Musso and Nic Hadden and Team Total Toyota Conquest pair Etienne Lourens and Robert Paisley, have some ground to make up.
Two non finishes in a row for Pizza-Musso and Hadden and two out of three for Lourens/Paisley have seen both crews slip down the championship leaderboard. The VW Rally offers a rehabilitation opportunity that both crews - and they are capable of overall wins - need to seize to get their season and championship challenges back on an even keel.
While Habig/Judd and Damseaux/Bonafede will attract most of the attention, Class A7 leaders Tjaart van der Walt and Cindi Harding are not yet out of the championship picture. The Rieks Towing VW Golf pair provide ample proof that consistency pays off and trail Habig and Judd by only 12 points.
Another good performance from van der Walt and Harding, and one now expects almost as a matter of course a top five finish from the crew on every event, will keep the pressure on the two Class A8 crews.
Where van der Walt and Harding are concerned, the major Class A7 challenge will come from Team Total VW Golf pair Barry Grobbelaar and Mike Burrows.
Two terrific performances in a row - on the Stannic Rally of South Africa and the Sasol Rally - have lifted Dunair Toyota Conquest pair Hergen Fekken and Dave Lewkowicz into fourth place in the overall championship, and have given them a huge advantage in the Class A6 championship.
Consistency has seen Craig Trott and Brian Duncan, in the Team Total Toyota Conquest, slip into the overall top 10 - and like a couple of Class A8 crews their Team Total Toyota Conquest team-mates Jean-Pierre Damseaux and Pierre Arries need to re-establish themselves on this event.
On the Group N front the VW Rally provides another battleground for the standard car brigade to once again produce some top notch competition. On recent events the battles between the likes of Hannes Grobler/Dave McGregor, Cliff Blackman/Johan Klaasen and Diffie Marais/Danie de Wall have provided for intriguing rallying.
Since returning to the fray former SA rally and off-road champion Grobler and McGregor, in the Bridgestone Nissan Sentra, have scored three wins in a row - all at the expense of Blackman and Klaasen in the Team Total Nissan Sentra.
The Natal crew will be hoping the law of averages catches up with the Bridgestone pair. Grobler/McGregor and Blackman/Klaasen have slipped unobtrusively into fifth and sixth respectively in the overall drivers and co-drivers championships, and this is proof that properly driven Group N cars can be highly competitive in the overall context of the Stannic National Rally Championship.
Like a few of the Group A runners Cape crew Diffie Marais and Danie de Waal, with the Toyota Corolla now backed by Tony's Breakdown Service, need to use this weekend to recover from a costly non finish on the Sasol Rally. Marais has slipped three points behind Cape youngster Richard Behm in the Class N2 drivers championship, while de Waal is only five points ahead of Thilo von Westernhagen in the co-driver stakes.
Veteran Schalk Burger and von Westernhagen, in the Godrich Toyota Conquest, are finding their feet in Class N2 and after a bright start Team Total Toyota Conquest pair Dean Sanders and Graham Hooper also find themselves players in the catch-up game.
On the Class N1 front only five points now separate Pretoria youngsters Allan Worms and Ashley Gericke in the Lessan Engineering Opel Corsa and fellow Pretorians Rodney Visagie and Chris Olsen in the Toyota Conquest. Former co-driver Wiley Harrington - who in his time navigated for the likes of Grobler and Kassie Coetzee - can hardly be termed a new kid on the block but his win, along with Neil Fourie, in a Nissan Sentra on the Sasol Rally provides the youngsters with something to think about.
Toyota currently hold a 165 lead over Volkswagen in the manufacturers championship and the perennial battle between the two also adds a touch of spice to this weekend's proceedings. From a Toyota perspective victory over the old enemy - in their own backyard and on two fronts - will be something worth shouting about.
The event starts at the Port Elizabeth City Hall at 13h30 on Friday with the first special stage a seven kilometre affair at the Aldo Scribante circuit - which provides good viewing for spectators.
From Aldo Scribante crews head for Koega and Zuurberg before moving to Uitenhage for a town spectator stage late in the afternoon, followed by two more spectators stages in Port Elizabeth - one of them at Kings Beach on the beachfront - before the overnight halt.
The event restarts in Uitenhage at 08h30 on Saturday with four forest stages before another Uitenhage town special stage which is scheduled to start at 15h00.
The final special stage will again be at Kings Beach on the Port Elizabeth beachfront at approximately 16h00.